Light Without Heat or Waste

The Enquirer

Professor Langley, of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, D. C., is in receipt of a wonderful little piece of what the inventor has termed "radium," that has sent a thrill of wonder through every scientist in the land. The specimen was received incased in a small box made of lead, accompanied by instructions for the professor to open it in the dark. This was done. A number of the principal officers of the Institution repaired to the photograph "dark room" and the wonderful substance, no bigger than a silver dollar, was taken from its bed, and before those present could realize what had occurred the room was lit up as completely as though the full rays of the sun had penetrated the place. The substance emitted a clear greenish glow, and the features of every one were clearly outlined. There was a natural hesitancy on the part of those present to touch the thing, but investigation soon proved that the source of this wonderful light was cool and solid, and that it could be handled with ease.

What is this wonderful substance? It is a discovery made by a woman, Mme. Sklowdowska Currie, of the Municipal School of Physics in Paris, and if what is claimed for it be true it is the light of the future — the dream of alchemists — in short, a lamp that will burn forever, consume neither oil nor wick, is devoid of heat and requires no attention. Mme. Currie was awarded four thousand francs, and had her name enrolled on the books of the French Academy of Sciences for this discovery, which is regarded as one of the most stupendous of the age, upsetting as it does all hitherto accepted theories of heat, light, and physical energy, and opening up fields of knowledge heretofore regarded as beyond the scope of man. This light, it is claimed, will not only be very cheap when first installed, but after that there will be absolutely no expense in maintaining it, even though left to itself for centuries. Night after night for an indefinite period it will throw out its brilliant rays, and at the end of untold years the illumination will be as great as at first. No underground or overhead wires, no dynamos nor gas retorts, nothing but a little disk of greenish stone. Place this in the wall or in the ceiling and rooms will be lighted as long as the houses stand.

The origin of light as accepted by the layman is that it is merely the demonstration of energy produced by the destruction, combustion, or consumption of certain substances, like coal, oil, or gas. Heat is produced by the destruction of burning coal. This, transformed into motion by the steam engine and the dynamo, results in electricity for are and incandescent lights. In short, no artificial light has ever been made for man's use that has not been the result of some material that was consumed in order to make it. A feeble light without heat is obtained from phosphorescence, but even this owes its origin to the slow consumption of the substance that produces it. To produce light without the expenditure of some sort of energy has been looked upon heretofore as an idle dream, but the discovery of the wonderful properties of the X-ray caused the scientist to put on his thinking cap. The X-ray discovery proved that there was more than one form of radiant energy, although all of them have the same qualities in certain directions, yet entirely different in others. Thus, while the powerful rays of the sun were unable to penetrate a thin piece of cardboard, the X-ray, which could hardly be seen, was able to go through wood and metal. This fact contradicted the universally accepted theory that the power of light was due in all cases to the material consumed. Experiments along this line soon convinced scientific students that uranium possessed remarkable qualities — that it had the power of absorbing light and emitting it afterward. It was then discovered on experimenting with salts of the metal that it would produce substances having properties similar to the X-rays, and that while they could not be seen by the human eye they yet had the power of "fogging" a photographic plate when brought in contract with it.

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Electric Railways
September 27, 1900

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