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Entries in energy (15)

Tuesday
Jan182011

Edison's Predictions for the Year 2011 (1911)

On June 20, 1911 the Miami Metropolis published predictions about the year 2011 from the one and only Tommy "Dumbo Killah" Edison.

Edison makes some amazing predictions about a future of golden automobiles, the discontinuation of gold as currency, the rise of steel and the death of the steam engine.

I'm especially interested in his prediction about books of the year 2011. Edison claimed that books would be printed on leaves of nickel, "so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume." 

He goes on to explain that, "a book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound." Sure, but can you play Angry Birds on it?

The entire article appears below.

 

What will the world be a hundred years hence?

None but a wizard dare raise the curtain and disclose the secrets of the future; and what wizard can do it with so sure a hand as Mr. Thomas Alva Edison, who has wrested so many secrets from jealous Nature? He alone of all men who live has the necessary courage and gift of foresight, and he has not shrunk from the venture.

Already, Mr. Edison tells us, the steam engine is emitting its last gasps. A century hence it will be as remote as antiquity as the lumbering coach of Tudor days, which took a week to travel from Yorkshire to London. In the year 2011 such railway trains as survive will be driven at incredible speed by electricity (which will also be the motive force of all the world's machinery), generated by "hydraulic" wheels.

But the traveler of the future, says a writer in Answers, will largely scorn such earth crawling. He will fly through the air, swifter than any swallow, at a speed of two hundred miles an hour, in colossal machines, which will enable him to breakfast in London, transact business in Paris and eat his luncheon in Cheapside.

The house of the next century will be furnished from basement to attic with steel, at a sixth of the present cost -- of steel so light that it will be as easy to move a sideboard as it is today to lift a drawing room chair. The baby of the twenty-first century will be rocked in a steel cradle; his father will sit in a steel chair at a steel dining table, and his mother's boudoir will be sumptuously equipped with steel furnishings, converted by cunning varnishes to the semblance of rosewood, or mahogany, or any other wood her ladyship fancies.

Books of the coming century will all be printed leaves of nickel, so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume. A book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound.

Already Mr. Edison can produce a pound weight of these nickel leaves, more flexible than paper and ten times as durable, at a cost of five shillings. In a hundred years' time the cost will probably be reduced to a tenth.

More amazing still, this American wizard sounds the death knell of gold as a precious metal. "Gold," he says, "has even now but a few years to live. The day is near when bars of it will be as common and as cheap as bars of iron or blocks of steel.

"We are already on the verge of discovering the secret of transmuting metals, which are all substantially the same in matter, though combined in different proportions."

Before long it will be an easy matter to convert a truck load of iron bars into as many bars of virgin gold.

In the magical days to come there is no reason why our great liners should not be of solid gold from stem to stern; why we should not ride in golden taxicabs, or substituted gold for steel in our drawing room suites. Only steel will be the more durable, and thus the cheaper in the long run.

 

Photograph of Edison circa 1911 is from the Library of Congress.

UPDATE October 3, 2012: I just noticed that I cited the June 23, 1911 issue of the Miami Metropolis when it was actually the June 20, 1911 Miami Metropolis. My apologies. It's been corrected above.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Saturday
May012010

Will Science Harness Sun Power After the War? (1942)

In 1942, with World War II raging, people were naturally thinking about what a post-War world might look like.

Once the present world-wide orgy of destruction has come to an end, there will be a tremendous job of reconstruction to do. Ruined cities, factories, power stations will have to be rebuilt, wrecked railroads and highways relaid, blasted mines and oil wells reopened, sunken ships replaced.

This syndicated piece by Dr. Frank Thone, found in the March 22, 1942 Galveston Daily News (Galveston, TX), imagines a world -- should it not be destroyed outright-- on which humanity could build a bright new future using the latest in solar power technologies. The entire piece appears below.

1942 March 22 Galveston Daily News - Galveston TX paleofuture

(While doing a quick search to learn more about Dr. Thone I found this interesting article he wrote in 1934.)

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Wednesday
Apr212010

Follow-The-Sun House (1959)

Today we have yet another panel from Arthur Radebaugh's excellent Closer Than We Think series of comic strips. Though the strip often ran on Sunday, the more eagle-eyed amongst you (read: nerdy) may notice that this particular strip was published in the Toronto Star Weekly on Saturday, May 2, 1959. 

Before alternative energy policy became a political wedge issue, techno-utopians like Radebaugh promoted renewable energy as sleek and sexy. Solar energy was supposed to power our cars, drive our space colonies and make deserts bloom. As we enter into a new era of optimism --driven by the New Optimists, if you will-- it seems that "the future" just might become less politicized and more dependent upon the scientific, the dynamic and the rational.

But then again, maybe I'm just an optimist.

Don't be surprised if many of tomorrow's homes are built on turntables. They would slowly pivot all day long to receive maximum benefit from health-giving sun ray and insure heat in winter.

This warm and colorful year-round design is adapted from an aluminum firm's summer house which has been studied and admired by architects. It would be built, together with a patio, over a service and garage area.

Ground and living levels would connect through a glass-enclosed staircase. Two-way glass could bring the outside view to those on the inside, while protecting the latter from inquisitive passersby.

Next week: Space Farmers

 

A special thanks to Tom Z. for a color scan of this strip.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Sunday
Jun142009

Oil and Gas Will Eventually be Exhausted (1909)

The July 19, 1909 Titusville Herald (Titusville, PA) ran an article containing predictions by the United States Geological Survey of a coming energy crisis. The report predicted that all petroleum and iron would be exhausted by 1939, all natural gas by 1934 and all coal by the middle of the 21st century.

Interestingly, the report notes that both conservation and technological advancements might be able to head off this energy collapse. In the case of iron, the report notes that the best ores were being rapidly exhausted and that unless a new process is invented it would mean much higher prices. We see that this is precisely what happened in mines such as the one my grandfather worked in on the Iron Range of northern Minnesota, with new technologies that made use of cheap taconite, once considered a waste product.

You can read the entire newspaper article below.

The photo above is of the Fayal mining pit, circa 1940. The man on the right looks like my grandfather, though I'm not completely sure.

 

1909 July 19 Titusville Herald - Titusville PA Article 1909 July 19 Titusville Herald - Titusville PA Article Matt Novak

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Monday
Jun232008

Nuclear Rocketship (1959)


I take a lot of pride in providing material you can't find anywhere else on the internet. But there's an easy way to tell when I'm having a busy week: I steal images from the website Plan59.

Still beautiful though, ain't it?

This illustration is by Frank Tinsley from 1959. The image appeared as part of a series of ads in Fortune magazine for the American Bosch Arma Corporation.

See also:
Air Force Predictions for 2063 (1963)
Fusion Energy in Space (1984)

Sunday
Jun012008

The Technotopia of 2000 (1962)

In 1962 the French weekly l'Express postulated about a technologically advanced utopia in the year 2000.

By the year 2000 all food will be completely synthetic. Agriculture and fisheries will have become superfluous. The world's population will by then have increased fourfold but will have stabilized. Sea water and ordinary rocks will yield all the necessary metals. Disease, as well as famine, will have been eliminated; and universal hygienic inspection and control will have been introduced. The problems of energy production will by then be completely resolved.


From the essay Food - the great challenge of this crucial century by Georg Borgstrom in the 1975 book Notes for the Future: An Alterative History of the Past Decade.

 

See also:
Our Friend the Atom (Book, 1956)
Closer Than We Think! Fat Plants and Meat Beets (1958)
Closer Than We Think! Hydrofungal Farming (1962)
Man's Future Beneath the Sea (1968)
That 60's Food of the Future
Solar Power of 1999 (1956)
Hubert H. Humphrey's Year 2000 (1967)

Thursday
Dec272007

We Are Animals, Says Mr. Edison (1910)

The January 28, 1910 Decatur Review (Decatur, Illinois) ran portions of an interview with Thomas Edison titled, "We Are Animals, Says Mr. Edison: Inventor Predicts Cheaper Clothing and Less Manual Labor." The entire piece appears below.

In an interview published in the Independent, Thomas A. Edison speaks of future inventions and refers to the problem of getting the most out of fuel as one of the important problems of the day. He has something to say about the clothes of the future.

 

CHEAP CLOTHES.
"The clothes of the future will be so cheap," says Mr. Edison, "that every young woman will be able to follow the fashions promptly, and there will be plenty of fashions. Artificial silk that is superior to natural silk is now made of wood pulp. It shines better than silk. I think that the silk worm barbarism will go in fifty years, just as the indigo of India went with the production of indigo in German laboratories.

THINGS TO LEARN.
"There is much ahead of us. We don't know what gravity is; neither do we know the nature of heat, light and electricity. We are only animals. We are coming out of the dog stage and getting a glimpse of our environment. We don't know - we just suspect a few things. Our practice of shooting, one another in war is proof that we are animals. The make-up of our society is hideous.

NO MANUAL LABOR.
"Communication with other worlds has been suggested. I think we had better stick to this world and find out something about it before we call up our neighbors. They might make us ashamed of ourselves. Not individualism but social labor will dominate the future. Industry will constantly become more social and interdependent. There will be no manual labor in the factories of the future. The men in them will be merely superintendents watching the machinery to see that it works right. Less and less man will be used as an engine or as a horse, and his brain will be employed to benefit himself and his fellows."

Regarding the possibility of using radium as a fuel, Mr. Edison says that is only speculative.

NEW FUEL.
"Radium has great power," he adds. "It has no appreciable limit or end. It is not combustible. A carload of radium would have as much energy as all the millions of tons of coal mined in the United States in a year. I have a spinthariscope, which contains a tiny bit of radium of a size that will go through the eye of a needle. It has been shooting off millions of sparks for six years that I have had it, and I expect it will be shooting sparks the same way for thousands of years. Some day we might find immense deposits of it, then it will be a problem how to handle it without dangerous consequences."

See also:
Edison Battery Solves Old Problems (1909)
Moving Sidewalk (1900)
In the Twentieth Century (Newark Daily Advocate, 1901)