Nikola Tesla was asked to select his choice of the greatest modern and future wonders, but the electrical wizard refused to accept the popular notion of what is wonderful. His reply led to an onslaught on scientists and the popular science community.
“To the popular mind, any manifestation resulting from any cause will appear wonderful if there is no perceptible connection between cause and effect. For instance, through the means of wireless telephone speech is carried to opposite points of the globe. To the vast majority this must appear miraculous. To the expert who is familiar with the apparatus and sees it in his mind’s eye the result is obvious. It is exactly as though visible means existed to which the impetus is transmitted.
“As I revolve in my mind the thoughts in answer to your question I find the most wonderful thing is the utter aberration of the scientific mind during the last twenty five years. In that time the relativity theory [Albert Einstein], the electron theory [J. J. Thomson], the quantum theory [Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Arthur Compton, Paul Dirac, Wolfgang Pauli], the theory of radioactivity [Marie Curie] and others have been worked out and developed to an amazing degree. And yet probably not less than 90 per cent of what is thought today to be demonstrable scientific truth is nothing but unrealizable dreams.
“What is ‘thought’ in relativity, for example, is not science, but some kind of metaphysics based on abstract mathematical principles and conceptions which will be forever incomprehensible to beings like ourselves whose whole knowledge is derived from a three-dimensional world.
“The idea of the atom being formed of electrons and protons which go whirling round each other like a miniature sun and planets is an invention of the imagination, and has no relation to the real nature of matter.
“Virtually all progress has been achieved by physicists, discoverers and inventors; in short, devotees of the science which Newton and his disciples have been and are propounding.
“Personally, it is only efforts in this direction which have claimed my energies. Similar remarks might be made with respect to other modern developments of thought. Take, for example, the electron theory. Perhaps no other has given rise to so many erroneous ideas and chimerical hopes. Everybody speaks of electrons as something entirely definite and real. Still, the fact is that nobody has isolated it and nobody has measured its charge. Nor does anybody know what it really is.
“In order to explain the observed phenomena, atomic structures have been imagined [Quantum Mechanics], none of which can possibly exist. But the worst illusion to which modern thought has led is the idea of ‘indeterminacy’ [ex. Uncertainty Principle: W. Heisenberg, E. Schrödinger]. To make this clear, I may remark that heretofore we have in positive science assumed that every effect is the result of a preceding cause.
“As far as I am concerned, I can say that after years of concentrated thought and investigation there is no truth in nature of which I would be more fully convinced. But the new theories of ‘indeterminacy’ state this is not true, that an effect cannot be predicted in advance.
“If two planets collide at certain time and certain place, this is to the student of positive science an inevitable result of preceding interactions between the bodies; and if our knowledge would be adequate, we would be able to foretell the event accurately.
“But in the spirit of the new theories this would simply be an accident. ‘Indeterminacy’ introduces into the world of inert matter a principle which might virtually be compared with the universal illusion of free will.
“Of course, there is no such thing. In years of experimenting I have found that every thought I conceive, every act I perform, is the result of external impressions on my senses.
“It is only because the vast majority of human being are not observant sufficiently that they live in the illusion of perfect choice and freedom in their thoughts and actions. And if this holds true even in the most complex and involved manifestations of human life, it holds true with the same force in all the world of matter.”
“Great Scientific Discovery Impends.“ The Sunday Star, Washington D.C., May 17, 1931.