“Nature has provided an abundant supply of energy in various forms which might be utilized if proper means and ways can be devised. The sun’s rays falling upon the earth’s surface represent a quantity of energy so enormous that but a small part of it could meet all our demands. By normal incidence the rate is mechanically equivalent to about 95 foot pounds per square foot per second, or nearly 7,300 horse power per acre of ground. In the equatorial regions the mean annual rate is approximately 2,326 and in our latitudes 1,737 horse power for the same area. By using the heat to generate steam and operating a turbine under high vacuum probably 200 horse power per acre could be obtained as net useful power in these parts. This would be very satisfactory were it not for the cost of the apparatus which is greatly increased by the necessity of employing a storage plant sufficient to carry the load almost three-quarters of the time.
"The energy of light rays, constituting about 10% of the total radiation, might be captured by a cold and highly efficient process in photo-electric cells which may become, on this account, of practical importance in the future. Some progress in this direction has already been achieved. But for the time being it appears from a careful estimate, that solar power derived from radiant heat and light, even in the tropics, offers small opportunities for practical exploitation. The existing handicaps will be largely removed when the wireless method of power transmission comes into use. Many plants situated in hot zones, could then be operatively connected in a great super-power system to supply energy, at a constant rate, to all points of the globe.
"The sun emits, however, a peculiar radiation of great energy which I discovered in 1899. Two years previous I had been engaged in an investigation of radio-activity which led me to the conclusion that the phenomena observed were not due to molecular forces residing in the substances themselves, but were caused by a cosmic ray of extraordinary penetrativeness. That it emanated from the sun was an obvious inference, for although many heavenly bodies are undoubtedly possessed of a similar property, the total radiation which the earth receives from all the suns and stars of the universe is only a little more than one-quarter of one percent of that it gets from our luminary. Hence, to look for the cosmic ray elsewhere is much like chercher le midi dans les environs de quatorze heures [looking for lunch in the vicinity of fourteen o’clock]. My theory was strikingly confirmed when I found that the sun does, indeed, emit a ray marvelous in the inconceivable minuteness of its particles and transcending speed of their motion, vastly exceeding that of light. This ray, by impinging against the cosmic dust generates a secondary radiation, relatively very feeble but fairly penetrative, the intensity of which is, of course, almost the same in all directions. German scientists who investigated it in 1901 assumed that it came from the stars and since that time the fantastic idea has been advanced that it has its origin in new matter constantly created in interstellar space!! We may be sure that there is no place in the universe where such a flagrant violation of natural laws, as the flowing of water uphill, is possible. Perhaps, some time in the future when our means of investigation will be immeasurably improved, we may find ways of capturing this force and utilizing it for the attainment of results beyond our present imagining.”
“OUR FUTURE MOTIVE POWER.” Everyday Science and Mechanics, December 1931.