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Entries in alternative energy (16)


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.


"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.

"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.

"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.

"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)


Our Friend the Atom (Book, 1956)

Walt Disney Productions published a book in 1956 titled, Our Friend the Atom. A television episode of Disneyland aired in 1957 under the same name and can be found on the DVD set Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond.

In the book, the promise of the atom is illustrated quite literally as a genie, ready to grant humanity wishes. The final section of the book focuses on these wishes with that special blend of sincerity and hope the 1950s is best known for.

The wishes are shown below along with some of the accompanying illustrations. To read the prologue of the book you can check out "the other blog."


The coal and oil resources of our planet are dwindling, yet we need more and more power. The atomic Genie offers us an almost endless source of energy. For the growth of our civilization, therefore, our first wish shall be for: POWER!



Mankind has long suffered from hunger and disease. The atomic Genie offers us a source of beneficial rays. These are magic tools of research which can, above all, help us to produce more food for the world and to promote the health of mankind. Our second wish, therefore, shall be for: FOOD AND HEALTH!



There is left to us the third and last wish. It is an important one that demands wisdom. If the last wish is unwise, then - as some of the legends tell - all the wishes granted before may be lost.


See also:
Atomic Power Plant of the Future (1939)
Closer Than We Think! Polar Oil Wells (1960)
Solar Power of 1999 (1956)
The Future World of Energy (1984)


Atomic Power Plant of the Future (1939)

The October, 1939 issue of Amazing Stories published this painting of the atomic power plant of the future. The image can also be found in the book Out of Time by Norman Brosterman.

If you look closely you can see the streamlined cars and trains of the future driving by. As noted in the book, the first functioning nuclear reactor was built in 1951.

See also:
Solar Energy for Tomorrow's World (1980)
Closer Than We Think! Polar Oil Wells (1960)
Future of Steam (1889)
The Future World of Energy (1984)
1980-1990 Developments (1979)
Solar Power of 1999 (1956)


Edison Battery Solves Old Problems (1909)

Think gasoline engines are on their way out? We've been thinking that for about a hundred years now. This story ran in the June 27, 1909 Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California).

The commercial value of the gasoline motor will then disappear. Vehicles charged with the new battery will be about as noiseless as it will be practicable to make any rapidly moving thing.


Solar Power of 1999 (1956)

The fascinating book 1999: Our Hopeful Future by Victor Cohn explains in chapter nine how the world will harness the power of the sun. Below is an excerpt from chapter nine titled, "We Hitch Up the Sun."

The sun rose as usual on January 10, 1999, and went to work.

In a great, sun-drenched desert, a thousand acres of collector plates soaked up the sun's heat, intensified it and relayed it to boilers. This was the energy source for an electric power plant that operated a great sea-water purification works a few miles away. The sea water irrigated the desert.

In a field, winding rows of plastic-topped trenches soaked the sun's light into a deep green liquid that turned thicker almost as you watched. This was an algae farm using the sun's energy to grow food.

On millions of roof tops, glass collectors absorbed sun heat, to be stored in tanks. These were home-heating plants without other fuel. The world of 1999 had begun to tap the greatest energy source, the daily rays of the sun, and with this golden treasure was lighting cities and making deserts bloom, milking cows and baking sunshine cakes.

See also:
Solar Energy for Tomorrow's World (1980)
Delicious Waste Liquids of the Future (1982)
Sea City 2000 (1979)


Future of Steam (1889)

The June 13, 1889 Bucks County Gazette (Bristol, Pennsylvania) contained a short article about the future of steam power.

Professor Thurston, of Cornell university, does not believe the steam engine will be superseded in a hurry by any other motor, not even electricity. He says, on the contrary, that improvements will continue to be made in it which will adapt it more and more to the might industrial enterprises of the centuries to come. Gas engines can be used for small industries, not for great ones. The first improvements will be in the direction of overcoming the enormous waste of fuel whereby speed and power are obtained. Great changes for the better in this respect have already been made. He prophesies that the next generation will see steam engine driving a ship across the Atlantic in three or four days, at an expenditure of one pound of fuel per horse power an hour. Flying trains may be expected to cross the continent in two days, transporting freight at a cost of $3 or $4 a ton. The steam engine will yet be improved by a hundred investors.


Space Colony Possible (The News, 1975)

On August 22, 1975 The News (Frederick, Maryland) ran an article titled, "Space colony possible," which advocated the building of a space city. Below are excerpts from the piece.

A $100 billion city in space that would house 10,000 people and beam solar energy to earth could be a reality within 20 years, according to a select team of scholars.

The scholars said a space colony, once built, could transmit limitless solar energy to earth 24 hours a day.

As envisioned, the space colony would resemble a mile-wide wheel and have 10,000 inhabitants living in the outer rim. The vessel would orbit between the earth and moon, some 280,000 miles out in space.

Food for all residents would grow on 111 acres, with crops bathed in continuous sunlight. To maintain gravity similar to earth's, the craft would make one complete revolution every minute.

Residents would have a half-mile long landscaped vista and pure water would be recycled from sewage. The air would be cleaner than that in any city on earth because of constant filtering.

[Dr. Gerard] O'Neill said construction could begin now, using present technology, and the first colony could be functional by the early 1990s.

See also:
Delicious Waste Liquids of the Future (1982)
Robot Rebellion (1982)
Space Colony Pirates (1981)
Sport in Space Colonies (1977)
Space Colonies by Don Davis
More Space Colony Art (1970s)
Mars and Beyond (1957)
Challenge of Outer Space (circa 1950s)