Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Remy’s Town
by Megan Neumann

by Andrew Hook

Her Robot Babies
by Brent Knowles

Beyond the Reach of Proof
by Seth W. Kennedy

Here Is a Fighter
by Eric Del Carlo

Invasive Species
by Kurt Heinrich Hyatt

Deciphering an ET Opening Screen
by Marilyn K. Martin

I Once Was Lost
by Edward Morris

by Melanie Rees

Respect of Headwaiters
by Tais Teng

Toy Soldier
by Leon Chan


A Case Against Saucers
by John McCormick

Atomic Light Bulbs
by Popular Mechanics




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Atomic Bulbs Boast Limitless Light

By Popular Mechanics

A TUBE LIKE AN ORDINARY electric bulb will glow for three years by putting atomic energy to work, is the claim. After two years of experimenting to develop bottled, heatless light, an eastern inventor has announced discoveries that may result in the harnessing of almost limitless power for the use of mankind.

Surrounded by strange instruments in a modest little laboratory at Harrison, N. J., Juan J. Tomadelli says that he has succeeded in inventing a tube, not unlike the ordinary electric bulb, that will give 100 candlepower continuously for three years without connecting wires, batteries, or need of renewals. For years it has been known that a few pounds of matter contain more power than can be extracted from millions of tons of coal, every bit of rock, piece of steel, or even a penny is a colossal reservoir of energy imprisoned by the force that guides the destinies of the universe. If it could be released and controlled, the use of steam, electricity, and coal would be rendered obsolete.

“I am of the opinion,” Sir William Bragg, noted scientist, declared some time ago, “that this energy will supply our future needs. A thousand years may past before we can harness it, or tomorrow night may see us with the reins in our hands.”

While the difficulties are tremendous, Sir Oliver Lodge remarked that there was just as much doubt at one time about the utilization of steam or electricity. “Is it to be supposed,” he asked, “that there can be no fresh inventions, that all discoveries have been made?”

According to these scientists, all matter—steel, gold, wood, and gas—is composed of molecules. These are made up of atoms, which, in turn, are merely vast collections of electrons, all of them being in ceaseless motion.

While the atom is far too small to be seen, it is known that in a bubble of gas no larger than the letter “0” there are billions of them and that the electron is more than a thousand times smaller than the tiniest atom. Electrons are constantly moving at a speed of from 10,000 to 160,000 miles a second, a rate sufficient to carry them around the woratomic light bulbsld six times between the ticks of a clock. Over 1,340 barrels of powder would be required to move a rifle bullet as fast, it is estimated. This energy, if it could be released, is equal to 80,000,000 horsepower, and the atomic force imprisoned in a hard-shelled crab is sufficient to blow up the largest skyscraper. The activity of the electrons can be stimulated in various ways, one being by the ultraviolet, or invisible, rays of the sun.

[At left, electricity being drawn from the air in laboratory to light bulbs
that are then said to continue to give 100 candlepower for three years without recharging, or the use of batteries or renewals of any kind.]

If most of this light was not absorbed in passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, metals would disintegrate under it and the present “steel civilization” would be impossible. By greatly increasing the movement of the atoms, massive buildings could be instantly dissolved into dust, and if the rate of speed were made fast enough, a destructive explosion would result.

In his search for “cold” light, Juan J. Tomadelli first began experimenting with lightning, the symbol of power since time immemorial. The voltage, or electrical pressure of a bolt, is estimated at about 50,000,000 volts. But as the flash is so quick that it is over in one-thousandth part of a second, the energy involved is small, being estimated at 1.2 cents a bolt. During his tests, Mr. Tomadelli developed a 5,000,000 volt flash, a yard in diameter, which jumped a gap of 37 feet and was maintained for 31 seconds.

This was one step in his search for a force that would release the energy in the atom and at the same time control it. The jolt from the electricity, he says, started a series of “explosions” in the secret material composing the filaments of the lights. But, instead of occurring all at one time, the smash-ups are spread over a period of years, according to the amount of substance used in bulbs.

Ordinary electricity from the power house will not set this process in operation, according to the inventor. It requires current drawn from the air. This is not lightning and not the charge of the Earth, but is said to have a sort of cousinly relationship with them. Special and highly complicated apparatus, some of which represents the most intricate and involved ever used for electrical experimentation, has been installed at the Harrison laboratory to capture and harness this current.

Outside the main building, a big metal disk has been set high in the air. It is said that the electricity is drawn from this through many heavily insulated wires to a magnetic revolving apparatus connected with metallic brushes.

In his experiments, Mr. Tomadelli said that he had made profound changes in the composition of the filaments inside the lights by rubbing the bulbs with green leaves. Also, he says, he was puffed up like a balloon and several pounds were added to his weight by the electrons that entered his system while experimenting in his laboratory.


After advertising and selling stock in his “Electric Corporation” at $100 per share, Tomadelli, purporting to be an eminent electrical engineer, was ordered by the New York State Attorney General to demonstrate his apparatus. An initial New York Supreme Court ruling was overturned when his attorney argued it was up to the state’s expert witnesses to demonstrate the impossibility of the device.

Tomadelli organized the Electronics Corporation to make light bulbs which, by withdrawing energy from the air and bombarding a substance composed of sea salt, tin, copper, asphalt and paraffin, would burn continuously for seven months,
need no recharging, and would burn on until the substance disintegrated. The bulbs would eventually put the “Power Trust” out of business.

Federal court in the District of Columbia brought “Count” Juan J. Tomadelli to trial for mail fraud. A gentleman from New Jersey testified that he paid the “Count” about $80,000 a year for 13 years, or a total of $400,000. The “Count” assured him the Federal government was “interested” and had agreed to buy about $300,000,000 worth of the bulbs.

There were many other victims, and Tomadelli used a part of the investors’ money to raise orchids in his huge apartment in a swanky Washington hotel. Eventually the Post Office Department intervened and endeavored to send Tomadelli to the penitentiary for using the mails to defraud.

But the legal troubles didn’t stop. Investors brought suit. Tomadelli led a lavish lifestyle and nobody ever saw a single “Atomic Lamp.”

Nevertheless, Juan J. Tomadelli became an A-list society name for a time and was mentioned in an article regarding orgies in the Roaring Twenties. But his fortunes turned sour and his final fate seems unrecorded.

J.J. Tomadelli’s background is a little vague. Some documents say he was born in Argentina. Some say in Austria. The “Count” title is also questionable. His official Petition for Naturalization of the U.S. District Court for the Southtomadelliern District of New York states:

Birth Country: Austria
Document Date Year:1926
Surname: Tomadelli
Given Name: Juan Joseph
Alias Surname: Tomedilli
Alias Given Name: Giovanni

“New Era” Jet-Propelled Ocean Liner

Miss Flora Tomadelli, daughter of New York designer J.J. Tomadelli, is pictured above right holding a scale model of the “New Era” jet-propelled ocean liner conceived by her father. The ship, powered by four jet engines (arranged two to each side), would have an overall length of 1,487 feet and a capacity of 116,000 gross tons. Capable of carrying about 10,100 passengers, it would cost an estimated $60,000,000. (From the “Rhinelander Daily News,” March 23, 1946, Page 8.)

Certainly sounds like one of J.J. Tomadelli’s plans. And if you like this, we’ve got a beautiful gothic-style bridge we’ll be happy to sell you. END

This article is from the November, 1923, issue of “Popular Mechanics,” Vol. 40. No. 5, with additional commentary by Associate Editor Eric M. Jones. Eric is an engineer, designer, entrepreneur, and collector of old “Popular Mechanics” magazines.


Yellow Glad Days




    mystic doors