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"[Science fiction is] nightmares and visions, always outlined by the barely possible."
- Gregory Benford

Ships Propelled By Light Pressure  
  Space ships that use light pressure from a distant source for propulsion  

Very impressive prediction by Hamilton; this anticipates the work of engineers like Dr. Robert Forward, who published his ideas on this topic in the early 1960's.

When the comet had entered the solar system, a hundred of the comet people set out in four great cones, or spaceships, to establish themselves upon earth and carry out their plan. These cones were driven through space by light pressure, the possibilities of which force they had long utilized.


(Light cones for light propulsion)

Even on earth, we know that this force exists and understand a few of its manifestations; though only a few. We know that it is the pressure of the sun's light that causes a comet's tail to swing always away from the sun. It drove their cones through space at will and they use the principle of it in their destroying white ray. In that ray, light-pressure could be used of such power as to disintegrate the molecules of any object, or it could be used merely to strike a powerful blow...

From The Comet Doom, by Edmond Hamilton.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1929
Additional resources -

Probably the first person to suggest that light pressure could push a spacecraft was Jules Verne; see light pressure propulsion.

See also the laser cannons from Larry Niven's 1966 novel Neutron Star. Compare to the Beam-Powered Propulsion from The Prince of Space (1931) by Jack Williamson.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Comet Doom
  More Ideas and Technology by Edmond Hamilton
  Tech news articles related to The Comet Doom
  Tech news articles related to works by Edmond Hamilton

Ships Propelled By Light Pressure-related news articles:
  - Are Observed Radio Bursts An Alien Propulsion Technology?

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