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"Science fiction has gotten more accurate as we've gotten closer to the present, because science fiction stories have not only attracted, but also generated current scientists."
- Larry Niven

Solar Beam  
  Obtaining solar power by means of a direct connection with the sun.  

A unique approach to the problem of obtaining solar power; this is tried on George O. Smith's Equilateral Station in the vacuum of space (hence the space suits in the figure below).

Don began to sketch. "Suppose we make a driver tube like this," he said. "And we couple the top end, where the cathode is, to the input side of the relay tube. Only the input side will require a variable-impedance anode, coupled back from the cathode to limit the input to the required value. Then the coupling anodes must be served with an automatic-coupling circuit so that the limiting power is passed without wastage."

Barney pulled out a pencil. "If you make that automatic-coupling circuit dependent upon the output from the terminal ends," he said, "it will accept only the amount of input that is required by the power being used from the output. Overcooling these two anodes will inhibit the power intake."

"Right," said Wes. "And I am of the opinion that the power available from Sol is of a magnitude that will permit operation over and above the limit."

"Four million tons of energy per second!" Walt exploded. "That's playing with fire!"


(Solar Beam by George O. Smith)

"But to get back to this Goldberg, what is it?"

"Warren," said Channing soberly, "sit down!" Warren did. "Now," said Charming, "this screwball gadget is an idea whereby we hope to draw power out of the sun..."

"Go ahead," said Charming. "Be funny. You just heard the man say that dissimilar dyno-cathodes do not work. What we need for our solar beam is a dynode of Russell's Mixture so that it will be similar to our cathode—which in this case is Sol. Follow me?"

From The Long Way, by George O. Smith.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1944
Additional resources -

One of my favorite parts is when they try to decide if they are aiming it correctly:

"...you'll want this in the experimental blister at South end? On a coupler to the beam-turret so that it'll maintain direction at Sol?"

"Right. Couple it to the rotating stage if you can..."

"Could it be that we're actually missing Sol?" Don asked. "I mean, could it be that line-of-sight and line-of-power aren't one and the same thing?"

Compare to the power planet from Power Planet (1931) by Murray Leinster, the near-space solar energy collector from Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon, the solar energy beam from Masquerade (1941) by Clifford Simak and the solar station from Isaac Asmov's 1941 story Reason.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Long Way
  More Ideas and Technology by George O. Smith
  Tech news articles related to The Long Way
  Tech news articles related to works by George O. Smith

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