excerpt from
Romance and Discovery on An Invisible Frontier
By Elma G. “Pem” Farnsworth

Chapter 31:  Ultimatum
( used with permission)

During the mid 1960s, Phil's usual reluctance to speak in public began to fade, and he accepted some of the numerous invitations to give talks about his life, his work, and his philosophy. He accepted these invitations because he was concerned about the potentially staggering impact fusion might have on the world, and he wanted to do whatever he could to prepare people for the changes to come. I went with him on most of these occasions, and even I was amazed with the scope of his vision. When his fusion work was finished, the world was in for some big changes indeed.

By 1962, I am sure that fusion was every bit as real in Phil's mind as television had been during 1926 and 1927. There was simply no question in his mind that the Fusor was going to work, and he talked frequently of the breakthrough that was only a few steps away.

In his public addresses, Phil would begin by saying that in the future, historians would look back on the 1960s as the point of demarcation between the high‑energy era we were about to enter and the low‑energy period that preceded it. He spoke of the enormous energy that would be at the disposal of every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth­ and he always spoke in terms of how much fun it was going to be.

Phil's vision for the future could best be divided into two fields of view‑his vision for life on earth, and his vision for life in space.

On earth, Phil predicted that fusion power would soon replace every source of energy presently in use. The most obvious benefit of this development would be the end of the pollution that fouls our skies from the burning of fossil fuels, and our streams from human waste. It would also eliminate the dangers of nuclear waste from the fission reactors in use today.

The energy contained in even a small quantity of fusionable material is so vast that only a tiny amount would provide the power needs of an entire city. He often cited some calculations performed by Fritz Furth with engineers at Con‑Edison, the New York City power company, indicating that all the power necessary to run a city the size of New York for an entire month could be produced by Fusor fuel at the cost of about a nickel; accounting for inflation, that amount is probably up to about a dollar by now.

Phil predicted that all forms of transportation would be radically altered. Fusion engines would replace the internal combustion engine, and all forms of ground transportation would become electrically powered. New cars would come not with a refillable fuel tank, but with a small energy unit which would probably last longer than the rest of the car.

He predicted weather control and talked of "unwinding" tornadoes and diverting hurricanes. He envisioned a Fusor‑powered ship that could meet a hurricane at sea and erect a force field in its path that would divert harmlessly out into the upper atmosphere. Similarly, tornadoes could be tamed by a fusion‑powered airship. He also had plans for localized climate control by the creation of "water domes" that would permit the creation of all four seasons regardless of the actual time of year.

At home, Phil expected that individual dwellings would all be fusion powered, eliminating the need for power lines. He once stated that a 50,000 kilowatt power plant would sell for around four hundred dollars! Given the vast power at our creative disposal, our homes would be vastly different from what they are now‑we might not even recognize them as homes. Phil stated more than once that homes might cease to be built of brick and mortar, and would instead be formed from high‑energy force fields, modeled after the poissor phenomenon which formed the heart of his Fusor.

On a subject closer to his heart, Phil predicted that one day the same technology would be used to create free‑standing television image with no visible tubes or screens.

He predicted the end of waste‑disposal problems, suggesting that each fusion‑powered home would be equipped with its own sanitation facilities that would convert human waste into ash that could serve as fertilizer for home gardens.

Phil described how fusion‑era metallurgists would discover a whole new range of materials, made possible by foundries that could cook their molten brew at temperatures of up to a billion degrees. The new materials at would result would enable great fusion‑powered cities to rise from the deserts and oceans.

On the international front, Phil believed that fusion energy could make warfare obsolete. With vast energy at everyone's disposal, the political and economic barriers that divide nations would soon disappear. Barring that eventuality, all the nations of the Earth could be protected from nuclear attack by virtue of a fusion‑powered defense system capable of destroying incoming missiles before they could reach their targets.

But Phil saved his grandest vision for the future of man's exploration and colonization of space, which he believed would one day exceed the predictions of even the most imaginative fiction writers.

At the heart of Phil's vision for space travel was a fusion‑powered starship. Once the Fusor was perfected, he figured it would be a relatively simple matter to employ it as a star drive. He said that a fountain pen could hold enough fuel to fly to Mars.

Phil was very critical of the contemporary methods of space travel. He considered modern rocketry quite antiquated, since most of the fuel involved is consumed just getting the rest of the fuel off the launch pad, leaving very little room for an actual payload. With fusion power, he predicted the ratios would be reversed‑the propulsion system reduced to the size of a space capsule and the payload the size of the booster rocket.

On a more theoretical note, Phil was equally convinced that our concept of distance would soon be replaced and that man would discover the means to cross the vast emptiness of space. He summed it up in the simple question, "Why do we have to spend so much energy to cross something which is actually nothing?"

There was no question in his mind that fusion would give us the power to colonize other planets and perhaps other solar systems. He predicted that space flight would become as common as a jet flight to Europe. And he predicted that interstellar ships would take the form of a giant fusion "ram jet," hurtling through space at awesome speeds and gathering all the particles in its path, feeding them directly into the fusion star drive as fuel.

And finally, if the population on earth ever got out of control, Phil believed that the Poissor technology he was developing inside his Fusor would one day be used to create whole new planets, by gathering asteroids and other space debris and compressing them in its force field.

Phil's vision may sound utopian, fantastic, and unachievable. But one must remember that his was a unique perspective. He knew all these things were possible because he knew what he was about to create in his own laboratory. Thus, his vision was a window on the future through which only he could see, and he did everything he could to share that perspective with all who cared to listen to him. Phil firmly believed that all this was possible. All he had to do was sustain his fusion reaction, and the future would be at our doorstep.


For more information about the book from which this exceprt is taken, visit

Philo T. Farnsworth.com



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