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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser


Nature's Miracles Volume 3: Electricity and Magnetism

Elisha GRAY


Reading a book by Elisha Gray, a contender for being the inventor of the telephone. He mentioned the use of a coherer, a primitive detector of "ether waves," as they called them before Einstein. The coherer was built of two contacts with metal filing between. The resistance decreased after receiving a signal and stayed low until the detector was tapped to be reset. It is apparently not completely clear to this day how it worked, but probably when radio waves passed through the conductors it caused some kind of micro welding in the filings that made the tube more conductive.

I imagine the FCC would not be happy if you tried to recreate some of the early attempts at wireless telegraphy, as the transmitters flood the whole radio spectrum to send their signals. It seems to me it would take a significant voltage to weld metal fillings together -- much more than the faint signals of radio today. Although I guess I don't really know.