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"Science fiction is the very literature of change. In fact, it is the only such literature we have."
- Frederik Pohl

Photic Borer (Artesian Ray)  
  A ray of energy that illuminates a cross-section of Earth as it goes through solid earth and rock.  

The Artesian ray, of which these two spoke, was an invention upon which Roland Clewe had been experimenting for a long time, and which was and had been the object of his labors and studies while in Europe. In the first decade of the century it had been generally supposed that the X ray, or cathode ray, had been developed and applied to the utmost extent of its capability. It was used in surgery and in mechanical arts, and in many varieties of scientific operations, but no considerable advance in its line of application had been recognized for a quarter of a century. But Roland Clewe had come to believe in the existence of a photic force, somewhat similar to the cathode ray, but of infinitely greater significance and importance to the searcher after physical truth. Simply described, his discovery was a powerful ray produced by a new combination of electric lights, which would penetrate down into the earth, passing through all substances which it met in its way, and illuminating and disclosing everything through which it passed.

All matter likely to be found beneath the surface of the earth in that part of the country had been experimented upon by Clewe, and nothing had resisted the penetrating and illuminating influence of his rayŚwell called Artesian ray, for it was intended to bore into the bowels of the earth. After making many minor trials of the force and powers of his light, Roland Clewe had undertaken the construction of a massive apparatus, by which he believed a ray could be generated which, little by little, perhaps foot by foot, would penetrate into the earth and light up everything between the farthest point it had attained and the lenses of his machine. That is to say, he hoped to produce a long hole of light about three feet in diameter and as deep as it was possible to make it descend, in which he could see all the various strata and deposits of which the earth is composed. How far he could send down this piercing cylinder of light he did not allow himself to consider. With a small and imperfect machine he had seen several feet into the ground; with a great and powerful apparatus, such as he was now constructing, why should he not look down below the deepest point to which man's knowledge had ever reached? Down so far that he must follow his descending light with a telescope; down, down until he had discovered the hidden secrets of the earth!

The peculiar quality of this light, which gave it its great preeminence over all other penetrating rays, was the power it possessed of illuminating an object; passing through it; rendering it transparent and invisible; illuminating the opaque substance it next met in its path, and afterwards rendering that transparent. If the rocks and earth in the cylindrical cavities of light which Clewe had already produced in his experiments had actually been removed with pickaxes and shovels, the lighted hole a few feet in depth could not have appeared more real, the bottom and sides of the little well could not have been revealed more sharply and distinctly; and yet there was no hole in the ground, and if one should try to put his foot into the lighted perforation he would find it as solid as any other part of the earth.

From The Great Stone of Sardis, by Frank Stockton.
Published by Not Known in 1897
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