Monday, July 9, 2012

Birthday of Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943)

July 10 is the birthday of Nikola Tesla, born this day in 1856 in Smiljan, Croatia.

Tesla was an amazing genius and creative thinker, a designer of new inventions who explained that he could visualize an apparatus in his mind, assemble it in his mind, test it in his mind, and then disassemble it and inspect it for wear and binding and friction . . . in his mind! (Autobiography, cited in The Tesla Papers, edited by David Hatcher Childress, 13).

The introduction to the Tesla Papers (cited above) explains that, although he is not popularly given credit for the following inventions, it appears that Tesla's designs were the first in many areas that are usually attributed to later inventors:
Ask any school kid: "who invented radio"? If you get an answer at all it will doubtless be Marconi -- an answer with which all the encyclopedias and textbooks agree. Or ask most anyone: "who invented the stuff that makes your toaster, your stereo, the street lights, the factories and offices work?" Without hesitation, Thomas Edison, right? Wrong both times. The correct answer is Nikola Tesla, a person you have probably heard of. There's more. He appears to have discovered x-rays a year before W. K. Roentgen did in Germany, he built a vacuum tube amplifier several years before Lee de Forest did, he was using fluorescent lights in his laboratories 40 years before the industry "invented" them, and he demonstrated the principles used in microwave ovens and radar decades before they became an integral part of our society. Yet we associate his name with none of them. [. . .] His practical career started in 1881 in Budapest, Hungary, where he made his first electrical invention, a telephone repeater (the ordinary loudspeaker) and conceived the idea of a rotating magnetic field, which later made him world famous in its form as the modern induction motor. [. . .] Another one of Tesla's inventions that is familiar to anyone who has ever owned an automobile was patented in 1898 under the name "electrical ignitor for gas engines." More commonly known as the automobile ignition system, its major component, the ignition coil, remains practically unchanged since its introduction into use at the turn of the century. Nikola Tesla also built prototypes of a unique fuel burning rotary engine based upon his earlier design for a rotary pump. Recent tests that have been carried out on the Tesla bladeless disk turbine indicate that, if constructed using newly developed high temperature ceramic materials, it will rank as the world's most efficient gas engine, out-performing our present day piston type internal combustion engines in fuel efficiency, longevity, adaptability to different fuels, cost and power to weight ratio. 12-15.

Tesla is perhaps best known today, however, for his ground-breaking work in the transmission of electricity over distances, and the dramatic propagation of bolts of energy from high-energy Tesla coils. His later work led into extremely low frequencies including the resonant frequency of planet Earth, the production of huge bolts of artificial lightning, the search for signals from extraterrestrial life in outer space and the creation of devices that could send signals to other planets, the investigation of radiation, and the investigation of the science of plasma energy (which remains a largely open field for study to this day).

Through his science, Tesla was able to transmit electricity wirelessly to remote devices, using wireless electrical power to light the lamps at his own laboratories. However, his efforts to deliver inexpensive or even free power were stymied by business rivals (most notably Thomas Edison, who went to great lengths to portray Tesla's AC power as dangerous in comparison to Edison's DC power, including funding a road show in which Edison's representatives electrocuted dogs and one time even an elephant).

As explained in the Tesla Papers, Tesla believed our planet's conditions could provide free and abundant energy for all:
Tesla wrote in Century Magazine in 1900: ". . . that communication without wires to any point of the globe is practicable.  My experiments showed that the air at the ordinary pressure became distinctly conducting, and this opened up the wonderful prospect of transmitting large amounts of electrical energy for industrial purposes to great distances without wires.  Its practical consummation would mean that energy would be available for the uses of man at any point of the globe.  I can conceive of no technical advance which would tend to unite the various elements of humanity more effectively than this one, or of one which would more add to and more economize human energy . . ."  This was written in 1900!  After finishing preliminary testing, work was begun on a full sized broadcasting station at Shoreham, Long Island.  Had it gone into operation, it would have been able to provide usable amounts of electrical power at the receiving circuits.  After construction of a generator building (still standing) and a 180 foot broadcasting tower (dynamited in World War I on the dubious pretext of being a potential navigation reference for German U-boats), financial support for the project was suddenly withdrawn by J. P. Morgan when it became apparent that such a worldwide power project couldn't be metered and charged for.  14-15.
Whether Tesla had really discovered the secret to providing free and abundant power to heal the divisions between a divided mankind remains unknown.

It is indisputable, however, that powerful business and political interests sometimes labor mightily to prevent new and less expensive forms of power being made available -- in fact, it can be demonstrated that such efforts to block sources of new or less expensive or more abundant energy continue to this very day.

It is also indisputable that Tesla was an incredible genius, an example of the incredible power of the human mind, and an inventor who truly sought to benefit others.