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Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943) and the Electric Universe
by soupdragon42

November 30, 2008
 

The Big Picture

It is surprising how few people have heard of Nikola Tesla considering his many fundamental achievements. He was an inventor, physicist, and electrical engineer of unusual intellectual brilliance. Of Serb descent, he worked mostly in the US but, all too often, others have taken the credit for this work.

Tesla was more philanthropic than business savvy and, as is often the case, the more commercially astute ran with his ideas and stole the glory. For example, Marconi was originally granted the patent for radio technology, although this was repealed in 1949, and Thomas Edison even resorted to electrocuting live animals in an attempt to discredit Tesla's superior AC [Alternating Current, used globally today] Power. Tesla won the day, on this occasion, and his ideas now form the basis of modern power generation and distribution. Edison had favoured far less efficient DC [Direct Current].

Names like Eddison and Marconi still tend to feature more prominently in most electrical textbooks, however. For this reason, Tesla is often described as an underground hero, and some even laud him as the man who invented the twentieth century. Such a tribute does not seem unreasonable when you consider that Tesla also invented the Spark Plug, X-Rays, Neon, Lasers, and the basic technology behind Radar and Robotics. There are many more, although he was often labelled a nut in his own day for proposing technology which we now take for granted. [The term "crackpot" overused by many of today's pseudoskeptics springs to mind.]

Unfortunately, because of the military and economic implications of many of his ideas, much of Tesla's work has been clouded by conspiracy theories. For example, it is often claimed that J P Morgan put an end to the Wardenclyffe Tower project when he discovered that it could also be used for wireless energy distributuion, fearing that he wouldn't be able to put a meter on it! It is certainly true that J Edgar Hoover seized Tesla's work immediately after his death in 1943, and declared it MOST SECRET!

Conspiracy theories aside, however, there was much more to Tesla than a brilliant inventor. He also recognised the broader implications of electromagnetism and electrodynamics, and he wasn't afraid to speak his mind on some of the big issues of the day.
The theory [Relativity] is like a beggar clothed in purple whom ignorant people take for a king ... its exponents are brilliant men but they are metaphysicists, not scientists...
- Tesla, New York Times, July 11, 1935
Tesla recognised the roots of an affliction which now poisons mainstream cosmology -- the rise of mathematics over experiment. Cosmology today, of course, is a field dominated by mathematicians, not scientists, and few dare to question this situation.

The father of plasma physcics and plasma cosmology, Hannes Alfvén (1908-1995), echoed a similar sentiment. He was also a critic of the mathematical approach to science:
We have to learn again that science without contact with experiments is an enterprise which is likely to go completely astray into imaginary conjecture.
- Hannes Alfvén
Tesla would have concurred:
Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality.
Despite his obvious genius however, Tesla didn't always help himself, and failed to document many of his ideas. Fortunately, his assistants filed many patents on his behalf without his knowledge, although it is alleged that many of these remain secret. Conspiracy theories, again.

Followers of the emerging electrodynamic paradigm will, nonetheless, recognise many striking parallels between Tesla's ideas and today's Electric Universe.
This planet, with all its appalling immensity, is to electric currents virtually no more than a small metal ball.
- Nikola Tesla
He went further:
Throughout space there is energy. Is this energy static or kinetic! If static our hopes are in vain; if kinetic and this we know it is, for certain then it is a mere question of time when men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature.
It seems to have been around Tesla's time that electricity in space suddenly became taboo, and even to this day obfuscations are employed to describe electrc currents in space. How often to we hear terms more appropriate for fluid dynamics? 'Electron Rain' 'Solar Wind' 'Shock Front' and 'Ion Storm' are common examples. Why not call them what they are?

The trouble is, electromagnetism is notoriously difficult to model mathematically, and current models are based on gravity alone.

[Editor's Note: The latest video from the Soupdragon takes a look at Tesla and the broader implications of his ideas for astronomy and cosmology]
 
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