Exploring Nikola Tesla's Miraculous Lab: 1899

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Googling for something else I ran across this feature article on Tesla from 1899:


I've read other similar accounts of visits to his lab quoted in biographies of him, and he included similar dazzling displays of high frequency AC effects in his public lectures.

NOT to stagger on being shown through the laboratory of Nikola Tesla requires the possession of an uncommonly sturdy mind. No person can escape a feeling of giddiness when permitted to pass into this miracle-factory and contemplate for a moment the amazing feats which this young man can accomplish by the mere turning of a hand.

Fancy yourself seated in a large, well- lighted room, with mountains of curious-looking machinery on all sides. A tall, thin young man walks up to you, and by merely snapping his fingers creates instantaneously a ball of leaping red flame, and holds it calmly in his hands. As you gaze you are surprised to see it does not burn his fingers. He let's it fall upon his clothing, on his hair, into your lap, and, finally, puts the ball of flame into a wooden box. You are amazed to see that nowhere does the flame leave the slightest trace, and you rub your eyes to make sure you are not asleep.

This ball of flame is not the chemical flame produced by magicians but is some high frequency/high voltage AC effect Tesla discovered in the course of his experiments. It is probably the same phenomenon as ball lightning, and Tesla is the only man I've ever heard of who was able to reproduce this in the lab. I don't know if he, himself, was familiar with reports of naturally occurring ball lightning, and I suspect this effect was something he discovered by accident while experimenting toward other goals.

The odd flame having been extinguished as miraculously as it appeared, the tall, thin young man next signals to his assistants to close up all the windows. When this has been done the room is as dark as a cave. A moment later you hear the young man say in the laboured accentuation of the foreigner: " Now, my friends, I will make for you some daylight." Quick as a flash the whole laboratory is filled with a strange light as beautiful as that of the moon, but as strong as that of old Sol. As you glance up at the closed shutters on each window, you see that each of them is as tight as a vice, and that no rays are coming through them. Cast your eyes wherever you will you can see no trace of the source of the odd light.

Like the ball of flame, this sourceless illumination is another high frequency/high voltage AC effect. I suspect that the shutters "as tight as a vice" are probably also air tight and that he is causing the ambient air in the lab to glow with the discharge from an unseen tesla coil at the right frequency.

After next turning himself into "electric man," an effect that a lot of people with large tesla coils have been able to reproduce, he goes on to talk about half developed inventions: solar steam power, wireless transmission of electricity, a telephone that sent what we would now call a "video" image along with voice (he was very close to the idea of television - in 1899!), and a machine for electrically fertilizing soil. (I don't believe he completed and patented any of these ideas except the elements of the wireless transmission of electricity. It's a pity he didn't pursue the rather basic, obviously workable, solar steam generator. With his post-Niagra credibility he could have gotten large scale versions of it into operation and we might be using refinements of them today.)

The article is a very good, typical, picture of Tesla: half magician, half Utopian dreamer. He was constantly spurred by the notion that invention could lead to a world without want or war.
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  • #2
Tesla was the Mad-Scientist.

Amazing man though, really.
  • #4
I actually just got back from a movie with him in it. " The Prestige". It was actually a very good movie about magicians and rivalry etc.
  • #5
Beeza said:
I actually just got back from a movie with him in it. " The Prestige". It was actually a very good movie about magicians and rivalry etc.
I had to google:

It all begins in rapidly changing, turn-of-the-century London. At a time when magicians are idols and celebrities of the highest order, two young magicians set out to carve their own paths to fame. The flashy, sophisticated Robert Angier is a consummate entertainer, while the rough-edged purist Alfred Borden is a creative genius who lacks the panache to showcase his magical ideas. They start out as admiring friends and partners. But when their biggest trick goes terribly awry, they become enemies for life--each intent on outdoing and upending the other. Trick by trick, show by show, their ferocious competition builds until it knows no bounds, even utilizing the fantastical new powers of electricity and the scientific brilliance of radical inventor Nikola Tesla--while the lives of everyone around them hang in the balance.

http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1809267303/details [Broken]

http://i.thisislondon.co.uk/i/pix/2006/10/bowie181006_243x244.jpg [Broken]

And DAVID BOWIE as Tesla?
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  • #6
The world needs more people like Tesla

For just the radio, and AC, he should be more well known, plus all the other positive trials (he DID have some goofy ideas--looking at them from OUR hindsight)
  • #7
We honor Nicola Tesla in many ways. The International System of Units (IS) established the Tesla as a standard unit of magnetic flux density. All my magnetic field data in my graduate research were recorded in microTesla ([itex]\mu[/itex]T).
  • #8
dispite the ludicricy that was tesla.

charging the air seems rathar interesting.
  • #9
Also a bit of an aside -- there is a new "multimedia opera" called "Violet Fire" about Tesla:

Hopefully coming soon to an opera house near me. Can I have ball lightning effects please?

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