Nikola Tesla's Dynamic Theory of Gravity

In summary, according to the wiki, Tesla claimed to have developed a theory of gravity but never published it. He criticized Einstein's General Relativity for a number of philosophical objections, most of which have been forgotten. In spite of this, his contributions to electrical engineering are significant.
  • #1
danielatha4
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I've read small bits of Tesla's Theory of gravity., but nothing in detail. Does anyone actually know how he explained the phenomenon of gravity? I know this is a vague question, and I don't know exactly what I'm looking for, but any information on the basis of why he rejected Einstein's General Relativity would be interesting.
 
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  • #2
According to the wiki he said he developed one but never published it. This was BEFORE GR. For his criticisms of GR, there are several philosophical objections noted but nothing of substance.

So I'm not sure there is really anything to discuss here
 
  • #3
I'm sure a scientist such as Nikola Tesla would have some sort of physics and mathematics behind his claims. I believe I read that he didn't completely develop his theory before death (which would be after GR). I might be incorrect though.

I guess I'm asking if anyone knows any reasoning behind gravity, according to Tesla. Rather than the effects (space-time is not curved).

The only VAGUE thing I remember about his explanation of gravity is some sort of electromotive force causing downward "momentum" of the matter that makes us due to the spin of the Earth. This could be WAY off from what I read. It's been a while and I couldn't find the source again.
 
  • #4
I think it's going pretty far to call Tesla a scientist. He's generally only ever considered an inventor and engineer. He was never trained in "pure science" nor did any of his work really fall within that category.

Anyway, it's pretty obvious Tesla did not consider the "theory" valid. He would definitely have published had he thought it had even the vaguest merit. After all those patent fights with Edison and Marconi, he was obsessed with obtaining proper credit for any work he did, no matter how trivial or incomplete.

For a self-promoter of Tesla's level, believing he had done work on a scale capable of bringing him greater credit than Einstein (who's work he claimed was derivative), he would have raced to publish. To say that he didn't publish it in any form, and that the body of work was held unpublished from 1894 to his death in 1943... well, it implies he didn't think that any part of the theory was workable.
 
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  • #5
Why do people have this religious belief in Tesla? His PR was fabulous and he did make exceedingly good sparks but what else, apart from the Legend?
It's almost Freddy Starr ate my hamster, as far as I can see.
 
  • #6
I agree. Tesla is little more than the "Legend." His contributions to electrical engineering were minor, in that a number of engineers were pursuing identical work simultaneously, and often his "recognition" as "inventor" is a result of timely patent filing for subjects that a number of other engineers had already cracked, but hadn't filed on.

I recently spoke to a friend who expressed the ridiculous notion that Tesla's contributions outweighed von Neumann, Bohr and Hisenburg, to the extent that you could have "shot them in the head" during childhood and seen no difference in the world, while Tesla was irrevocably important.

That absurdity, as it was reflected in this thread needs to be fought.

Which is why I pulled up a zombie thread on my first go.
 
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  • #7
His contributions to modern power distribution in electrical engineering are not minor at all. His most significant inventions are still powering much of the industrial world at this instant.

He was not as prolific an inventor as Edison but he invented using theory and it was advanced for his time. He invented the brushless induction motor in 1883.

The comment about Bohr et. al. is hyperbole. His contributions to physics are not great but as an electrical engineer he was ahead of his time.

Later in life he worked on what would be considered fringe technology today but would have been seen as plausible experimentation in his day.

He may have stumbled onto some unknown physical principles through his experimental work, or he may have become an eccentric recluse. Nobody knows for sure.

I could go into it in much greater depth to bring out the connections to modern fringe physics, crackpottery and actual military work going on in weapons and propulsion but it would violate the forum guidelines.
 
  • #8
Antiphon said:
He may have stumbled onto some unknown physical principles through his experimental work, or he may have become an eccentric recluse. Nobody knows for sure.

I could go into it in much greater depth to bring out the connections to modern fringe physics, crackpottery and actual military work going on in weapons and propulsion but it would violate the forum guidelines.

It would be very unlikely that these unspecified "unknown" physical phenomena would not have been 'discovered' again by someone else in the intervening years. It would also be surprising that one of his interested followers had not carried out some of this fringe stuff to a successful conclusion is it were, indeed, of any real worth.
His glamour gets more and more as time goes by. Distance lends enchantment, I feel.
Thank PF for those guidelines!
 
  • #9
Let's see if I can pen this response artfully enough to make my point without actually triggering a moderator beat-down.

Well, Sophiecentaur, you are correct in that it was unlikely. And you are twice correct in that some of his interested followers have carried his work forward to a conclusion.

Ironically to a thoroughly negative conclusion as far as I know. His theories were revived for a time after ~1947 but ultimately were deemed unnecessary to people doing the reviving. And although I could tell you much more of my personal eyewitness accounts about the matter, I cannot do so here without censure.

I have mixed feelings about the pf guidelines. I know why they are in place but it makes me really sad sometimes. Mainly because there is no other forum so richly endowed with people who aren't crackpots.

Imagine a forum where the finest medical practitioners are gathered with laypeople to discuss every type of medical procedure; but the forums were closed to the healing experiences of native American shaman. Hmmm.

There should be a single place in this forum where those with crackpot ideas can come and do their thing. There is such a place here for political threads and random observations, but not fringe topics in physics. I think this deficit diminishes the value of the forum as an antidote to genuine crackpottery while simultaneously stifling honest discourse in ill-formulated physics theories.

Just my two cents.
 
  • #10
I wrote of "a successful conclusion"; that was my point. If there had been one, the results of the work would have been shouted from the rooftops.

As for the work of shamans, it has its place amongst all the other fringe medicines. The developed world's version of this would possibly be Homeopathy. That field has consistently be shown to have results that are statistically insignificant. Yet, the proponents just say that 'more studies' are needed. We are up to our necks with studies which have failed to find a valid case for homeopathy but the enthusiasts still call for more. It's a bit like the "best of three", "best of five", "best of seven" sequence, called for by someone who keeps losing the toss. If people really want to believe in something then it is up to them (and they will attribute any positive outcome to it) but there's only a finite amount of justifiable effort available on the part of legit Science for investigating it. If there really were 'something in it' then the likelihood is that someone, by now, would have taken it up and it would have joined mainstream Science.There's an interesting 'anti-parallel' to all this with the Climate Deniers.
 
  • #11
Antiphon said:
Imagine a forum where the finest medical practitioners are gathered with laypeople to discuss every type of medical procedure; but the forums were closed to the healing experiences of native American shaman. Hmmm.
I thnk you need to find the subset of science (if there is one) where Tesla's more unconventional ideas belong, rather than letting "laypeople" use them to confuse discussions where they clearly don't belong. And if I wanted to pursue this, I would be much more interested in finding out what Tesla actually said and wrote, than in what most of the "laypeople" on the internet think he said and wrote.

It isn't very obvious how much of "Teslaism" relates to mainstream EM theory and electrical engineering as practised in the 21st century, any more than how much of shamanism relates to say keyhole surgery in medicine - though shamanism may well have some valid inputs to psychology, and I'm open minded enough to consider the possibility that Teslaism may have a place somewhere in science.
 
  • #12
That's an interesting word - "Teslaism".
The few 'isms' that there are in scientific study, tend to refer the the Science (e.g. Darwinism, Keynsism) but this one refers to the 'magic' (usually unspecified) of the personality.
Darwin'ism' is used as a shorthand for work that has carried on and been extended usefully (despite what the public seem to think). Keynsism is well defined and work has carried on. Strange there isn't any 'Einsteinism' or 'Pauliism'. The Public is fickle.

@AZ
One might be interested to learn of what Tesla actually said and wrote but, as you say, it's not plastered about anywhere is it? Could that reflect on its actual worth, I wonder? Barnum and Bailey were pretty famous in their time and their names live on, too. Information has a way of finding an outlet that is appropriate to its worth and it's not surprising that vast, impressive sparks are still appreciated by adults and schoolkids, alike. He certainly deserves credit for that.
 
  • #13
Being a young idealist and a Tesla worshipper, I'm rather curious about this theory.

Why is it not publicly available?
 
  • #14
Conspiracy, I imagine.
It couldn't possibly be because it was not good enough to fit the rest of Physics.
Nicola had hundreds of ideas. How come they were not of interest to commercial developers? He was not a God, just full of interesting ideas.
 
  • #15
Meizirkki said:
Being a young idealist and a Tesla worshipper, I'm rather curious about this theory.

Why is it not publicly available?

Because it didn't work. That's why. And that's assuming he even had one.
Wikipedia states: When he was 81, Tesla stated he had completed a "dynamic theory of gravity".[82] He stated that it was "worked out in all details" and that he hoped to soon give it to the world.[83] The theory was never published.

Given the amount of "boasting" that Tesla was known to do, it is exceedingly unlikely that Tesla developed a working theory of gravity better than General Relativity. Keep in mind that GR has passed every single test ever developed so far. Measurements of light bending around stars, frame dragging, time dilation, and much more have all been verified with extremely high precision.

Tesla was easily capable of publishing a theory, he had plenty of experience developing patents and related items. The fact that he did not indicates that he probably did not have a working theory.
 
  • #16
He did not have a gravitational theory on par with GR. Not even close.

What he claims to have had (which has given rise to endless conspiracy theories) is the discovery of an experimental effect in which a certain mechanical arrangement of matter together with some high voltage would be able to form a propulsive impulse without hurling a physical mass.

If you made an acoustical cannon that could knock over a brick wall, nobody would claim the physics was anything but ordinary. But if that same cannon could operate in a vacuum, then you'd conclude that it wasn't using sound. And if you were something of an engineering genius you might think that you'd discovered an unknown link between electromagnetism and gravity.

He didn't of course because as most of us know, GR is the gold standard of gravitational theories and doesn't contain a strong tie between EM and gravity. What he actually did discover (and indeed whether he in fact discovered anything at all) is for the historians and secret government laboratories to decide.
 
  • #17
Antiphon said:
His contributions to modern power distribution in electrical engineering are not minor at all. His most significant inventions are still powering much of the industrial world at this instant.
Which inventions did you have in mind, btw?
 
  • #18
Okay. Thanks for the quick replys :)
 
  • #19
Drakkith said:
Keep in mind that GR has passed every single test ever developed so far. Measurements of light bending around stars, frame dragging, time dilation, and much more have all been verified with extremely high precision.

You mean except for when you go into the atomic level, right? Because it sort of fails there. Or so I've heard anyways, i haven't actually studied physics enough to know exactly how it fails.


Because it didn't work. That's why. And that's assuming he even had one.
Wikipedia states: When he was 81, Tesla stated he had completed a "dynamic theory of gravity".[82] He stated that it was "worked out in all details" and that he hoped to soon give it to the world.[83] The theory was never published.

You just seem to claim that it "doesn't work", even though the only people that actually have a chance at having a copy of his dynamic theory of gravity is the US government. As you've never seen the work yourself, it seems a bit unfair to claim that it doesn't work. Also, there are plenty of theories that don't work that are still out. Why are his papers such a big deal if they don't mean anything?


Tesla was easily capable of publishing a theory, he had plenty of experience developing patents and related items. The fact that he did not indicates that he probably did not have a working theory.

This is just silly. Just because he didn't patent it doesn't mean that it didn't work. I think it could be comparably to the fact that tesla discovered x-ray radiation first, yet it was three years later that Wilhelm Roentgen was credited for it.
 
  • #20
zonova said:
As you've never seen the work yourself, it seems a bit unfair to claim that it doesn't work.

As you have never seen the theory itself, it may seem a bit unfair to claim that there is a theory.

Since there is little evidence supporting either side of these claims regarding Tesla's theory, all we have are unsubstantiated opinions.
 
  • #21
zonova said:
You mean except for when you go into the atomic level, right? Because it sort of fails there. Or so I've heard anyways, i haven't actually studied physics enough to know exactly how it fails.

You just seem to claim that it "doesn't work", even though the only people that actually have a chance at having a copy of his dynamic theory of gravity is the US government. As you've never seen the work yourself, it seems a bit unfair to claim that it doesn't work. Also, there are plenty of theories that don't work that are still out. Why are his papers such a big deal if they don't mean anything?

This is just silly. Just because he didn't patent it doesn't mean that it didn't work. I think it could be comparably to the fact that tesla discovered x-ray radiation first, yet it was three years later that Wilhelm Roentgen was credited for it.


You really need to ask ourself why you are championing this unseen work of Tesla (was it really such a "big deal' in Science"?). You state that your knowledge of Physics would not be enough to assess it, even if you saw it. You would, like me, need to read other people's assessment of its worth. Do you really think it's been 'suppressed' but 'the authorities'? Is it stored in the same secret vault in the Pentagon as 'official' photos of Flying Saucers and evidence of who really shot JFK?
Where does 'fairness' come into this? Imagine that I wrote, here, that I have a Theory of Everything that just needs a few finishing touches but I will publish it 'real soon'. Who would give me any credence at all? The Science Community would do exactly the same with my statement as they have with Teslas. I would have to wait for a reaction until I actually Published my work, in its entirety. And rightly so.

With Tesla, I think it's a matter of Distance Lends Enchantment, as with Buddy Holly, Glen Miller and Munro. Though, actually, despite what fanciful people say about Tesla, his contribution was not that great. He was a very inventive guy, a good showman and self-publicist. History has been pretty fair on him aamof - he got a Unit named after him and his Tesla Coil still provides a lot of entertainment and stimulation for Science students. But why not leave it at that?

He is not alone in having done some preliminary work in a field which was taken over by someone else, who got the glory. Science is like that. Do you think He never pinched the seed of an idea from anyone else?
He was a romantic figure in the history of Science whose image helps to support the attitude that Science can be approached subjectively, that anything is possible and that PR is all that counts.
He's not the Messiah - he's a very naughty boy.
 
  • #22
zonova said:
You mean except for when you go into the atomic level, right? Because it sort of fails there. Or so I've heard anyways, i haven't actually studied physics enough to know exactly how it fails.

GR is not an atomic scale theory, yet it still works in several aspects there, such as in time dilation of subatomic particles. Overall GR is a very large scale theory for planets, stars, galaxies, etc, so trying to use it at the atomic level is going to fail in at least some aspects. Using GR at the scale it was designed for will give you results that match up perfectly with observations.


You just seem to claim that it "doesn't work", even though the only people that actually have a chance at having a copy of his dynamic theory of gravity is the US government.

Why would the US government have a copy of a failed or unpublished theory? That isn't how the government works.

As you've never seen the work yourself, it seems a bit unfair to claim that it doesn't work. Also, there are plenty of theories that don't work that are still out. Why are his papers such a big deal if they don't mean anything?

Who says they are a big deal? Tesla nuts? No one else to my knowledge. Also, which theories that don't work are still out there and in use? I would guess none. If it doesn't work, at all, then it isn't a good theory and won't be used.

This is just silly. Just because he didn't patent it doesn't mean that it didn't work. I think it could be comparably to the fact that tesla discovered x-ray radiation first, yet it was three years later that Wilhelm Roentgen was credited for it.

No, a discovery of something is not like developing a theory. The fact that Tesla never published his theory when he could have easily done so means that he had some reason for not publishing it. This doesn't absolutely mean that his theory was a failure, but it does cast severe doubt on it.
 
  • #23
Sorry for sort of necro-posting in this thread, i just wanted to ask for a bit of clarification. As far as i know, Tesla's idea on gravity revolved around an "ether" of sorts. To me that sounds a lot like the Higgs Field. Could the two have any relation? Since the Higgs field is the cause of us having mass, as far as I've read. What do you guys think?

And please, be easy, I'm no physics expert :)
 
  • #24
Tesla had a sort of 'shotgun' approach to Science with lots of (not unintelligent) ideas which had some substance. People tend to pick up these ideas in rather the same way as they treat Nostradamus and post-hoc fit them to recent developments and to attribute great chunks of Science to Nicola. He was a high profile sort of guy and, these days, he would have been on TV for sure and loved by all. That doesn't mean he was a super scientist, though and I doubt that he ever gave one of his enthusiasms as much attention as Peter Higgs or Niels Bohr gave to their specialisms. That's why his name isn't used in connection with any seriously important theories.
They were good enough to him to name a unit after him, though - so he can't complain.
Why do people want there to be more to the guy than that??
 
  • #25
There's lots of misinformation on the subject, and almost no citations from Tesla himself so whatever I say can be totally wrong. But anyway here's an oversimplified version of what I have read:

Tesla believed that all matter is formed out of "the primary substance" (not the classic aether). Electromagnetic waves are waves in the primary substance. These waves literally move all mass on their way. This means that all motion has something to do with electromagnetism.

A similar phenomenon can be observed in a bathtub if you put a block of ice in it and make waves with your hand. Ice floats on the surface, moving as the surface waves hit it. Waves with small wavelength are unable to move the block and collapse with it, but waves with long wavelength make the entire piece of ice move up and down, passing right through it without much resistance.
 
  • #26
zonova said:
Sorry for sort of necro-posting in this thread, i just wanted to ask for a bit of clarification. As far as i know, Tesla's idea on gravity revolved around an "ether" of sorts. To me that sounds a lot like the Higgs Field. Could the two have any relation? Since the Higgs field is the cause of us having mass, as far as I've read. What do you guys think?

And please, be easy, I'm no physics expert :)

Not even slightly. The Higgs field is not an 'ether', it's a scalar field responsible for electroweak symmetry breaking.

Keep in mind that every theory of gravity that isn't general relativity has been experimentally ruled out by Gravity Probe B.
 
  • #27
zonova said:
Sorry for sort of necro-posting in this thread, i just wanted to ask for a bit of clarification. As far as i know, Tesla's idea on gravity revolved around an "ether" of sorts. To me that sounds a lot like the Higgs Field. Could the two have any relation? Since the Higgs field is the cause of us having mass, as far as I've read. What do you guys think?

And please, be easy, I'm no physics expert :)

There is no relation between the two. The higgs field is a quantum theory and has nothing to do with gravity.
 
  • #28
I don't know for sure, but in all of the essays that I've written on him(I'm a massive fan >.<), he never really came off as a person that didn't come through with what he claimed. It never seemed like he would say something just to gain attention and power. If that's what he was after, maybe he would have paid more attention to the business side of all of his patents, and tried making significant money off of them.

Still, i think i agree with your analogy. If we were to say that people like Tesla were a shotgun in science, as in hitting multiple subjects but not going very deeply into them, then people like Peter Higgs would be comparable to snipers.

I didn't mean to make it sound like i was saying that the credit shouldn't go to Higgs, it certainly should. It's just, i think that Tesla was pretty amazing if something he said way back then can still have such relevance to what we discover in science today. IMO, he's a genius :)
 
  • #29
Tesla wasn't a theoretical physicist. He was an engineer. He understood how things like machinery and magnets and such worked and how to put them to use to build useful devices. He was very good at what he did, and the quirks of his personality and character along with his abilities make him stand out above almost everyone else. Like Einstein, Tesla was a unique person who is probably thought of a little too highly.

zonova said:
I didn't mean to make it sound like i was saying that the credit shouldn't go to Higgs, it certainly should. It's just, i think that Tesla was pretty amazing if something he said way back then can still have such relevance to what we discover in science today. IMO, he's a genius :)

I don't know of anything Tesla said that has relevance today. What are you referring to?
 
  • #30
The fact that Tesla has no theories in any textbooks can be taken as proof of his superficial approach. Theories based on arm waving with no figures are seldom worth much. Evidence based Science is the only way forward.

I know that people put his demise down to conspiracies against him but where is the justification for that? Really valuable ideas always get used because they are worth money.

I hardly think it fair to rank him with Einstein. Einstein did, at least, deliver the goods on several occasions - but he doesn't have a unit named after him afaik. God, that is SO UNFAIR!
 
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  • #31
zonova said:
I don't know for sure, but in all of the essays that I've written on him(I'm a massive fan >.<), he never really came off as a person that didn't come through with what he claimed. It never seemed like he would say something just to gain attention and power. If that's what he was after, maybe he would have paid more attention to the business side of all of his patents, and tried making significant money off of them.

Still, i think i agree with your analogy. If we were to say that people like Tesla were a shotgun in science, as in hitting multiple subjects but not going very deeply into them, then people like Peter Higgs would be comparable to snipers.

I didn't mean to make it sound like i was saying that the credit shouldn't go to Higgs, it certainly should. It's just, i think that Tesla was pretty amazing if something he said way back then can still have such relevance to what we discover in science today. IMO, he's a genius :)

No, nothing Tesla ever said was even remotely relevant to the Higgs mechanism.
 
  • #32
Drakkith said:
Like Einstein, Tesla was a unique person who is probably thought of a little too highly.


...really? Einstein is rightly regarded as one of the best physicists in history. I didn't realize anyone actually doubted this.
 
  • #33
MikeyW said:
...really? Einstein is rightly regarded as one of the best physicists in history. I didn't realize anyone actually doubted this.

I refer to the massive horde of Einstein idolizers that exist that insist he could do no wrong. Such as the people that insist QM is wrong because Einstein thought it was. (Which is nearly wrong anyways, as Einsteins beef was with interpretations, not how the theory worked if I remember correctly)
 
  • #34
I don't think any of us personally have the right to say that one of them is thought of "too highly" They're still done far more than we have, and likely will ever do. We'll owe both of them forever.
 
  • #35
I don't feel I owe Tesla anything in particular. He's certainly near the bottom of a list of past Engineers and Scientists who have far more useful legacies. Tesla transformer - big deal!
It is ridiculous to place him on a par with Einstein. I'd place him more at the Clive Sinclair level.
 

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