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Why was Tesla obsessed with the number 3?

  1. Jul 6, 2011 #1
    I've read plenty of claims that Tesla had an obsession with the number 3. I read about half of his autobiography so far but I didn't come across any mention of the number 3. Anyone know why Tesla had an obsession with the number?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 6, 2011 #2


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    Please post a link to an article that claims this.
  4. Jul 6, 2011 #3
    I read the same thing in a biography. It's been a few years since I've read it, so unfortunately, I cannot say which book it was. I can just confirm that some biography somewhere does make this claim.
  5. Jul 6, 2011 #4
    I've read:

    Man Out Of Time

    Prodigal Genius

    My Inventions (autobiography)

    Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla

    and I don't recall an obsession with the number three being mentioned in any of them. All I can suppose is that if it was mentioned it didn't figure prominently compared to his other obsessions.
  6. Jul 6, 2011 #5
    The author of the wikipedia article on tesla says this:

    but there doesn't seem to be any reference given for the assertion.

  7. Jul 6, 2011 #6

    They're obviously getting this idea from somewhere. I'm gonna read the rest of his autobiography, since on the wiki page its mentioned in the later years category it would be in the 2nd half of his autobiography if thats where these people are getting it from.

    Funnily enough its exactly 3:33 right now lol.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 6, 2011
  8. Jul 6, 2011 #7


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    He doesn't seem any more obsessed with the number three than anything else he obsessed about.

    Supposedly he has OCD, which would mean the number 3 wouldn't actually have significance, it's just something that got stuck in his head
  9. Jul 6, 2011 #8
    I read somewhere that he said "he who knows the magnificence of the number 3 will understand the mechanisms of the universe" or something to that effect. Just because he had OCD doesn't mean he didn't have a valid (with respect to his belief system) reason to indulge in a particular obsession.
  10. Jul 6, 2011 #9
    Obsessions are never reasonable, by definition. In fact, the person who has the obsession in OCD knows that they are unreasonable. But they can't resist the urge anyway. So saying that you have a valid reason for an obsession is a contradiction.

    Feel free to PM me to know more about OCD!!
  11. Jul 7, 2011 #10


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    We are getting warmer. Here is the exact quote found on hundreds of websites:
    "If you only knew the magnificence of the 3, 6 and 9, then you would have a key to the universe." http://nerdbusiness.com/blog/3-6-9-time-management-strategy

    I've scoured dozens of them, but as to when and where Tesla said this, no one seems to know. So it may be apocryphal.

    As to exactly what Tesla might have been referring to, that's even harder to guess, as he was quite guarded with respect to revealing in public details of his many patents. Charles Proteus Steinmetz was the electrical scientist hired by GE to interpret Tesla's patents. So if you have a Steinmetz library (lucky you), you may achieve some insight into Tesla's thinking.

    One of his proudest achievements was his TMT, (Tesla Magnifying Transmitter), or Tesla transponder. The few that have looked into this at a mathematical and experimental level seem to reach the conclusion that it is a system of resonant transformers harmonically balanced to the electric condition of the Earth...If the phase angle of the earth pulsation frequency lags the phase angle of the pulsating frequency, energy is abstracted from the earth's supply of energy and delivered as "free energy" to the transponders. Three distinct standing waves, each coupled to the other through two points of refraction are involved in its operation. This is GROSSLY simplified to arrive at a possible solution to our 3-6-9 problem:

    It may be surmised:
    1) Earth Wave; Space Dimensional; Harmony
    2) Inner Transformer; Time Dimensional; Rhythm
    3) Resonant Coil; Extra Dimensional; Melody

    Respectfully submitted,
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2011
  12. Jul 7, 2011 #11
    I think he was too obsessed with the base-10 number system, which the rest of the universe doesn't give two hoots about.

    In fact the computer you're using right now cannot give more than 1 hoot before it goes back to 0. 1s and 0s are all it has to make numbers out of.
  13. Jul 7, 2011 #12


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    Sounds like someone is obsessed with the binary system. Haha. I have never heard about Teslas obsession with base 10. As far as the universe goes, whatever you mean by that, I don't think you can say it 'cares' any less about one base than the other.
    What I do know is that Tesla was a very strange man and is given way too much attention for the wrong things. Yes we all know he developed our AC power system, etc. etc. But that is only a key to one of the ways our civilization has advanced. Many people have developed or invented 'key' ways that our civilization has gone ahead. Think of synthetic rubber. Where would we be if we were not able to rely on the synthetic rubber carrying us up and down the road today? That is a HUGE key in the advancment of our civilization. The only reason Tesla gets so much attention is because he is so darn strange.
  14. Jul 7, 2011 #13
    Its pretty frustrating now being able to pinpoint the source of this quote. The fact we don't know whether thats a quote or a paraphrase or whether Tesla actually said anything like that at all adds an extra layer of ambiguity.
  15. Jul 8, 2011 #14
    It's just my hyperbolic dismissal. Base-10 was not an obsession with anyone, but rather it is implicit in any traditional mystical interpretation of numbers, and based on counting on fingers. The universe doesn't care about anything at all.
  16. Jul 17, 2011 #15
    Math junkies! Say no to threes!
  17. Jul 29, 2011 #16


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    The number 3 is the only number that immediately succeeds the number 2 AND precedes the number 4 on a natural number line!

    I would certainly say that's worth a bit of obsession.
  18. Jul 31, 2011 #17
    I don't agree with your last sentence. Tesla's personal strangeness is definitely intriguing, but his inventions were almost equally as strange. A "mad scientist" who invented useful chemical compounds would never have achieved the same fame as Tesla because, to your average 19th century American, synthetic rubber was completely believable. Tesla's electromagnetism-based inventions, on the other hand, exploited physical laws that almost nobody back then understood. They were magical, mysterious, amazing, etc., even if they weren't any more useful than synthetic rubber was.

    ...and yes, I'm basing everything I just wrote on the movie "The Prestige".
  19. Jul 31, 2011 #18
    The prime factors of 42 are 2,3,7. Note the central position of 3 in the natural order of these primes, and everyone knows about 42.


    Consider also that 1 is the common factor of all the natural numbers, and 1+2+3+7=13 (scary) and 42[itex]\equiv[/itex]3 modulo 13 (gasp!) and 3x13=39 (gasp! gasp!).
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011
  20. Jul 31, 2011 #19
    Because he was Orthodox Christian. The number three represents the Holy Trinity.
  21. Aug 1, 2011 #20
    And isnt the three body problem, well, quite a problem?
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