Posted: Jul 05, 2014 10:01 pm
by epepke
Vivekananda or however you spell it claimed to have met Tesla in a letter once. I haven't seen any clear evidence that Tesla ever claimed to have met Vivekananda. That isn't terribly surprising. Tesla was a consummate showman and met a hell of a lot of people, though he didn't like to shake hands with them. It seems most probable that they did meet casually at least once but weren't really homies.

Incidentally, Tesla was brilliant. Crazy, but brilliant. He was a genius electrical engineer and elite hacker. He invented a lot of stuff, and he did get screwed by corporations.

But he was no scientist, and he had no idea how half of his inventions worked, including radio, which misunderstanding was the basis of all of that wireless transmission of energy stuff. It does work, and we do it all the time to power RFID devices, but it doesn't work for the reasons Tesla thought; it's horribly and unavoidably inefficient (unless it's a microwave chamber or a light bulb or something); and the idea of it being self-regenerating is complete bunkum.

(ETA: Or, you know, like a fire, which is really the same thing.)

Still, a lot of what he invented did work, and fabulously well. That includes some stuff that was never put into production, but not everything. The stories of the building-shaking device or the death ray that vaporized Tunguska are almost certainly either nonsense or huge exaggerations. They only make sense as extrapolations of idealized principles of engineering, which largely ignore minor terms that become pretty important when you scale them up. Approximations that work just fine for popping a balloon or shaking a table don't really scale like that. Vacuum tubes are great and you can pump a lot more power through them than you can transistors, but you do run into problems, even at much smaller scales than Tesla imagined, which you can even see in the screens and suppressors in high-quality audio tubes. And when you get to the tubes used to be used to talk to submarines with very low frequency, the ones that are put together with nuts and bolts, things get extremely hairy, and that is still a few orders of magnitude short of what you'd need to fry a noticeable area of Russia. (Anyway, blue jeans work better.)