“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” – Richard P. Feynman
“…where dreams alone are blueprints, nightmares result.” -Theodore Dalrymple
“folly: noun ˈfälē 2. A costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.” – Oxford English dictionary
Tesla’s life is a story of a meteoric rise to international prestige followed by an equally dramatic retreat into public shame, depression and loneliness. The turning point seems to have occurred during Tesla’s time in Colorado Springs (May 1899 – January 1900). It was during this point that he failed to properly confront reality. Denial of his failures led to further failure and further denial – a downward spiral which eventually led Tesla to a mental breakdown. This essay explores where Tesla went wrong.
During the later part of his life, Tesla made grandiose claims about having invented a “death ray” or “teleforce” weapon, the plans for which were discovered in 1983. In more prosaic terms what Tesla designed is a neutral particle beam weapon. Many Tesla fanatics claim that during the cold war the US government and/or USSR conducted tests of such weapons based on Nikola Tesla’s designs. Some insist that the US government is in possession of such weapons in some undisclosed facility, while others claim Tesla took the secrets of such technology to the grave for fear that they would fall in the wrong hands. In this post, I will investigate whether the type of weapon Tesla envisioned is practical.
This post is a response to Matthew Inman’s comic about Tesla entitled “Why Nikola Tesla is the Greatest Geek that Ever Lived”
I am certainly not the only person to respond to Matt Inman’s comic (see here), nor am I the only one to debunk oft-repeated claims about Tesla one encounters on the internet.(see here, here, here, here and here)
Nevertheless, I felt I should lend a few thoughts on this matter. A few weeks ago I finished reading a new biography of Tesla by Bernard Carlson. From what I can gather of the few other biographies on the market and the praise lauded on Carlson’s work, this is the first biography of him that is written by a historian, fully comprehensive, covers the science behind his inventions, and does not succumb to hagiography. It truly the definitive work on Tesla.