The History of Nikola Tesla
July 10, 2010 4:48 PM   Subscribe

The History of Nikola Tesla - A Short Story. In celebration of the 154th anniversary of Nikola Tesla's birth. [Via]
posted by homunculus (26 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Drunk History Vol. 6: Watch the amazing story of Nikola Tesla (John C. Reilly); the father of Western Technology, who sailed to America to meet Thomas Edison (Crispin Glover) and work for him. Late one night Duncan Trussell had a six pack of beer and a bottle of absinthe and sat down to tell us about this historical event.
posted by homunculus at 4:50 PM on July 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


I also like this sorta goofy Tesla/Edison scene with Orson Welles as J.P. Morgan, inexplicably.
posted by speicus at 5:01 PM on July 10, 2010


My daughter was reading aloud to me from his biography today. She refers to him as a "badass." To Wit
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:04 PM on July 10, 2010


Edison vs. Tesla
posted by teraflop at 5:11 PM on July 10, 2010


Ladies! Ladies! I am not interested in your romantic advances but in SCIENCE!
posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:12 PM on July 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Are we doing this every year? Because we should.
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 5:19 PM on July 10, 2010


Maybe Tesla does the astro
Maybe Tesla does the astro
Maybe Edison is AC/DC
posted by bwg at 5:49 PM on July 10, 2010


Tesla? Wasn't he the Electric Jesus?
posted by Skygazer at 5:59 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The funny thing about the AC vs. DC "war" is that with today's technology, DC would work just as well as AC, if not better. Back in the olden days, DC could only have its voltage stepped up and down using rotary converters and the like, thus giving AC a huge advantage with regard to transmission losses. Today, the conversion can be done with semiconductors.
posted by wierdo at 6:48 PM on July 10, 2010


The brushless AC motor is one of the most amazing flashes of insight ever to have occurred to a human mind. He rented out Madison Square garden and installed a giant pool to demonstrate a radio-controlled submersible model boat, before radio. He had the equipment working to transmit a trans-Atlantic radio message before Marconi, but never bothered.

On the other hand, he would insist that machinists come to his shop and memorize the descriptions and dimensions of the complex mechanisms he was ordering, and not take any drawings or notes, just because he thought it would be good for their discipline. He insisted, at first sight, that Westinghouse fire one of his employees for being ugly. And oh yeah, as a toddler he may have killed his older brother.

A complex guy. Seems like the perfect subject for a biography, until you dig deeper. His story is untellable.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:55 PM on July 10, 2010


Today, the conversion can be done with semiconductors.

Sure, at much greater expense and with much greater losses. No, I assure you, today's power engineers know what they're doing. These choices are not just some mistake. DC is widely used for very long-distance, high-voltage power transmission, where the power doesn't need to be frequently stepped down. When it does, it has to be converted back into AC using, as you say, semiconductors. Specifically, enormous banks of hundreds of ultra-ultra-heavy-duty transistors, which get really hot due to all the power they dissipate (i.e. waste).

To summarize: Westinghouse was right about this one.
posted by Xezlec at 7:09 PM on July 10, 2010


Tesla, Tesla, Tesla. He's like the ninja pirate badger of scientists. We could talk about Euclid, Archimedes, Pythagoras, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Euler, Gauss, Curie, Laplace, Fourier, Darwin, Kelvin, Heaviside, Heisenberg, Dirac, Turing, or Feynman too sometimes, if you wanted to.
posted by Xezlec at 7:34 PM on July 10, 2010


Heisenberg

It's been done.

UNCERTAINTY HAMBURGER
posted by lumensimus at 8:03 PM on July 10, 2010


Make a post about one of those guys then, Xezlec.
posted by Justinian at 8:27 PM on July 10, 2010


The "Stickman" sketches they use look like they have a pair of droopy balls hanging off of them. It's kind of distracting.
posted by delmoi at 10:50 PM on July 10, 2010


My Inventions - Nikola Tesla - short film biopic

Full disclosure - made by a friend.
posted by philip-random at 10:51 PM on July 10, 2010


The funny thing about the AC vs. DC "war" is that with today's technology, DC would work just as well as AC, if not better. Back in the olden days, DC could only have its voltage stepped up and down using rotary converters and the like, thus giving AC a huge advantage with regard to transmission losses. Today, the conversion can be done with semiconductors.
Not without thermal loss. And also, DC would have much higher transmission loss, as far as I know.
posted by delmoi at 10:52 PM on July 10, 2010


delmoi wrote: "Not without thermal loss. And also, DC would have much higher transmission loss, as far as I know."

No, DC actually has lower transmission loss, when you just consider the line. It doesn't suffer from skin effect and loses less to corona. Also, capacitance isn't an issue with underground or underwater lines as it is with AC.

Once you take the valves into account, it may be a net loss on shorter transmission lines, I'm not sure. They're getting more efficient all the time, and it's not as if AC transformers are lossless anyway.
posted by wierdo at 1:27 AM on July 11, 2010


His fountain was one of his later inventions. If I remember correctly, he personally wrote all of his patents.

The present invention is a departure from such practice in that it relies principally on the fascinating spectacle of a large mass of fluid in motion and the display of seemingly great power. Incidentally, it permits the realization of beautiful and striking views through illumination and the disposition of voluminous cascades which, moreover, may be applied to useful purposes in ways not practicable with the old and familiar devices. [pdf]
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:54 AM on July 11, 2010


sheesh, fountain.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:55 AM on July 11, 2010


With the sun (perhaps) waking up again and going into the active phase of the next sunspot cycle, the question is whether DC transmission lines are more or less prone to failure due to GIC than AC.

Don't know the answer to this one. The effects on AC transmission are known - the currents induced in the lines can saturate transformers, which means they stop being transformers and all the energy comes out in interesting and spectacular ways, but how hardened the semiconductor converters are to great wallops of extra power...

Ideally, it'd be nice if the converters just sucked it up and turned it into useful energy for the rest of the transmission system. It'd be surprising if it was in any way economic or practical to design thus, although I'd hope they had sensible and non-disruptive coping modes.
posted by Devonian at 2:59 AM on July 11, 2010


The two main uses of HVDC transmission are underwater transmission cables (capacitance is a major issue with AC) and grid interconnectors. The first use may pick up a great deal if Europe ever starts buying solar power from Morocco, but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by atrazine at 7:00 AM on July 11, 2010


Here's my favorite hyperbolic-history version of Tesla v Edison, with Mark Twain and JP Morgan thrown in for good measure: The Five Fists of Science!

join
MR. MARK TWAIN
(aka Samuel Clemens)
-- and --
MR. NIKOLA TESLA
(aka Master of Lightning)
in a white knuckle thriller
AS THEY SAVE THE VERY WORLD

posted by unregistered_animagus at 7:15 AM on July 11, 2010


"Seems like the perfect subject for a biography, until you dig deeper. His story is untellable."

Many good bios are untellable. The ones with all the facts nailed down are more tedious. I'm amazed that no big, big bio exists ... especially now because Tesla is already a legend. And has been more important to most people than Einstein was or will ever be.
posted by Twang at 2:58 PM on July 11, 2010


Tesla was a genius, but absolutely mental. That's the best kind of genius!
posted by mochek at 3:48 AM on July 12, 2010


That might be the only kind of genius.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:00 PM on July 12, 2010


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