Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tesla's Trauma and Alternating Current

Nikola Tesla began his univesity education at the Graz Polytechnic Institute, pursuing studies of the subject that fascinated him above all others: electricity.

Tesla was an extraordinary student who frequently enraged his professors, questioning the technological status quo. He rebelled against the generally accepted belief that direct current (DC) was the sole means of delivering electrical power.

It was obvious to Tesla that DC was inefficient and incapable of adequately transmitting power over long distances. There had to be a better way. At the time, an “alternating current system” was nothing more than a theory.

In the middle of Tesla's second year at Graz, his father was felled by a stroke. Nikola returned home, and his father died soon after. Lacking funds for tuition, he took a job at a government telegraph office.

Tesla was upset that his education had been interrupted, but held on to his dream of becoming an electrical pioneer.

It was at this time that Tesla endured an ordeal with hypersensitivity that reduced him to a bedridden invalid. Considering the depressing turns his life had just taken, the bizarre affliction could possibly have been psychosomatic in origin. Whatever its cause, when Tesla finally emerged from the prolonged fugue state, he was armed with a powerful new insight on how AC could be successfully attained.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Tesla: SI Unit of Magnetic Field

The tesla (symbol T) is the SI derived unit of magnetic field.

The tesla is equal to one weber per square metre and was defined in 1960 in honor of inventor, scientist and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla.

Some examples for perspective:

A modern neodymium-iron-boron (NIB) rare earth magnet has a strength of about 1.25 T.

A coin-sized neodymium magnet can lift more than 9 kg, and can pinch skin and erase credit cards.

Medical magnetic resonance imaging systems utilize fields from 1.5 to 3 T in practice, experimentally up to 7 T.

To levitate a frog, 16 T is required.

The strongest continuous magnetic field yet produced in a laboratory (Florida State University's National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, USA), was 45 T.

The strongest (pulsed) magnetic field yet obtained non-destructively in a laboratory (Los Alamos National Laboratory) was 100 T.

The strongest (pulsed) magnetic field ever obtained (with explosives) in a laboratory (VNIIEF in Sarov, Russia, 1998) was 2.8 kT.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tesla-A Brief Biography

Nikola Tesla was born in Smiljan, a small town in what is now Croatia on July 10, 1856. His father was Miliutin, an Orthodox priest, and his mother was Djuka Mandic, described as a woman with a rare inventive talent. Tesla often said that he inherited his theoretical and philosophical nature from his father and his practical thinking and strong memory from his mother.

He was something of a prodigy at school; he could solve problems so fast that he was often accused of cheating. When he was 19, he entered the
Graz Polytechnic Institute to study electrical engineering, though the family's intent was for Nikola to become a priest or military officer.

As a university student he often disagreed with his professors and became often the object of scorn when he rejected the "conventional" doctrine of direct current (DC) electrical machinery that was taught at the time.

Tesla was certain that this method was doomed to failure and that there should be a better means of producing mechanical energy electrically, but it would be some time before he was able to develop his ideas fully. In 1879 he graduated from the Graz Polytechnic Institute and worked for several companies improving various devices. During that time he finally managed to develop not only a scheme of alternating current (AC) but also the design of a machine for producing alternating current.

He left for Paris and soon afterwards, in 1884, he set off to America. He carried some reference letters describing him as a brilliant engineer, equal only to Edison, as well as his AC schematics.

Upon his arrival in America, he visited Edison and was employed in his laboratories. Ironically, he was assigned the improvement of DC machines!

Soon after his arrival, he began to have frequent disagreements with Edison, who rejected Tesla's AC system. Edison also refused to reward Tesla with a large amount for an improvement he developed. Edison said this was a joke. Tesla had not seen the offer as a joke, and decided to leave the company.

After leaving Edison, Tesla worked in various jobs, until he managed to start his own laboratory in New York. He met George Westinghouse, a leading businessman ing the electric power industry, who trusted and supported Tesla.

Westinghouse undertook public relations on Tesla's behalf and protected his AC system against Edison's attacks in the so called "war of currents". Finally, Tesla's AC system was the foundation of the first hydroelectric plant in USA, at Niagara Falls, giving Tesla great fame.

At social events only few people dared to come close to him. He is described as being obsessed with cleanliness. He always used to wear white gloves and rarely offered his hand for a handshake. Apart from his his mother and his sister, no woman played a role in his life, although there was a peculiar relationship with Anne, the daughter of business magnate J. P. Morgan, who also supported Tesla's work.

Morgan financed Tesla but he never understood him, as Westinghouse did. Tesla quickly asked to leave New York for Colorado Springs, where he built his laboratory in a place chosen for its climatic conditions. In an area surrounded by a tall fence and prohibited by signs warning for "great danger", there were tall towers, antennas and other unfamiliar devices that must have mystified the local populace.

He begun working on his greatest dream: transmitting electric energy without wires to the whole planet, and it was there that he realized most of his inventions. He achieved the first wireless transmission, but this was not his primary target. His goal was to transmit energy, not just messages. When Guglielmo Marconi announced the invention of radio, all he had done was use Tesla's patents!

Finally, Morgan withdrew his financial support and Tesla returned to New York where he tried to build the tallest antenna, the Wardenclyffe Tower, to send energy throughout the planet. In vain, his project was left incomplete due to a lack of funds.

His friends were very few and between; among them, author Mark Twain is mentioned as a person Tesla deeply appreciated.

He used to invite famous personalities to his lectures and to impress the audience with fantasitc electric experiments: colorful flames lighting the room, flashes and high voltage currents passing through his body without danger, and other impressive demonstrations.

In 1912 a public discussion began for who was to receive the Nobel Prize, Nikola Tesla appeared as one of the possible winners, but he refused the chance saying that it came too late. However, he was also at least in part responsible for neglecting his work. He never liked being compared to other scientists.

He didn't even publish the results of his research, and rarely kept notes of his experiments. Even if a project took years, he had all the details in his mind.

He used to have a walk every day in the park to feed the pigeons. If, for any reason, he could not carry out this duty, he would pay a child to feed the pigeons in his place. There is a strange relationship mentioned with a white pigeon that visited Tesla through his window every day. Tesla said that his life had a meaning as long as this pigeon existed, and indeed, when the pigeon died Tesla's work ended.

Nikola Tesla died on January 7, 1943 in a New York hotel room, alone, rather poor and surely forgotten. He kept his notes locked, and rumors exist that secret agents of various governments took these notes right after his death, at least to investigate his strange claims towards the end of his life (e.g., death rays that could make whole armies vanish in seconds, communication with other planets, and oscillator that could split the earth) A few efforts have been carried out to establish proper fame for Tesla, but he still remains largely unknown.

Even today, large scientific organizations refuse to include his name in the history of science. There is a museum in Belgrade, where some of his personal belongings are kept. There are also other efforts by societies or individuals trying to gain proper recognition for Tesla.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tesla "Experiments" on Mark Twain

Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain were great friends.

Twain paid many visits to Tesla's laboratory.

In this photograph from the spring of 1894, high voltage high frequency is being passed through Twain's body to light the lamp. Twain is holding the loop above the resonating coil, and you can see Tesla standing in the background.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Remote Control: In 1893!

The first demonstration of an apparatus for radio transmission and reception was conducted by Tesla in 1893 during a presentation in St. Louis before the National Electric Light Association.

The small radio-controlled boat in the picture (Tesla called it a telautomaton; note the antennas) was first demonstrated to the public in 1898 at New York City's old Madison Square Garden.

A patent with the long title "Method of and Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vessels or Vehicles" (No. 613,809) was granted to Tesla in the same year.

Tesla's two radio-controlled boats were built in the 1897-98 period. While they could withstand submersion, they had a slight positive buoyancy and no diving planes, and thus were not true submarines, as they are sometimes described. These boats were actually surface running torpedoes. The patent shows a detonator in the forward compartment.

They can be considered as the direct predecessor of guided missiles developed during World War 2 by the United States, Germany and Japan, and present day precision guided weapons.

Remote control photo reconnaissance drones, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that are used in hazardous environments, and planetary exploration vehicles such as the Mars rovers Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity all trace their lineage back to these two devices.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Prestige

In this film, David Bowie plays Tesla. Tesla is hired by a magician to build the ultimate trick. In a way, Tesla does, but not in the way the magician expected. This is a very interesting movie with scenes showing Tesla's power broadcast technology and a reference to Tesla's disputes with Thomas Edison.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tesla: Inventor of Radio

This blog will explore the accomplishments of Nikola Tesla. He invented radio and remote control and made alternating current a worldwide standard. He also investigated technologies not in common use today such as broadcasting power.