Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tesla/Edison - both human

Ever since the death of the brilliant, eccecntric, and very important inventor Nikolai Tesla, his idealizers have raised him to the status of a demigod who invented everything important in modern life, and many futuristic things, but was constantly thwarted or robbed by Edison, Westinghouse, and, on occasiona, evil government agents.  In response to a recent Tesla-worshiping (indeed, really hyperbolic) comic, this article makes some corrections about the Edison-Tesla mythology.  As the writer says, "Tesla wasn’t an ignored god-hero. Thomas Edison wasn’t the devil. They were both brilliant, strong-willed men who helped build our modern world. They both did great things and awful things." Not all of Tesla's ideas were brilliant (tracking submaries with radar was...ummm...downright silly) and some of his claimed inventions were ideas that never could have worked. With 70 years of additional development and knowledge of physics, no one has come close to sending huge  amounts of electrical power through the air - because you can't.  (OK, you can do it in huge lightning-like sparks, wich Tesla experimented with, but you can't direct it, and it's deadly, not useful.)  Tesla made huge improvements in AC current devices, but did not invent them, just as Edision didn't invent the light bulb, he made it practical. History is always more complicated than we remember it.
Another take is here.
The comic is here.

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