A Blog Around The Clock

The big day – 150th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla – is approaching fast – July 10th.
I am sure that I will remind you of this a couple of more times until then – I have a couple of posts about him in the making – but first look at the older posts in which I have mentioned him so far….[more under the fold]

Just the other day, I wrote about the significance of Bryant Park in NYC – you’ll have to click to see what it has to do with Tesla.

Then, I wrote how much I am eagerly anticipating the new movie in which David Bowie will play Tesla. It was based on the book “Prestige” which (along with a couple of recent Tesla biographies) I placed on my Amazon wish list.

Finally, I mentioned the comic book Five Fists of Science in which Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain save the world against the villains – Thomas Alva Edison and J.P.Morgan. I have read it yesterday. Interesting. This is not a kind of comic strip that I like very much – visual artistic bursts interrupt the flow of the narrative. I like my comics the old slogging style, like Asterix. The artist should, for my tastes at least, insert little notes (e.g., “In the meantime…” or “Later…”) whenever the narrative needs to jump. This way, I keep getting surprised: w-w-w-hat? Where are they now? How much time has elapsed since the last panel? Who are these people (all four major protagonists sport big black moustaches, so it is sometimes difficult to figure out, especially in such copped-up narrative line, if it is Twain or Edison or whoevere, uttering the words…)?

Of course, the artists took a lot of liberties with facts, which they readily acknowledge and that is fine. These historical figures are really just characters in a cool comic strip, battle between good and evil, betweed otherworldly and science, with great visual effects. It is not meant to be a biography! Just kick back and enjoy – don’t worry about the yeti, the impossibilities of some technical gadgets, or the supernatural stuff – it is just meant to be fun!

On the other hand, it is nice that some historical facts did make it into the strip. For instance, the fact that Tesla invented the radio, not Marconi (the patent was removed from Marconi and given to Tesla posthumously by the Supreme Court).

Or, that Tesla and Twain were friends. Or that Tesla and Edison were bitter enemies – Tesla won, because his alternating power, as opposed to Edison’s direct power, proved to be much safer and more useful for mass production and delivery. So, do you have electricity at home? If so, thank Tesla.

Or, the fact that Tesla was one of the first (or the first?) to come up with the concept of the Cold War (that was before the FIRST World War!!!), i.e., how, if superpowers had weapons of immense destructive power they would be too scared to use them, thus the permanent stalemate would ensure permanent peace. Tesla was working on building just such a weapon and offering it to heads of several superpowers of the time (England, Germany, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia, USA), but emperors, kings, presidents, prime ministers and the military brass were never renowned for being visionaries, so they refused to fund that work of his. In a way, although he could not know – considering the state of physics at the time – that nuclear weapons would serve such a role, he effectively predicted the strategy of the Cold War.
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  1. #1 James Hrynyshyn
    June 22, 2006

    I’m a big Tesla fan, but I think the notion that “Tesla invented the radio, not Marconi (the patent was removed from Marconi and given to Tesla posthumously by the Supreme Court)” bears a little analysis.

    The Court ruling wasn’t straightforward. Among its conclusions was “Marconi’s reputation as the man who first achieved successful radio transmission rests on his original patent . . . which is not here in question.”

    The court invalidated Marconi’s claims, but didn’t give Tesla the patent. They sort of spread it around among Tesla and a couple of other guys, thanks in part to the politics of the time, including the US military’s desire to avoid paying royalties, among other issues.

    Tesla was a genius (despite the pigeon thing), but it turns out that the question of who invented radio, at least in law, doesn’t have a simple answer.

  2. #2 coturnix
    June 22, 2006

    You wanna step outside? LOL

    Sure, the Court opinion was messy and politicized. Still, it is now pretty much understood that Tesla discovered the principle and did the first wireless transmission, while Marconi developed it further and actually built a radio.

  3. #3 John McKay
    June 22, 2006

    Almost a century before Tesla, Robert Fulton articulated the balance of terror idea. He tried to sell his submarine and torpedo designs to Napoleon and the British admiralty in the hope of creating a stalemate.

    I’m a big Tesla fan too, so I’ll have at least one post to celebrate his birthday. besides, how often do we get a good excuse to use the word “sesquicentennial.”

  4. #4 coturnix
    June 22, 2006

    Sequicentennial! Thank you for remindingme – I frogt about it. I am so going to use it in the next Tesla post!!!

    I am toying with the idea of doing a little link-fest on July 10th, linking to all of the blogosphere buzz about Tesla. Let me know if you see something good and please send me the URL to your post (not that I would not check your blog anyway…).

  5. #5 Daniel Carr
    July 28, 2006

    I’m currently working on minting a bronze medal for this event. See link for image.