Sunday, 23 March 2014

Phunky Physics Fridays - Tesla's little secret

One of my personal projects I like to call "The Men Who Stole Niagara Falls". These are the 19th Century American robber barons who stole it - first from the aboriginal population - and second, from America herself as they trenched and tunneled it and pushed the Falls into millraces to make their fortunes.

Central to this intrigue are George Westinghouse and the genius Nikola Tesla. For it is Tesla who invents polyphase alternating current out of whole cloth. Polyphase AC makes possible transmission of electricity over long distances. Which in turn makes it possible to generate electricity on rural rivers, and transmit it to cities for industrial production.

To me Einstein and Tesla will be forever linked - because both discovered a set of pure mathematical formulae involving 4 dimensional equations. In Einstein's case it's that old chesnut E=MC2. Tesla's findings are not as mind-blowing, but they are practical and important to our industrial development. The "Power Curve" is the most formidable factor in electrical engineering. As soon as I energize my large electrical motor it draws infinite amps and zero volts. But the electrical grid is sending hundreds of volts and dozens of amps. Why doesn't the whole thing melt down?

Because of the genius of Nicola Tesla. Tesla understood these four-dimensional equations and developed electrical equipment to maintain the power curve in a null state even as massive devices were switched on and off.

In this delightful video clip we find a Tesla-phile who shows us the drawing of a Tesla Coil and then coldly observes that it would work better collecting energy from the atmosphere than transmitting generated electricity into the sky. Which I am fairly certain is what Tesla always said he was working on.

The reason I believe him, BTW - because the capacitor, spark gap and coil form an oscillator circuit. Whereas pumping electricity into the circuit would require a rectifier to bring the mains into DC.

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