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What's a Tesla?

Posted Thursday, February 2, 2012, at 5:10 PM

Recently I confessed with slightly geeky glee that I would be using the word "Tesla" in a news story.

The story was about the hospital's new Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine, a 1.5-Tesla model. The tesla's a measurement of magnetic field strength and is named in honor of Nikola Tesla, a pioneer in the study and development of electricity and mechanical energy.

He was quite a guy, and had lots of ideas that worked and are still working, plus lots of ideas that the world just wasn't ready for.

He demonstrated the world's first wireless remote-controlled vehicle in New York in 1898. He had it rigged so that lights could flash as if responding to questions, according to a PBS documentary about him; some people thought he was controlling it with his mind.

The Serbian physics genius came to the U.S and worked with the likes of Thomas Edison and Westinghouse. He and Edison grew to be at odds over whether Edison's preferred direct current or Tesla's preferred alternating current would take the technological lead. Tesla ended up being right about alternating current and took his notions with him to Westinghouse. Westinghouse was awarded the contract to create a powerhouse at Niagara Falls, and charged (pun a little intended) with using alternating current to harness the power of the waterfalls. and the first power from the new technology reached Buffalo, N.Y., in November 1896.

He's also known for lots of other things.

He's the inventor of the Tesla coil; he's credited with earlier patents on radio technology than Marconi, who's often credited with inventing radio.

Tesla, in fact, envisioned a world in which one could send telephone messages, broadcast news, private messages, even secure messages and pictures wirelessly to virtually anywhere in the world. I'm sure the notion sounded pretty crazy then -- but look at us now!

In addition to the magnetic field measurement named after him in 1960.

Tesla electric cars are named after Nikola Tesla.

He's a character in many novels, movies and computer/video games.

An airport in Belgrade, Serbia, was named after him in 2006.

A rock band was named after him, too.


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Most folks probably aren't aware that Tesla's inventions were confiscated by our government and hidden away. He figured out how to transmit electrical power wirelessly. They were too threatening to those in power. He should have been given more credit than Edison but ended up broke and poor because he was more interested in helping humanity than figuring how to charge people for electricity.

-- Posted by undeded on Fri, May 25, 2012, at 10:25 AM
Lynn Wade
I'm sure there are volumes that people don't know about Tesla, myself included. He had a beautiful mind and many ideas that were well beyond what people were ready to hear. I think he's a rather unsung hero of technology as we know it today.From what I have read, he was constantly one-upping Edison. :)


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Lynn Wade
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Exploring the obvious and the not so obvious in search of the oh, so elusive "something to do' that's all around us.
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