Naked Science Forum

On the Lighter Side => Famous Scientists, Doctors and Inventors => Topic started by: MichaelJPierce on 22/12/2009 05:51:10

Title: Historic Science: Nikola Tesla, How did he generate his alternating currents?
Post by: MichaelJPierce on 22/12/2009 05:51:10
I'm curious to hear what you all have to say. From another Tesla post it is easy to see that opinions on Nikola Tesla range in a great degree from being a quack to the most talented scientists ever. Whichever is true is none of my concern in this current pursuits of curiosity. I have studied some of the posthumously published papers of Tesla and apart from being difficult to grasp (mostly for late 19th century English and his own unique terms, ie "condensers" = capacitors,) it also is not written for the layman. His writing resemble more of a journal, which the papers are probably from and so assumes a high knowledge of his research subjects.

My question:

How did Nikola Tesla generate high frequency alternating currents?
Title: Historic Science: Nikola Tesla, How did he generate his alternating currents?
Post by: yor_on on 02/02/2010 00:08:53
This is an old excerpt from me, thought it might be cool.

I'm sorry if some links won't work. The most important still seem to do though :)
It has some years 'on its neck' as we say in Sweden.

Ok so here is my own little research (and defense) of Nikolai Tesla..I consider him to have been one of the best practical scientists of our time, probably even the best. And yes, he seemed to have been somewhat of a mystic, and later on (around 1914?) haunted by his obsessive-compulsive disorder?, And considering his views of Einstein i beg to differ. Still, what if you had grown up having to incorporate 'flashback's' of memory and 'visions', as real feeling as our normal Daily life , why, even you might have been considered a little bit 'whacky' at times. But that same disposition of his helped him to construct his devices and to test them, all of it inside his mind. You don't believe me? Goggle on it.

As for the claims of him being a showman, of course he was. He badly needed the publicity, and the money too. BTW: Isn't that what we now a days call 'marketing' and what f ex Microsoft spends an awful lot of money, you now. like millions, on every year? Anybody heard of Vista? At least Tesla didn't kill any elephants (check up on Edison :). And as for him being inspired by Goethe's ideas, well, he's not the first and assuredly not the last. I've seen other references to Goethe in books about physics and light. But as i haven't read Goethe extensively myself, i will be careful ;) But if you're curious, check out and then maybe as examples of Goethe's view on things.

1. First of all, there is a free book in pdf format describing his life. If it's a true autobiography? (in the meaning, did Tesla write it?) It could be, Tesla was hard pressed for money at his later age, on the other hand, it might also be a blatant try from some 'admirer' to whitewash some strange ideas (not) of Tesla's making. It's named " The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla ". According to " the book was subsequently found to contain a number of errors, omissions, revisions and also some additions that did not appear in the original serial text as published in the ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER magazine " where Nikola Tesla's autobiography 'My Inventions' first appeared.

If you go to ' ' you can find both versions and then make your own choices.

2. Here is a counterweight found at a BBC site. It gives a somewhat cooler perspective of his power transmission experiments but still seems quite factual ;)

3. As for the actual patents you can find a summary here..Hopefully correct. .

What i found captivating was this concept of getting more energy out of a system than you put into it. Even though I'd read up on him years before, this i had somehow ignored. It seemed to be an aspect of the so called Tesla coils he invented/researched, Somehow those coils, according to Tesla, gave out more power than what went in to them. They also were able to transmit electrical energy (and microwaves?) over the air. As far as i know wireless transmission of electricity is still a very hot topic ;)

According to ' ' "Tesla's mistake in proposing this system stemmed partly from his failure to understand the concept of resonance. He seemed to think that resonance was a property that allowed more energy to be taken out of a system than could be put in - for instance, he once proposed to 'split the Earth like an apple' with resonance. He also did not realize that the Earth does not have the high conductivity required to store electric charge while it was not being used. Finally, although there is resonance at the 925 Hz frequency Tesla used, the Earth does not have the high Q factor needed for consistent power transmission at this frequency " .

As i understand it the Q factor is an indication of the extent to which a resonator amplifies at a resonant frequency, compared to its response away from a resonance. The higher the Q factor, the less excitation is needed to achieve a given level of response from the system, as Q measures the ability of the system to store energy. But that doesn't imply that the energy came from nowhere? It seems more to be an transference of existing energy from 'a' to 'b' right?

On the other tentacle...

" The ground (Earth) has long been used in this manner, as a conductor. Tesla generates a powerful pulse of electricity, and drains it into the ground. Because the ground is conductive, it doesn't stop. Rather, it spreads out like a radio wave, traveling at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second. And it keeps going, because it's a powerful wave; it doesn't peter out after a few miles. It passes through the iron core of the earth with little trouble. After all, molten iron is very conductive. When the wave reaches the far side of the planet, it bounces back, like a wave in water bounces when it reaches an obstruction. Since it bounces, it makes a return trip; eventually, it returns to the point of origin..--.... And then he had one of his typically Tesla ideas. He thought, when the wave returns to me (about 1/30th of a second after he sends it in), it's going to be considerably weakened by the trip. Why doesn't he send in another charge at this point, to strengthen the wave? The two will combine, go out, and bounce again. And then he'll reinforce it again, and again. The wave will build up in power.-. He wanted to find out the upper limit of resonance." ( excerpt from )

" The inventor claimed to have demonstrated the practical application of his theory in an experiment which lighted two hundred earth-connected incandescent lamps twenty-six miles from the laboratory." (Tesla's Colorado station, excerpt from ))

And, just to up the stakes. Isn't the whole earth a big electromagnetic field? and the solarsystem gives us an even larger, and the Univ.. Ahhw, whatever..So? why not. Maybe it's possible to tap/canalize it in some strange way, even though it wouldn't be 'zero point energy' as it would constitute a transfer of 'existing' energy.( no fuzzy quantum baubles here :)

Here's a wiki about Tesla coils:' '. Btw, did you know that the Tesla coil is used today in both radio and television sets? I also found a ' Practical ' site trying to 'reinvent' the Tesla coil ' '. I got the impression that they were quite serious, and also that they went about it in much the same pioneer manner as Tesla :) And there are also the ' Practical Guide to Free-Energy Devices ' ' ' which has Nikola Tesla's experiments. As for the reliability of those Free-Energy Devices? But the site seems friendly enough.

There are a lot more sites out there, the question being, how many of them are serious, and how many have actually tested / built the Tesla coil according to the specs that Tesla used a hundred years ago? Shouldn't that be the first priority if one want to learn the truth of his statements?.

Or? Can somebody point me to how he otherwise might have gotten that extra energy he alludes to in his first coil experiments? (Btw, has anyone tried to apply chaos theory on the way Tesla coils works according to Tesla's own 'Laws'? It seems that he through empirical observations built on how to increase/refine the effect etc, and then kind of 'reverse engineered' the math to fit those same observations. I tried to goggle on it but found nothing relevant, Perhaps one can find some of his math in his 'Colorado springs notes'? Just a though).

"Aside from his work on electromagnetism (f ex AC which constitutes the energy enabling you to read this) and engineering (f ex the Tesla turbine, a simple yet advanced design), Tesla is said to have contributed in varying degrees to the establishment of robotics (f ex the radio controlled robot-boat 1898 ), remote control, radar (Nikola Tesla, in August 1917, proposed principles regarding frequency and power levels for primitive radar units. also he proposed the use of 'standing electromagnetic waves' along with pulsed reflected surface waves to determine the relative position, speed, and course of a moving object and other modern concepts of radar.). And also computer science (f ex the electronic AND logic gate circuit that he patented 1902) and to the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics and theoretical physics. In 1943, the Supreme Court of the United States credited him as being the inventor of the radio" ( partial excerpt from

You actually don't need to like Tesla as a person. It's sufficient to admit to his brilliance. One has to remember that many of the great (if you excuse my slight temporal glitch:) Victorian (as in a state of mind) 'Empire Builders' were of a rather flamboyant, arrogant and dominating nature, especially in the States as they there represented 'the dream come true'..Just look at the Morgan empire. At the beginning of 1900, John P. Morgans power were growing to its highest. He had direct control of over 700 directorships in more than a 100 corporations. He steered among others Westinghouse where Tesla worked 1888- 97 (?) developing his invention AC, Tesla also had to invent the induction motor there to handle the long distance high voltage transmissions as no other 'motor' could handle AC at that time, J.P, Morgan also controlled the AT&T and the General Electric. Anyone needing a loan higher than aaah, let's say seven million dollar would probably have to go through Morgan and his banking fraternity. And to become one of the close ' Morgan fraternity ' you had to be chosen, It was not merely a matter of money. It was a 'gentleman's club' of which no Jews or 'Spic's' ever could become members. Around 1910 some 40 percent of all capital in the US was under the direct influence ( thumb :) of Morgan’s money trusts.

To give you a feel for what a dollar was worth in todays currency that 50 000$ that Edison had promised Tesla for his redesign of the Edison company's (DC) generator 1885 would today be somewhere in the vicinity of a 1000 000$. Yup, that's one cool million dollar ( ). Tesla slaved almost a year, day and night ah well, he had always had this problem with sleeping, to gain that dough, in the process creating new profitable patents for Edison . But Edison reneged on the deal and even refused Tesla a raise from his meager $18 to $25 later on. So Tesla resigned..And those were the kind of 'bigger than life' guys Tesla had to contest with. And you got to hand it to him, as far as I've know an ass_kisser he was not . It was in many ways a harsh ignorant period of well defined human strata, with money as the ultimate grail. Not so different from today really. But there was one big difference. Before the big stock market crash in -29 there were no need for you to hide your money. In fact people loved you to flaunt it, after all, you was 'the American dream' come true ;)

for further research on Tesla check out ' ' it's interesting even if some may consider it biased , And for those of you that still dare to enjoy Jules Verne :) please visit' ' '. Oh yes, on this very site where you are reading this, there too exist some intriguing discourses regarding Tesla. Search and ye will find..I have to admit to finding this site a most :)

Conclusively: I seriously doubt that Tesla will be forgotten, there are a lot of theories and enterprises lending from his breakthroughs and name, even if some of those just are out there to con you. But that's the way of the world, isn't it :) And to clarify my view, I still haven't found any reliable data from either side of the fence regarding those 'high energy Tesla coils' that Tesla experimented on. I find that rather strange as those experiments seems to be that very cornerstone the whole 'mystique' rests on. Especially when considering that there has been a hundred years of ongoing experimentation. We don't have to use the Earth to prove it true or wrong, just build one of the early coils to Tesla's schematics. Here i believe that we do need some 'exploratory experimentation' instead of complaints about 'crank science'..But, feel free to prove me wrong ;)

Ps: hmm, a Little to long perhaps ( like two miles? ). Oops ..

Free books (
Title: Historic Science: Nikola Tesla, How did he generate his alternating currents?
Post by: yor_on on 10/02/2011 20:36:25
Okay, learnt something new about him from AirThumbs. His 'Coil for Electro Magnets' ( obviously had some of the properties of a Mobius strip. Didn't know that one :)

Btw: "ie "condensers" = capacitors," In Swedish a capacitor is a 'kondensator'.

"A device called a Möbius resistor is an electronic circuit element which has the property of cancelling its own inductive reactance. Nikola Tesla patented similar technology in the early 1900s: U.S. Patent 512,340 "Coil for Electro Magnets" was intended for use with his system of global transmission of electricity without wires. Since 1930, the Möbius strip has been a classic poser for experts in mechanics. The teaser is to resolve the strip algebraically - to explain its unusual shape in the form of an equation. In a study that lyrically praises the strip for its "mathematical beauty," two experts in non-linear dynamics, Gert van der Heijden and Eugene Starostin of University College London, present the solution.

What determines the strip's shape is its differing areas of "energy density," they say. "Energy density" means the stored, elastic energy that is contained in the strip as a result of the folding. Places where the strip is most bent have the highest energy density; conversely, places that are flat and unstressed by a fold have the least energy density. If the width of the strip increases in proportion to its length, the zones of energy density also shift, which in term alters the shape, according to their equations.

A wider strip, for instance, leads to nearly flat, "triangular" regions in the strip, a phenomenon that also happens when paper is crumpled. The research may seem esoteric, but Mr van der Heijden and Mr Starostin believe it also has practical applications. It could help predict points of tearing in fabrics and also be useful for pharmaceutical engineers who model the structure of new drugs.

The Möbius strip was named after a German mathematician, August Ferdinand Möbius, who discovered it in 1858."

You gotta hand it to him, take a look at the link, it took me some time to realize that it actually was a moebius strip I was looking at :) He was one he* of a clever guy..

"I may wind any given coil either in whole or in part, not only in the specific manner herein illustrated, but in a great variety of ways, well known in the art, so as to secure between adjacent convolutions such potential difference as will give the proper capacity to neutralize the self-induction for any given current that may be employed."
Title: Historic Science: Nikola Tesla, How did he generate his alternating currents?
Post by: Pumblechook on 11/02/2011 19:34:17
Tesla didn't invent AC.  Tesla invented very little.

Title: Historic Science: Nikola Tesla, How did he generate his alternating currents?
Post by: yor_on on 11/02/2011 20:47:25
Pumblechook, You're right, clumsy word choice. What I meant was that the way we use AC today comes from his application of AC. As always you will find several people doing work on AC, as soon as the concept of how to harness electricity came to live.

"A power transformer developed by Gaulard of France and John Dixon Gibbs of England was demonstrated in London, and attracted the interest of Westinghouse. Gaulard and Gibbs first exhibited a device in London in 1881 and then sold the idea to the American company Westinghouse. They also exhibited the invention in Turin in 1884, where it was adopted for an electric lighting system. Many of the features of their design were adapted to the particular laws governing electrical distribution in the UK.

In 1882, 1884, and 1885 Gaulard and Gibbs applied for patents on their transformer; however, these were overturned due to actions initiated by Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti and others. In 1885, William Stanley, Jr. built the first practical transformer based on Gaulard and Gibbs's idea, the precursor of the modern transformer. Transformers were nothing new, but the Gaulard-Gibbs design was one of the first that could handle large amounts of power and promised to be easy to manufacture.

Westinghouse imported a number of Gaulard-Gibbs transformers and a Siemens AC generator to begin experimenting with AC networks in Pittsburgh. Gaulard died in an institution (Sainte-Anne Hospital) in Paris, and was said to have lost his reason due to the loss of the patents on his invention. A tablet was erected to Gaulard at Lanzo."

And William Stanley, Jr. designed one of the first practical devices to transfer AC power efficiently between isolated circuits. Using pairs of coils wound on a common iron core, his design, called an induction coil, was an early precursor of the modern transformer. The system used today was devised in the late nineteenth century by Nikola Tesla, using a motor driven by a rotating magnet. He realized that through the use of transformers, Alternating Current could be controlled and distributed efficiently. He subsequently sold his patent to George Westinghouse.
Title: Historic Science: Nikola Tesla, How did he generate his alternating currents?
Post by: yor_on on 11/02/2011 20:50:26
As for stating that he didn't invent anything?
Or 'very little' as you say :)

That's news :)
Please back such a statement up, if you feel the need of making it.

A simple way of proving it is to go to the patent list at Patents. (  and then define who 'really' invented whatever he tries to make a patent of. When you've done this I'm sure this thread will gain a immortal life of its own :)

And I will follow the debate with interest :)
Title: Historic Science: Nikola Tesla, How did he generate his alternating currents?
Post by: Pumblechook on 11/02/2011 21:49:36
You could say AC was to be discovered rather than invented as EM waves coming the Sun etc are AC.  Faraday produced AC in 1830 ish.  Oersted is another key figure.

3 phase AC predates Tesla's work on it.  John Hopkinson was an important engineer/inventor for that.

Induction coils tending to be known as Tesla coils date back before Tesla was born.  Rumhkoff and Callan are inportant figures for that.  Callan produced 600 kV discharges in 1837  (20 years before Tesla was born).

Tesla was good engineer even if a bit loony but a great inventor.. nah.  The myths tend to be much bigger than the man.  I don't think many engineers and scientists take him too seriously. 
Title: Historic Science: Nikola Tesla, How did he generate his alternating currents?
Post by: yor_on on 11/02/2011 23:52:37
Hm, don't know about that myself. As for what I've learnt he was somewhat of a mystic, but as for his inventiveness you only need to look at the patents he made. As for if they in the end got attributed to him, or to others? Did you know that EU have a standing recommendation to not try to take out a patent in the States, unless you have some serious money backing it up?


Well, if it's worth any money it will get contended there. And that's a fact.

Title: Historic Science: Nikola Tesla, How did he generate his alternating currents?
Post by: Pumblechook on 12/02/2011 12:56:54
Some of the patents dont make much sense.

Any serious history of science/technology doesn't mention Mr T much.

Title: Historic Science: Nikola Tesla, How did he generate his alternating currents?
Post by: yor_on on 16/02/2011 08:01:12
Yeah, he was a mystic for sure, and his terminology mirrors it. I'm sure it made sense to him though. Also I read that he was as vague as he could when describing his patents, scared about copycats I guess. But sure, I agree that much of what I read about him is weird, but he was impressive all the same and a really good thinker, although using a weird terminology that he seemed to invent as he went along in his experiments. As a guess this is, if someone know better, please correct it.

The last as I found that when Newton writes about his ideas it's very poetic, but often in need of a interpretation to make sense to me :) The English and terminology have changed for sure..