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Old 12-10-2010, 05:40 PM
pdunderhill pdunderhill is offline
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Nikolai Tesla

Greetings good people,
can anyone understand and explain Tesla's unusual theories concerning large scale/continental power distribution?
As I understand it the theory involved low frequency/very high power transmitters with power being picked by inductance coils, essentially a transformer with primary and secondary coils separated.
I can understand the potential of this, say a century ago when the EMF, Electro magnetic frequency, wasn't quite as busy, but could it work now?
Peter and Billy the Cat
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Old 12-10-2010, 06:20 PM
AndrewL AndrewL is offline
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It couldn't work then. Tesla really didn't take into account conservation of energy or the fact that the ground isn't a very good conductor of low frequency EMF waves. Tesla did not believe in the Hertzian theory of electromagnetic radiation, but instead believed that all radio transmission was actually working through inductive and capacitive coupling. His essay "THE TRUE WIRELESS" is very revealing and educational as to how he believed that radio transmission worked and how he expected his power transmission and wireless broadcast systems to work. Nearly a century of development of radio since then has pretty thouroughly proved him wrong on a lot of his assumptions.
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Old 12-10-2010, 08:23 PM
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whitetho whitetho is offline
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Uncle Cecil briefly covered the topic in What's up with "broadcast power"?. Some people say Tesla was a misunderstood genius. I side with those who consider him a misinformed crank.
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Old 12-10-2010, 08:31 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Very minor nitpick - it's Nikola, not Nikolai.

I wouldn't bring it up except that we happen to share first names, so I use him as the only widely known example when people express curiosity about my name. Also we're supposedly somewhat distantly related ( though I wasn't named for him ).
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Old 12-11-2010, 12:36 AM
gaffa gaffa is offline
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Originally Posted by whitetho View Post
Uncle Cecil briefly covered the topic in What's up with "broadcast power"?. Some people say Tesla was a misunderstood genius. I side with those who consider him a misinformed crank.
That's like dissing Einstein's work on Relativity because he rejected Quantum Mechanics. Tesla was definitively a genius, but like Einstein his early years were his best.
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Old 12-11-2010, 02:28 AM
wbeaty wbeaty is offline
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Originally Posted by pdunderhill View Post
Greetings good people,
can anyone understand and explain Tesla's unusual theories concerning large scale/continental power distribution?
Today when we build fairly large outdoor Tesla Coils, we don't see any of the strange phenomena that Tesla reported at his lab in Colorado Springs. In particular, there are no 'rifle shot' discharges, only the usual fractal streamers. There are no long range effects, no crazed horses or sparks leaping out of our shoes even miles away. We can't light up incandescent bulbs by sticking them in the dirt a few hundred feet from the coil. If the historical reenactment shown in "Secret of Nikola Tesla" is at all accurate, then something is seriously amiss. Those events don't occur.

Most people insist that Tesla was an idiot following a wrong theory. But still there are those odd reports. It's easiest to simply insist that, since it doesn't happen with known devices, and since there is no known theoretical explanation, therefore it didn't happen. Tesla must have been lying or crazy, and eyewitnesses were making stuff up.

Tesla worked for decades with "tesla coils," yet he had a separate label for his Colorado Springs device: the Magnifying Transmitter. He claimed that it was some sort of breakthrough invention. Yet from what we know from public records, there was no fundamental difference in that device. Where's the big discovery? Just another Tesla coil.

But what if we're wrong? What if something is missing in the technology end, and therefore nobody has built a working Magnifying Transmitter? The Cheney book states that the documents released by the Belgrade museum do not match the copy maintained in a classified military library: the museum papers have chunks missing, and this was supposedly held back by the museum because they contain valuable, patentable inventions.

If true, it does us no good. It means that key information remains secret, and we don't know how to build Tesla's actual invention.


Here's one small key to the mystery: old light bulbs employed high vacuum, not argon fill of modern bulbs. If exposed to a high RF field, they could light up via particle impact (in a similar way that Crookes-style x-ray tubes operate.) Suppose Tesla really did have some secret method for driving the Earth resonance. Suppose his lab was in the center of a miles-wide cavity antinode. In that case the surrounding landscape becomes like a microwave oven: incandescent light bulbs light up wirelessly, and painful sparks would indeed shoot from horses hooves even when many thousands of feet from the lab.
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Old 12-11-2010, 02:31 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Wow! Bill Beaty posting about Tesla. I'll take that as the Straight Dope on this subject.
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Old 12-11-2010, 11:23 AM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Tesla Outfoxed By JP Morgan?

I have always wondered why JP Morgan backed Tesla's (unsuccessful) wireless communication project (the Wardenclyff Tower).
I suspect that Morgan wanted to control wireless communications, and could not get control of Marconi'c company. I suspect that Morgan only backed tesla in order to get some patent rights, that he could use to squeeze marconi..of course, Morgan died before wireless took off.
Many years after the deathy of George Westinghouse, Tesla claimed that he gave away his patent rights (to AC power) to Westinghouse (in order to prevent Morgan from gaining control of Westinghouse)-is there any truth to this?
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Old 12-11-2010, 01:01 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Wow! Bill Beaty posting about Tesla. I'll take that as the Straight Dope on this subject.
Well, there are two parts to his post. One is a knowledgeable summary of standard science: test claims by trying to reproduce the experiment and report the results, those results being negative.

The other part is more problematic. It is certainly acceptable science to state that while the replication was as close as possible to the original, some factors differed and therefore the results may have varied.

Beaty then goes on to give a whole series of supposes and ifs. Most things can indeed be explained if one is allowed to make up one's own set of supposes and ifs and then declare them all to be true. Especially if they reply on secret or missing information and unduplicable conditions.

That Beaty reports negative results puts him miles ahead of some other claimants of, um, alternative technologies we've had post here. I appreciate his taking the time. Even adding in his post, however, the answer to the OP remains that Tesla was wrong in his science and claims.

Ralph, perhaps Beaty could give more precise details, but the timing seems wrong on this. Tesla licensed his patents to Westinghouse in 1888 for money and an increasing future royalty. It was 1892 that Westinghouse, Edison and Elihu Thompson got into the three-way battle that saw Morgan backing Edison in the creation of what became General Electric. In 1896 Tesla sold his patent rights for a lump sum of $216,600. Hardly what he would have earned over the years, but not a giveaway and not directly connected to Morgan, except that Westinghouse, as the smaller company to GE, was always in financially bad shape.
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Old 12-11-2010, 02:19 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
That Beaty reports negative results puts him miles ahead of some other claimants of, um, alternative technologies we've had post here. I appreciate his taking the time. Even adding in his post, however, the answer to the OP remains that Tesla was wrong in his science and claims.
This is essentially what I was referring to. He has actually built the coils, and done the tests. I haven't heard him claim, um, alternative technologies work. He just keeps an open mind, and doesn't dimiss things out of hand just because they are claimed by crackpots.

Last edited by TriPolar; 12-11-2010 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 12-11-2010, 05:35 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Well, there are two parts to his post. One is a knowledgeable summary of standard science: test claims by trying to reproduce the experiment and report the results, those results being negative.

The other part is more problematic. It is certainly acceptable science to state that while the replication was as close as possible to the original, some factors differed and therefore the results may have varied.

Beaty then goes on to give a whole series of supposes and ifs. Most things can indeed be explained if one is allowed to make up one's own set of supposes and ifs and then declare them all to be true. Especially if they reply on secret or missing information and unduplicable conditions.

That Beaty reports negative results puts him miles ahead of some other claimants of, um, alternative technologies we've had post here. I appreciate his taking the time. Even adding in his post, however, the answer to the OP remains that Tesla was wrong in his science and claims.

Ralph, perhaps Beaty could give more precise details, but the timing seems wrong on this. Tesla licensed his patents to Westinghouse in 1888 for money and an increasing future royalty. It was 1892 that Westinghouse, Edison and Elihu Thompson got into the three-way battle that saw Morgan backing Edison in the creation of what became General Electric. In 1896 Tesla sold his patent rights for a lump sum of $216,600. Hardly what he would have earned over the years, but not a giveaway and not directly connected to Morgan, except that Westinghouse, as the smaller company to GE, was always in financially bad shape.
Thanks for the info. I understand that Marconi infringed several of Tesla's patents-so why didn't Tesla sue him?
The financing of the mysterious Wardenclyff Tower was 100% JP Morgan-I find it hard to believe that the cagey Morgan would ever have advanced so much money, unless:
-he had a strong belief that Teslas's wireless system would work
-he (Morgan) thought he could gain control of the Marconi Co. (by getting control of the Tesla patents
Is there any more info regarding this?
After JP's death, his son/executor requested that Tesla repay the estate-I am sure that Tesla never did this.
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Old 12-11-2010, 06:32 PM
Ring Ring is offline
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................except that Westinghouse, as the smaller company to GE, was always in financially bad shape.
Sorry Exapno, but I'm very much afraid you should stick to Physics.

I was a general manager for the Westinghouse Electric Corp. for many years, and, please believe me, we were in very good financial shape. It wasn't till I left that they went gershtunk.
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Old 12-11-2010, 06:37 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Sorry Exapno, but I'm very much afraid you should stick to Physics.

I was a general manager for the Westinghouse Electric Corp. for many years, and, please believe me, we were in very good financial shape. It wasn't till I left that they went gershtunk.
Wow. I hadn't realized how old you were. I can only read and research about the 1890s, but if you have personal reminiscences you can share, I'm sure we'd all be happy to hear about them.
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Old 12-11-2010, 08:37 PM
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My dear Exapno, no reminiscences, but if you're ever in the market for some medium voltage (5kv-38kv) Metal Clad Switchgear, network protectors, or any other electrical distribution gear, you just let me know, and I'll have the product line manager cut you a great deal.
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Old 12-12-2010, 10:00 AM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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My memories are being stirred up..hope somebody has some info about this:
-in the late 1970's, OMNI Magazine (now deceased) carried a story about a Brockton, MA inventor (can't recall his name), who replicated Tesla's high tension coils , while doing contract work for the US Airforce (in a leased old Airforce base in the Nevada desert). I gather that the man was simulating lightning strikes on aircraft. Anyway, this guy duplicated a lot of Tesla's work,excpt that he remarked that Tesla had ways of switching that primary current, that he could not duplicate.
Anybody know about this guy?
Second, Maragaret Cheney's biography of Tesla relates that, in his later years, Tesla did a lot of work with metallurgy-he was employed for a while as a consultant to the ASARCO company. He also held several patents on ionizing air systems and control systems.
I wonder if any of Tesla's later patents have found commercial application today? The Tesla Turbine has been duplicated today..but it seems there is little commercial interest in it today.
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Old 12-12-2010, 10:48 AM
pdunderhill pdunderhill is offline
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Tesla

Well thank you all, this is proving illuminating, excuse the pun.
This rather reminds me of an article in Practical Wireless, (UK electronics magazine), that suggested the WW2 German Army had a VLF, very low frequency, network in Europe. according the mag the RF output was sufficient to let individuals use it as a power source by simply rectifying the input from a suitably sized wire, curious.
As a radio Ham I appreciate the principles but am not convinced of the practicalities!
Peter
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Old 12-13-2010, 04:13 AM
wbeaty wbeaty is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Beaty then goes on to give a whole series of supposes and ifs.
No, instead I'm saying that the answer is this: "Unknown"

If Tesla claimed that he was successful, well, where's the evidence?

If someone claims that Tesla failed, well, where's the evidence? Without evidence we can't decide one way or the other. Life goes on as if Tesla had neither failed nor succeeded.

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Most things can indeed be explained if one is allowed to make up one's own set of supposes and ifs and then declare them all to be true.
...and the same can happen with claims that something *didn't* happen. This gets into a classic fallacy that crops up in fights between believers vs. debunkers. If you say that your garage is full of unicorns, but you don't give any evidence, then the contents of your garage remain unknown. I could claim that there certainly aren't any unicorns in there. But if I did, I'd be making up facts out of thin air ...since I never looked in your garage. Having a garage full of unicorns is unlikely, but my statement that they aren't in there is just speculation, even though based on very high probability. Until we go and look inside the garage, we're not allowed to make claims about it. There might be a car in there, or a one-ton block of gold, or it might be totally empty. Without evidence, without just going and looking in the garage, it's dishonest to state that there are no unicorns in there ...dishonest in the same way as stating that there's a car parked in the garage. Without looking, how can you know? Instead, just say that the probability of unicorns is so low that we shouldn't even bother looking. Perfectly acceptable. Even better is to tell the honest truth: without evidence, the contents of the garage remain ...unknown.

Was Tesla successful with world wireless power? Unknown.

In practice, when the answer is "unknown," then we just ignore the whole issue as if nobody had ever asked the question. Is there a vast oil deposit a couple miles below your home? There are millions of similar questions with unknown answers, and therefore they have no effect on us.

Maybe the question remains important to Tesla historians. And to crazed inventors who waste their lives in a huge longshot bet, because they think Tesla was sitting on a billion-dollar physics discovery.

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Even adding in his post, however, the answer to the OP remains that Tesla was wrong in his science and claims.
No, he was right in most of what he said. His "true wireless" description only applies to RF behavior in the realm down at 10KHz and below, and only while using electrically short antennas. His big mistake is in assuming that the behavior applies to all EM wavelengths. As in the other post: because Einstein was wrong about QM doesn't disprove SR and GR. Saying otherwise is the fallacy of black/white thinking. We're not allowed to find one flaw and then declare all assertions equally flawed. Tesla was clearly wrong about Hertz' experiments with UHF wavelengths, but Tesla's descriptions of what are now called Zenneck EM surface waves remain correct.

And yes, the Earth is a good conductor for ELF. Schumann spectra show that EM waves travel many times around the Earth before decreasing to half power. This effect stops working up above a few tens of KHz. Our local U. of W lightning-triangulation project uses 100KHz for all their longwave detection because, to go any lower in freq., the lightning em pulses would circle the whole Earth, be recorded twice, and mess up the algorithm.
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Old 12-13-2010, 04:38 AM
wbeaty wbeaty is offline
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Wow! Bill Beaty posting about Tesla. I'll take that as the Straight Dope on this subject.
If you knew how little is actually known, you'd be less trusting! Just stay a student, and beware of experts.


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My memories are being stirred up..hope somebody has some info about this:
-in the late 1970's, OMNI Magazine (now deceased) carried a story about a Brockton, MA inventor (can't recall his name), who replicated Tesla's high tension coils , while doing contract work for the US Airforce (in a leased old Airforce base in the Nevada desert).
That was Robert Golka and "Project Tesla."
http://www.google.com/search?q=golka "project tesla"

His stated goal was to reproduce ball-lightning, hoping that it was a plasma that lacks instabilities (and so supplies the key to plasma-pinch fusion.) Didn't work. The BLs he produced were something like aerogel or welding spatter. See the recent videos on silicon vapor ball lightning. He also tried broadcasting 7Hz pulses, but didn't find any Earth resonance effects. (Today we know that the resonance freq. wanders around, so a transmitter can't drive it in phase.) Golka's bread and butter was in having the USAF use the equipment for aircraft lightning tests.
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Old 12-13-2010, 11:08 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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No, instead I'm saying that the answer is this: "Unknown"
You raise a point that gets argued often around here. We have people who are hard-core scientists and who only believe replicated peer-reviewed studies and people who are convinced that science doesn't have all the answers and that many things could be true if only science would them a chance. And a few who believe in things umimagined by mortal man.

The problem with Tesla is that almost everybody who posts about him (except in response) falls into the second or third categories. And their "proof" is that he claimed things.

Technically, you cannot be corrected when you say the status of many of Tesla's claims is currently unknown.

In practice, however, it is has been 100 years. It's not like Tesla has been ignored. People have tried to replicate his projects for a century. We have better equipment and more importantly, far better understanding of the physics. It may be impossible to prove that his claims were impossible, but it is highly likely that's the case.

The counterargument to your argument about unicorns, BTW, is the one I just alluded to. I cannot prove that your garage doesn't have unicorns, because I didn't look and if I did my visit today doesn't replicate the conditions of your sighting. But people all the world have not merely failed to spot unicorns at all times and places, even when they went looking for them, but also have failed to provide any accepted evidence that unicorns ever existed. That is not epistemological proof that unicorns don't exist but it is the definition of proof for all other usages.

I'm not technically expert enough to know which claims of Tesla's are wrong even in theory according to modern physics, although I know some are. I am pretty sure that if he were right about the big things, others would have come up with similar results, because they would be useful to know and to do. To reverse your analogy, just because Tesla was right about some things doesn't mean he was right about anything else. We're not allowed to find one correct answer and then declare all assertions equally correct.

In short, your use of "unknown" is technically unimpeachable, but misleading in its narrowness and the connotations it has in ordinary discourse. That's why I continue to dissent. I don't feel you have made your case for an outsider.

Last edited by Exapno Mapcase; 12-13-2010 at 11:11 AM.
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Old 12-13-2010, 11:45 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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... Without evidence, without just going and looking in the garage, it's dishonest to state that there are no unicorns in there ...dishonest in the same way as stating that there's a car parked in the garage. Without looking, how can you know? ...
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
... The counterargument to your argument about unicorns, BTW, is the one I just alluded to. I cannot prove that your garage doesn't have unicorns, because I didn't look and if I did my visit today doesn't replicate the conditions of your sighting. ...
Both have of you have been blinded by your definitional contention and based your arguments on a fallacy. Simple visual observation will not determine whether or not a garage contains invisible pink unicorns.
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Old 12-13-2010, 04:56 PM
wbeaty wbeaty is offline
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Both have of you have been blinded by your definitional contention and based your arguments on a fallacy. Simple visual observation will not determine whether or not a garage contains invisible pink unicorns.
Moving the goalposts! You goalpost-mover you. Your garage was only supposed to have a common unicorn infestation. Not pink ones.
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Old 12-13-2010, 05:07 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Moving the goalposts! You goalpost-mover you. Your garage was only supposed to have a common unicorn infestation. Not pink ones.
Invisible pink ones. That's a in-joke around here. The existence of the invisible pink unicorn is postulated in threads where people want to argue about the existence of god. (But if it's invisible how do you know it is pink? Exactly.)
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Old 12-13-2010, 05:51 PM
ZenBeam ZenBeam is offline
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
My memories are being stirred up..hope somebody has some info about this:
-in the late 1970's, OMNI Magazine (now deceased) carried a story about a Brockton, MA inventor (can't recall his name), who replicated Tesla's high tension coils , while doing contract work for the US Airforce
I have a fairly complete set of the first three or four years of OMNI. I could look for this article if it would help. It'd be nice if you could narrow it down some, though.
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Old 12-13-2010, 06:23 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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If you say that your garage is full of unicorns, but you don't give any evidence, then the contents of your garage remain unknown. I could claim that there certainly aren't any unicorns in there. But if I did, I'd be making up facts out of thin air ...since I never looked in your garage. Having a garage full of unicorns is unlikely, but my statement that they aren't in there is just speculation, even though based on very high probability. Until we go and look inside the garage, we're not allowed to make claims about it. There might be a car in there, or a one-ton block of gold, or it might be totally empty. Without evidence, without just going and looking in the garage, it's dishonest to state that there are no unicorns in there ...dishonest in the same way as stating that there's a car parked in the garage. Without looking, how can you know? Instead, just say that the probability of unicorns is so low that we shouldn't even bother looking. Perfectly acceptable. Even better is to tell the honest truth: without evidence, the contents of the garage remain ...unknown.
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Moving the goalposts! You goalpost-mover you. Your garage was only supposed to have a common unicorn infestation. Not pink ones.
There was no specification of a particular type of unicorn. The phrase 'there are no unicorns in there' would be inclusive of the invisible pink variety.

You have taught me well.
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Old 12-14-2010, 06:26 AM
wbeaty wbeaty is offline
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Invisible pink ones.
Obviously. Those kind are always invisible. And my quantum fridge is full of small ones, but every time I open the door to look inside, they turn into a one-ton block of U-235.
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Old 12-14-2010, 09:13 AM
wbeaty wbeaty is offline
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You raise a point that gets argued often around here. We have people who are hard-core scientists and who only believe replicated peer-reviewed studies
Ask for degrees, publication lists. Suspect nonscientists. The researchers I know personally don't behave like that. (Well, one does! Guy's a dick though.) Science relies on creativity, and anyone who accepts only "textbook knowledge" tends to be the type who never has one original thought in their entire career. Successful researchers need to have Carroll's "six impossible beliefs before breakfast," but also do as K. Lorentz says and "kill off one pet theory before breakfast."

Many miss the fact that science is always tentative, with all statements carrying the unstated idea "but we could be wrong." This odd position is rare in the world of law/politics/religion, but not in science. The garage almost certainly doesn't contain any unicorns ...but I could be wrong. Even though I'd bet my life and my firstborn on not finding any unicorns there, I wouldn't see their presence as ridiculous, any more than I'd find it ridiculous to get very long strings of heads while flipping coins. When Feynman said that we must leave the door to the unknown ajar, this is what he was talking about: remaining tentative. Avoiding 'belief' and toxic certainty. Sometimes "unicorns" do actually arise. Such chances only favor prepared minds. Also, scientists in the ideal case don't leap to positions of belief or disbelief in the first place, since that's a major source of emotional bias. Rather we assign increasing probabilities with increasing reliable evidence both pro and con. And most important: be constantly ready to revise our thinking, rather than fighting tooth and nail against admitting being wrong. Here's an excellent old article on this:

RA Lyttleton, "Nature of Knowledge"
http://amasci.com/freenrg/bead.html


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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Technically, you cannot be corrected when you say the status of many of Tesla's claims is currently unknown. In practice, however, it is has been 100 years. It's not like Tesla has been ignored. People have tried to replicate his projects for a century.
Not true about replication. Quote me some papers. I'll be surprised if you can find any. Tesla is considered far-fringe science, and any legit researcher who pursues funding will receive only laughter, if not total career damage. This problem was even worse in the past, so any existing legit Tesla work will be recent. Other than the many crackpots and hobbyists without real resources, Tesla's claims haven't seen any years of testing. The only large-scale replications were by Robert Golka and Charles Yost, neither one in academia. Neither succeeded. (We could insist that they were unreliable crackpots. Or insist that they were fanatical Tesla supporters, and if there was anything real, they would have found it. Which one's more true?) Here's an odd bit of trivia: high-volt hobbyist forums ban discussion of Tesla's power broadcast testing. Even hobbyists don't work on this.

A problem: Golka and Yost didn't use Tesla's balloon-borne longwire antennas or his ion method, (both of very questionable legality today.) So, if they were trying to 'prove unicorns,' they were looking in an entirely different garage from the one Tesla used. Searching for lost car keys under the distant streetlight where it's easier to see. Lots of Tesla enthusiasts have messed with 10ft outdoor coils lacking any antenna. Bearden and "scalar waves" aside, a Tesla coil alone cannot broadcast any 10KHz VLF; that's one simple result supported both empirically and by Maxwell, and by Tesla's writings. Tesla's own stated method requires breaking down a large region of atmosphere high above the transmitter, i.e. artificial aurora. Even ignoring antenna issues, this cannot occur except at extreme output wattage. If youse isnts creating massive sky-glow, you aint bein Tesla.


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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
We have better equipment and more importantly, far better understanding of the physics. It may be impossible to prove that his claims were impossible, but it is highly likely that's the case.
Not true, not for multi-megawatt KHz radio. Other than secret NAVY sub comm systems, it's a relatively unexplored area. But in fact, our understanding of the physics is supporting Tesla.

Tesla originally was rejected on the grounds that Earth Resonance doesn't exist. Waves cannot curve around the Earth. Then Marconi succeeded. Then the Heaviside layer was found. Then Zenneck & others showed that a resistive Earth bends wavefronts and causes the "ground wave" effect (see "over-the-horizon radar," or Kraus text "Electromagnetism.") Then just such a VLF resonance phenomenon was discovered in the 1950s.

But then Tesla was still rejected on the grounds that the known resonance bands show too low a Q-factor. At far below 100KHz, the EM pulses only circle the Earth a few times before damping out, and above 100KHz they don't make it around even once. Then in the 1970s some NASA vlf people measured Q-factors of hundreds, even thousands, and discovered that the earlier measurements were artifacts of long integration times and wide filters with built-in limits of Q=~10. Oops.

So now what does physics say about Colorado Springs? Most of the objections have evaporated. But not all! First: the Schumann absorption lines wander around over a time scale of minutes. A fixed-frequency transmitter will miss the narrow high-Q resonance. Unless Tesla had some sort of weird phase-locking technique, his transmitter cannot possibly have worked. (Note to Tesla fanatics: look for possible weird phase locking technique he may have used.)

Even worse: you cannot broadcast significant VLF power without a long antenna. He'd have needed miles-long balloon-lofted antennas. Um, ...Tesla's records show that he was initially using just such antennas. But then for some reason he abandoned this. If he had some actual success, why would he change it to something that doesn't work? Gone crazy? Or found a better method? Years later the Wardenclyffe tower didn't involve balloon antennas as far as we know. But this below from an 1899 Tesla article: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/forgott...la/tesla_1.gif

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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
The counterargument to your argument about unicorns, BTW, is the one I just alluded to. I cannot prove that your garage doesn't have unicorns, because I didn't look and if I did my visit today doesn't replicate the conditions of your sighting.
If it turns out that we looked in the wrong garage, then we have a valid case for saying that the evidence had never been inspected. (This of course is different than common/idiotic backpedaling attempts, e.g. crackpots who suddenly move the goalposts, and say "Oh we forgot to tell you they're invisible.")

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But people all the world have not merely failed to spot unicorns at all times and places, even when they went looking for them, but also have failed to provide any accepted evidence that unicorns ever existed. That is not epistemological proof that unicorns don't exist but it is the definition of proof for all other usages.
Analogical counterevidence: There are no sea monsters that attack ships. If there were, evidence would exist. OK, someone finally gives us a giant squid to dissect. Turns out that these animals have been reported for centuries, and they are found to be aggressive. But such reports were ignored by the scientific community on the grounds that we all know that ship-attacking giant squids are ridiculous sailor-stories. With unicorns/fairies/bigfoot, if someone provides a corpse to dissect, then suddenly we realize that in the vast collection of ridiculed eyewitness accounts, many were perfectly legit. Theory determines evidence? It does where non-lab, observations-from-nature are concerned.


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I'm not technically expert enough to know which claims of Tesla's are wrong even in theory according to modern physics, although I know some are.
His "The True Wireless" from Electrical Experimenter magazine has some pretty crazy (meaning flagrantly wrong) stuff. Tesla accurately described the ground-wave behavior of VLF transmitters with grounded short antennas, then wrongly extended this to mean that radio never involves free EM waves in empty space. Elsewhere he says that his coils don't have Hertz-losses to radiation, ...then later says this radiation doesn't exist in the first place? Huh? He disbelieves the Heaviside layer, yet insists that the upper atmosphere must be conductive in order for his system to work. Huh? Craziness. At worst, it proves that he's just a crackpot. At best, he must be like another poster here noted: another Einstein who gets SR/GR right, but turns into a QM denialist.

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I am pretty sure that if he were right about the big things, others would have come up with similar results, because they would be useful to know and to do.
Sounds like: "If this was true, experts would already know about it?" That assertion fails whenever a claim involves a revolutionary breakthrough, or even a well-known crackpot topic. By definition, revolutionary breakthroughs are both rare and outside of expert knowledge. And, if Tesla was right all along, and if his stuff would be genuinely useful, well, we have little chance of discovering this, because anyone who makes funding applications will be laughed down, and have their reputation damaged. Crackpot ideas stay limited to the crackpot realm not just because they're wrong, but also because everyone thinks that they're crackpot ideas. Hobbyists with no fear of losing tenure might scrape up some non-federal funding and perform tests. But that's a self-limiting process, since only the fringe-science journals will publish their results, so they have no impact on the real science community. (Me, I read the seedy crackpot journals, and no, there still haven't been any big breakthroughs with verifying Tesla's stuff.)

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To reverse your analogy, just because Tesla was right about some things doesn't mean he was right about anything else. We're not allowed to find one correct answer and then declare all assertions equally correct.
You're mistaken if you think I'm insisting that Tesla correct. This is about the unknown. Tesla was probably wrong. But that probability isn't immense. So let the experiment be made. Refuse to explore the unknown on what grounds? That someone already looked? No, they didn't (not besides Tesla.) On grounds of avoiding ridicule by colleagues? That's normal science politics, but it's the opposite of "Science." On grounds of limited funding? That's valid, so let the fanatical Tesla supporters mount a replication of the Colorado Springs device, if they're so insistent. Or have the frakking Serbian government do it. Hey, if Tesla did have keys to success, and left written secrets not found in any published docs, then supposedly Beograd has them hidden in its Tesla museum. They can prove their national hero correct. I don't think they ever tried. What's the hold-up?

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In short, your use of "unknown" is technically unimpeachable, but misleading in its narrowness and the connotations it has in ordinary discourse. That's why I continue to dissent. I don't feel you have made your case for an outsider.
That narrowness is how science is done, but remains totally the opposite of Believer/Skeptic flamewars (i.e. "politics/law/religion.") Different from the skeptic crusader is the Pyrrhonian skeptic: I don't yet know, but I'm still working on trying to find out.
  #27  
Old 12-15-2010, 07:13 PM
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No, he was right in most of what he said. His "true wireless" description only applies to R[adio] F[requency] behavior in the realm down at 10KHz and below, and only while using electrically short antennas. His big mistake is in assuming that the behavior applies to all E[lectromagnetic] wavelengths.
I don't understand this statement at all. Telsa firmly disputed that radio waves or electromagnetic radiation even existed -- everyone from Maxwell onward was wrong. Tesla did recognize that there was radiation produced from an oscillating electrical current, but it was what he called "Hertzian waves", which was a compression wave that traveled through the ether, similar to sound waves. He also firmly denied that Hertzian waves could be used for anything more than very short distance communication.

The statements in his 1919 The True Wireless makes this abundantly clear. Conventional science believed in -- and still does -- the existence of "surface waves" (then called "gliding waves") for longwave transmissions, something Tesla thought ridiculous: "In Fig. 13 a transmitter is shown radiating space waves of considerable frequency. It is generally believed that these waves pass along the earth's surface and thus affect the receivers. I can hardly think of anything more improbable than this "gliding wave" theory and the conception of the "guided wireless" which are contrary to all laws of action and reaction. Why should these disturbances cling to a conductor where they are counteracted by induced currents, when they can propagate in all other directions unimpeded? The fact is that the radiations of the transmitter passing along the earth's surface are soon extinguished, the height of the inactive zone indicated in the diagram, being some function of the wave length, the bulk of the waves traversing freely the atmosphere."

In his view, the only way to transmit electrical energy to great distances was to use some sort of conductor, and he claimed he could use AC electrical currents traveling through the earth to achieve this goal: "By keeping steadily in mind that the transmission thru the earth is in every respect identical to that thru a straight wire, one will gain a clear understanding of the phenomena and will be able to judge correctly the merits of a new scheme."
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Originally Posted by wbeaty
Years later the Wardenclyffe tower didn't involve balloon antennas as far as we know. But this below from an 1899 Tesla article: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/forgott...la/tesla_1.gif
A more complete review of Tesla's earlier "balloons in the sky" approach appeared in the 1898 Tesla's Latest Wonder. Both conventional scientific thought and Tesla recognize that running an alternating current through a long wire would transmit radiation, although science (in Tesla's view), blinded by Maxwell's equations, believes that radio waves are produced, while Tesla would claim that what was actually the result was his own conception of "Hertzian Waves", which were essentially a waste product that stole energy and needed to be minimized at all costs.

But for Telsa, "wireless" merely meant there were no connecting wires, but he strongly felt that some sort of conductor was need to transmit electrical power. In this case, he was merely using the balloons to raise his electrical wires high enough to connect to a conveniently located electrically conducting layer of the atmosphere that he believed in and thought could be readily utilized: "It is a well-known laboratory fact that rarefied air is a conductor of electricity, though one of much resistance. The Crookes tubes of X ray fame depend on this principle. With one sweep Tesla takes this principle from the laboratories where, only, men have put it to use, and goes up to the clouds with it. He produces a wonderful voltage that will jump an enormous distance in every-day air, and proposes to take it in balloons up to where the air is a sort of natural Crookes tube. In such an altitude it will jump long distances to another terminal, he says, the layer of heavy air below being a non-conductor and resisting it like the rubber wrapping of a wire, for ordinary air is not a good conductor. "

So, there are two schemes, neither of which worked. But both were semi-conventional forms of AC electrical transmission, one that replaced the electric wires with a conducting upper atmosphere, and a second (aka "True") approach that replaced the wires with the earth itself.
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Old 12-16-2010, 08:03 AM
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So, there are two schemes, neither of which worked.
Aha, that's the key to this.

You claim knowledge of an important fact: when tested, did Tesla's devices fail? You seem to know something that nobody else does. Teach us. Let's see some evidence to back up your above statement.

Lacking solid evidence, it's a serious mistake to state that Tesla's devices failed, or that Tesla's devices worked.

This isn't a complicated concept. It's quite simple: if we've never looked in the garage, we're not allowed to say that it contains a car. Or doesn't contain a unicorn. Without evidence, our status becomes "we don't know." If you don't look at the penny, you don't know if it's heads, tails, or standing on edge, or catching fire and melting, or falling upwards against gravity, or the fairies have magically turned it into a nickle. The unknown is unknown. Is it heads? Don't know. Tails? Don't know. Spontaneously melted? Don't know.

Very simple idea? But I think it's lost on most people who live in the political/religious world where confident beliefs are adopted based entirely on emotions. In this case, the Tesla Fanatics want Tesla to have succeeded, so they think this makes it OK to say that he did succeed. Bad move. The Tesla skeptics do the same, and assume that the lack of evidence makes it OK to state confidently "Tesla's tried and failed." No, both positions are dishonest: pure pseudoscience. The scientific position is: ...without evidence our conversations are speculation, whether we label them such or not. An even more scientific position is "stop talking and go find out. Don't argue pro or con since that can never settle the issue. Instead let nature supply the answer: let the experiment be made."



Here's an important side issue. Non-scientist inventors can accidentally create a successful device, yet their explanation of how it works can be bogus. For this reason we're not on solid ground if we start reasoning that, since the explanation is crap, therefore it proves the device doesn't work. No. Without evidence, anything we say about the device is speculation. Sometimes things which couldn't possibly work, do actually work, and then we have to go back and figure out why. To get to the bottom of things we have to actually test.
  #29  
Old 12-16-2010, 10:21 AM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Great Thread/Good Info!

But, I am still confused the the Wardenclyff Tower fiasco. Tesla had committed to build a wireless communications system-that was why JP Morgan invested in the project. As I say, I am beginning to believe that Morgan saw this as a way to block Marconi, and make it possible for the Morgan trust to get control of the future radio market. Unfortunately, Morgan died before this could happen, and the Marconi Co. emerged triumphant.
It reminds me a bit of Robert Sarnoff's RCA Corporation crushing Edwin Armstrong (the inventor of FM radio)-it is not enoughto have a good idea-you need the financial muscle to avoid being ambushed by guys like JP Morgan and Sarnoff.
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Old 12-16-2010, 10:54 AM
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You could easily say that that many of Tesla's ideas did not work in terms of financial success, or impacting the market, or becoming mainstream technology. wbeaty is making the point that there has been no thorough investigation of the technical validity of some of Tesla's ideas. An initial failure doesn't mean that the idea is invalid, disproval requires far more research. You can see the extent that wbeaty goes to find the answers to questions like this at his web site. Unlike many who classify unproven concepts as disproven, he is willing to consider every possibility until it can be absolutely proven or disproven.

He does not know much about unicorns though. They defy scientific methodology. Disproving the existence of unicorns requires more than simple observation and experimentation because of the existence of the invisible pink variety.

Last edited by TriPolar; 12-16-2010 at 10:55 AM.
  #31  
Old 12-16-2010, 11:44 AM
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But, I am still confused the the Wardenclyff Tower fiasco. Tesla had committed to build a wireless communications system-that was why JP Morgan invested in the project. As I say, I am beginning to believe that Morgan saw this as a way to block Marconi, and make it possible for the Morgan trust to get control of the future radio market. Unfortunately, Morgan died before this could happen, and the Marconi Co. emerged triumphant.
I think its more accurate to say that Tesla believed he was building a world-wide power-transmission system, so joining up with Tesla would be a way to compete with some of the corporate giants like General Electric. Communications was just one of the potential sidelines of such a company, but not the main one. Until about 1917 radio communication was a fairly small industry, mainly used for ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore, and, in a few cases transoceanic communication by Morse code. It was one of those niche industries that got a lot of publicity, so everyone knew who Marconi was, but it didn't make very much money.

This of course was before the development of broadcasting brought receivers into every home. In contrast, power transmission had the potential of having every house in the U.S. -- and maybe the world -- paying you a monthly fee for their electric service. So Morgan invested what for him wasn't a lot of money, to see if it would pan out.
  #32  
Old 12-16-2010, 11:56 AM
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His "true wireless" description only applies to RF behavior in the realm down at 10KHz and below, and only while using electrically short antennas.
I still would like to see any evidence, particularly in Tesla's own words, that he even believed that radio waves existed (in contrast to his concept of "Hertzian waves" as longitudinal compression waves in the ether) or that he believed that "surface wave" signals could carry any sort of distance. We use the modern term "Radio Frequency" because were are aware that a high-frequency electrical oscillation creates a useful product we call electromagnetic radiation. I think he would actually be insulted if he thought you were suggesting that he believed in the existence of same. He certainly did nothing to correctly describe how it behaves over any sort of distance.
  #33  
Old 12-16-2010, 12:47 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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But, I am still confused the the Wardenclyff Tower fiasco. Tesla had committed to build a wireless communications system-that was why JP Morgan invested in the project. As I say, I am beginning to believe that Morgan saw this as a way to block Marconi, and make it possible for the Morgan trust to get control of the future radio market. Unfortunately, Morgan died before this could happen, and the Marconi Co. emerged triumphant.
It reminds me a bit of Robert Sarnoff's RCA Corporation crushing Edwin Armstrong (the inventor of FM radio)-it is not enoughto have a good idea-you need the financial muscle to avoid being ambushed by guys like JP Morgan and Sarnoff.
None of this makes any sense. Start with the timeline. Morgan didn't die until 1913.

Wiki actually has a neat paragraph summary that easier to copy than to summarize out of a book.
Quote:
In 1900, Morgan financed inventor Nikola Tesla and his Wardenclyffe Tower with $150,000 for experiments in transmitting energy. However, in 1903, when the tower structure was near completion, it was still not yet functional due to last-minute design changes that introduced an unintentional defect. When Morgan wanted to know "Where can I put the meter?" Tesla had no answer. Tesla's vision of free power did not agree with Morgan's worldview; nor would it pay for the maintenance of the transmission system. Construction costs eventually exceeded the money provided by Morgan, and additional financiers were reluctant to come forth. By July 1904, Morgan (and the other investors) finally decided they would not provide any additional financing. Morgan also advised other investors to avoid the project.
In addition, the project was to transmit electric power, not radio communications. Why would it be in competition with anything that that Marconi was attempting?

Finally, in what world did Marconi Wireless emerge triumphant? They survived until 1920, when they were bought out by RCA, but it was never the powerhouse in the U.S. that it was in England. It did a good business in ship to shore telegraphy but never got involved in voice transmission. However you evaluate it, the company and Tesla were not competing directly in any area.

There is not a particle of evidence that Tesla had a good idea. There is no evidence he could have made the scheme work with any amount of money. He could have, should have, and was told to site the project near Niagara Falls to take advantage of the only large body of hydroelectric power transmission in the world. Instead he set it up on Long Island so he could stay in a fancy New York City hotel, whose bills he didn't bother to pay because such things were beneath him.

I'm afraid I'm no admirer of Tesla.
  #34  
Old 12-16-2010, 01:13 PM
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Wiki actually has a neat paragraph summary that easier to copy than to summarize out of a book.
In this case, I'd say take the time to look it up in the book. Someone has already changed the wording, but I can't believe Tesla ever thought he was giving away energy for free. From Wireless Power (1912): "Also his perfected system of positive selectivity will absolutely prevent an unscrupulous consumer from stealing his power from the air, any more than he could use the key to his barn door for manipulating the time lock on a bank safe, so complete will be the individualization of currents."
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Old 12-16-2010, 01:32 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Tesla may have said that in 1912. I can't find any other references to a Tesla-related "positive selectivity" in Google, though. And I don't ever remember reading an account of Wardenclyffe that included such a notion at the time of its construction.

My guess is that Tesla realized that he needed to refute Morgan's question - which may be apocryphal in that exact form, but surely came up at some time or other: Morgan wanted to make pots of money off the system - and devised some scientific-sounding gobbledygook for the reporter to disseminate. If the system was indeed "perfected,' as the article states, what evidence do we have of it?
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Old 12-16-2010, 02:04 PM
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... Having a garage full of unicorns is unlikely, but my statement that they aren't in there is just speculation, even though based on very high probability. Until we go and look inside the garage, we're not allowed to make claims about it. There might be a car in there, or a one-ton block of gold, or it might be totally empty. Without evidence, without just going and looking in the garage, it's dishonest ...
Except that cars exist, unicorns don't. That's my basic problem with your example.

I understand thought experiments and such but, c'mon.

Tesla had brains and he was a crackpot, what's wrong with that?

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Old 12-16-2010, 02:04 PM
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If the system was indeed "perfected,' as the article states, what evidence do we have of it?
None. I'm just saying that as far as I know he never was trying to give away power. Do you know of any contemporary evidence that he wanted to give the power away for free? I just can't see him saying something like that.

Marconi however had some wild ideas. From Marconi's Plans for the World: "As soon as the use of wireless energy becomes universal it will necessarily sweep out all the present privileged corporations of power and create a semi-socialistic state of affairs. In the future the government will be the owner of all energy. Individuals will use it to a certain amount free of any charge, but for the rest they will have to pay for the state a definite tribute. This will naturally make railways, telegraphy, telephone, vessels and mills a public ownership. There remains opportunity for an individual under those new conditions. The main trouble with all the today's economic friction is that the energy can be owned by certain privileged individuals, who use it for their own selfish ends but not for the benefit of humanity."
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Old 12-19-2010, 03:02 AM
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Except that cars exist, unicorns don't. That's my basic problem with your example.
That's a non-science position. Certain belief is for crackpots and for political parties. Instead, avoid belief and certainty, and say that cars almost certainly exist, while unicorns almost certainly don't.

Aha, that brings up an interesting concept. What it Science? Feynman says it's a system for not fooling ourselves, or it's a way of avoiding bias by adopting bend-over-backwards honesty during investigations. If instead we concentrate on "avoidance of certainty," or avoidance of making early decisions, and we concentrate on the bead-on-a-wire analogy, then we have this:

Science is a system for preventing people from making up their minds.

Do unicorns exist?
Science: very very probably not. [But we might be wrong.]

Pseudoscience: no.
There's a world of difference between the two. It's a matter of black/white thinkers, versus those who carefully maintain the shades of gray.

In human life it's very useful to make up one's mind. It lets us make snap decisions in crisis situations. Fence-sitters face problems which Believers/Disbelievers do not. If we habitually adopt beliefs, if we make up our minds at some point, then we don't have to make decisions on the spot. The decision was already made long before. Brain evolution probably played a big role in sculpting this behavior. If the tiger is leaping out of the bushes, or if your neighbor is trying to kill you, you don't have to carefully review all the evidence before making a decision on the best course of action. And today if you're a Republican or Democrat rather than a fence-sitter, you don't have to spend hours in the voting booth.

But in science that's a toxin: it's a major form of emotional bias. Certain beliefs are a recipe for fooling yourself. Suppose you "become certain" that something exists, and you happen to be almost certainly mistaken. It then takes a needlessly huge amount of evidence to pry your mind loose from your wrong position. Undecided fence-sitters preserve their uncertainty, so they easily respond to changing evidence. (They also face big delays when making decisions, but research work doesn't have many life/death struggles on a scale of seconds.)

Also, certain beliefs/disbeliefs can destroy your curiousity. If you carry all sorts of beliefs and disbeliefs, then you seemingly know the answer to any situation, and you won't have to actually check things out. You'll assume that you know the contents of a closed garage, and won't feel any niggling doubts or huge needs to defeat the unknown by opening the door and looking inside.

Also, certain belief/disbelief can make you unconsciously start cherry-picking evidence. You'll elevate the supporting evidence while also you hide the contrary evidence, or ignore it, or let it slip your mind. You'll fall into the habit of describing your believed concepts in glowing terms, and describing disbelieved concepts in derogatory terms. Bias infects your brain.

So, if I don't look in the closed garage, I might miss the first solid evidence for unicorns. That's a very, very, very low-probability scenario, of course. Easily solved: make it your habit to be curious: open doors and look in garages, and also admit that the contents are genuinely unknown before you looked.


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Tesla had brains and he was a crackpot, what's wrong with that?
I think it fits right in with this "certain belief" stuff. A non-scientist wants things to be black and white. Tesla was either trustworthy or crackpot. In that case Wardenclyffe isn't anything unknown: it was either a workable system brought down by greed, or it was a huge expensive folly that smart investors wisely avoided. What the Teslaphiles and Tesla-scoffers miss is that evidence is very spotty, so we don't really know. And neither side seems very curious. (Perhaps it's because a good test of Tesla's claims would show that their own certain beliefs/disbeliefs were wrong all along.)
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Old 12-19-2010, 04:27 AM
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He certainly did nothing to correctly describe how it behaves over any sort of distance.
"Hertzian waves" vs radio waves involves the switchover between Aether compression vs. Michaelson-Morely. Back then, Aether belief didn't require flagrant crackpotism. (I hope you're not slipping into ad hominem and reasoning that, since Tesla was an obvious crackpot, therefore all his statements are suspect and all his devices didn't work.)

Tesla's explanations of his equipment has little effect on whether it worked or not, particularly if he built it through empirical measurements and tests. To investigate Tesla's devices, we must actually investigate Tesla's devices, not look for holes in his explanations. Sometimes explanations are even pasted on after the fact, in which case they have no impact on that equipment.

All that aside, Tesla describes some correct empirically-derived knowledge. Ham radio experience, or RF engineering classes might make "True Wireless" appear in a less crackpotty light. For example, conductors act as mirrors, and EM waves reflect from conductors, so we shouldn't be able to couple the waves from a dipole antenna to the Earth. They form brief currents as they bounce off, as Tesla angrilly mentions. He wasn't being an idiot, and his complaint about this was nearly correct. It seemed that his ground currents could not escape the Earth, and that "Hertz" waves could never connect to it. Obviously two different phenomena? The Earth is an electrical shield, and also a conductor for power transmissions. What nobody knew at the time was that this applies only to ideal conductors. Dipole emissions can connect to a resistive surface if the waves are launched at a very low angle. They become a ground current, plus e and b fields above the surface. And ground currents from a short groundplane antenna also have e and b fields above the surface. They follow the ground, but also can be lost to space (though much less at sub-100KHz freqs.)

Because of this bit of physics, Hertz' dipole-emitted waves seemed totally different than Tesla's ground-launched "currents." And in later years we find that microwaves travelling in a rectangular waveguide appear to be very different than GHz currents in coax cable, yet they're the same phenomenon. Tesla's mistake was to treat these as two completely different things.

Would this mistake hurt Tesla's project? Probably not, since regardless of theoretical explanations, measurements showed that the ground-currents passed at least many times around the Earth before fading away. The more they stay in circulation, the lower the losses in a continuously running system. That these ground currents *were* Hertz waves is beside the point. One engineering paper showed that extreme high Q isn't necessary to build a working Tesla system. Tesla's "world system" might have discarded a megawatt continuously, which is a very good loss level, considering that it was intended as a "power grid" far large than North America. If NASA VLF measurements are correct, and if Tesla could lock on to wandering resonance lines, then his losses might have been orders less than a MW.

All this says to me that his success or failure was uncertain, unknown. If we want to make confident statements about his claims, we'd first need to build the equipment that Tesla built. Stop pretending to knowledge we don't have, show how science differs from everything else, take Franklin seriously: "Let the experiment be made."
  #40  
Old 12-19-2010, 08:57 AM
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Wanted to jump in here and say this is one of the best/thought-provoking SDMB threads I've read.
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Old 12-19-2010, 09:45 AM
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Wanted to jump in here and say this is one of the best/thought-provoking SDMB threads I've read.
Seconded. I've been away for a week+ and it's great to see how this thread has developed. I'm especially glad that wbeaty is back amongst us and actually provoking thought.

I like to think of myself as having a scientific mindset even though that's not my occupation. Yet Bill holds up a very clear mirror showing me a somewhat uncomfortable reflection. Scepticism can be as arbitrary-belief-based as any other religion.
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Old 12-19-2010, 10:06 AM
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I'm especially glad that wbeaty is back amongst us and actually provoking thought.
Agreed.

I understand Mr. Beaty's point about allowing the possibility of a garage full of unicorns. And it is a valid point. But where do you draw the line? At what level of confidence can I proclaim a spade is a spade? Should we preface every seemingly-factual comment with "we believe" or "current evidence suggests"? At what point does it become ridiculous?

Instead of saying, "Ghosts don't exist," should we say, "Current evidence suggests ghosts don't exist"? Instead of saying, "Magnetic bracelets are worthless," should we say, "We believe magnetic bracelets are worthless"?
  #43  
Old 12-19-2010, 11:40 AM
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whitetho whitetho is offline
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Instead of saying, "Ghosts don't exist," should we say, "Current evidence suggests ghosts don't exist"?
Pardon the sidetrack, but on page 94 of Margaret Cheney's Tesla: Man Out of Time, she wrote: "It is thus possible to entertain the suggestion of a contemporary electrical engineer that Tesla's hypersensitive vacuum tube might make an excellent detector not only of Kirlian auras but of other so-called paranormal phenomena, including the entities commonly called ghosts." Which makes me think "Great! We can ask Tesla about our outstanding questions directly". The only problem being that I doubt that Tesla believed in ghosts....
  #44  
Old 12-19-2010, 12:00 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Instead of indulging in things that can't be proved, why not turn the discussion around to those that can?

A simple, direct question. In the 67 years since Tesla died, what of his scorned inventions have been brought forth to the public as usable products?
  #45  
Old 12-19-2010, 05:12 PM
wbeaty wbeaty is offline
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Wireless Power (1912): "Also his perfected system of positive selectivity will absolutely prevent an unscrupulous consumer from stealing his power from the air, any more than he could use the key to his barn door for manipulating the time lock on a bank safe, so complete will be the individualization of currents."
Look for earliest mention of "wave-complex." This apparently was Tesla's term for his freq-hopping spread-spectrum devices. I recall it's in his World System proposal, but as secure comm rather than as guarding against power theft. He'd patented the switched-cap-coil clockwork version, the infamous "AND gate." But he probably was keeping secret another simpler idea: an overcoupled transmitter broadcasts a line-split spectrum, and an identical receiver should be able to strongly absorb that signal. It's radio, but with two tuning knobs (and a 2D crosshair display?!! Stations appear as places on a grid?) Add more tank circuits with identical tuning and various values for coupling, and you should get a complicated signal very similar to a molecular IR spectrum. A radio with many tuning knobs? No synchronized rotating switches needed.

All this is just my untested speculation. I haven't built even a "two dimensional" transmitter/receiver, as opposed to current radio tech with its one-dimensional tuning spectrum.) I strongly suspect that Tesla's "Static Eliminator" 2-disk device was a spread-spectrum adapter intended to retrofit a normal radio set. It "eliminates static" in the same sense that FM radio does. If true, and if the guy had any interest in selling products, we could have had something like FM radio before we had vacuum tubes. Maybe.

Last edited by wbeaty; 12-19-2010 at 05:14 PM. Reason: typos
  #46  
Old 12-19-2010, 05:25 PM
Napier Napier is offline
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I think it is more accurate to say that for the most part Tesla's theories about power distribution were correct and form the basis for what we do today. He invented polyphase power and induction motors and generators. These things are at the heart of power distribution. I don't remember if it is fair to say that he invented alternating current, but he certainly created many of its advantages. The bit about the big towers radiating power doesn't seem to have been much use, but it hardly represents his main work.
  #47  
Old 12-19-2010, 05:58 PM
wbeaty wbeaty is offline
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Seconded. I've been away for a week+ and it's great to see how this thread has developed. I'm especially glad that wbeaty is back amongst us and actually provoking thought.
The SD addiction hasn't lost it's power! I still may have to go cold turkey to preserve employment, and perhaps sanity. (Even worse than Stumbleupon.)

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I like to think of myself as having a scientific mindset even though that's not my occupation. Yet Bill holds up a very clear mirror showing me a somewhat uncomfortable reflection. Scepticism can be as arbitrary-belief-based as any other religion.
The holy book of RPF SurelyYou'reJoking gives a solution (or perhaps it was in Cargo Cult Sci.) When you're "being a scientist," you adopt a bizarre set of inhuman behaviors. If you tried to maintain them constantly throughout normal everyday life, you'd become insane. When you close the office door and go catch the bus, you have to revert to "normal guy." To make certain of the mode switch, go hang out in nudie bars. Chat up Vegas show girls. Hottubbing with female New Age Believers in California communes.

On wikipedia "Pseudoskepticism" page we came up with a great definition: Skeptic organizations are the police arm of science. We're out in the trenches, dealing with the bad guys in real time. Science itself more resembles the court system. A beat cop can't be sacrificing confidence and decisive action for proper scientific tenativeness and shades of gray viewpoint. It's up to the courts to define what crime is and what it isn't. If Bigfoot or Tesla becomes part of science, then the police don't arrest their henchmen anymore. But all of this guarantees that some woo-woo-looking innocents are going to get clubbed in the riot, and some serious criminals dressed in spotless scientific garb are going to be helped along. And the police had better stay on guard against creeping internal corruption. When critics accuse skeptics of improper scientific attitude ...they're right. Skeptic groups aren't the organism; they're the immune system. In that light, constant self-training and increasing skill in enemy-recognition is critical. It becomes very important to analyze embarrassing mistakes rather than covering them up. (Heh, too bad someone deleted that WP entry.)
  #48  
Old 12-19-2010, 07:11 PM
wbeaty wbeaty is offline
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Instead of indulging in things that can't be proved, why not turn the discussion around to those that can?
Um... why "can't?"

Rather than "can't", I'd say "easily" proved. But not by hobbyists. We'd just need normal funding for a medium-sized research project. On the other hand, past events show that this doesn't work if results support Tesla. Ohio State's Dr. JF Corum wrote extensively on electrical engineering analyses of Tesla's stuff. He shows that when Tesla is taken seriously, some of his ridiculed claims and devices look quite workable in theory. Corum's reward is to be ignored, since obviously he's become a True Believer, and you can't trust anything from those guys. The subject is dominated by circular cause, self-fulfilling prophecies. So I suspect that, if good experimental research on Tesla's remaining claims was performed, it would be immediately accepted, but only if it proved Tesla wrong. To do otherwise would require finding overwhelming evidence and getting it widely published: enough to cause a large group of long-time scoffers to reverse their views and offer apologies. Max Planck says that instead such people don't change, but must die off and clear the way for others who are still curious and unconvinced.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
A simple, direct question. In the 67 years since Tesla died, what of his scorned inventions have been brought forth to the public as usable products?
List the scorned ones? There was some independent rediscovery. Spread Spectrum secure radio. But for freq-hopping switching capacitors we don't use Tesla's patent with its rotating commutators. Also, his recovered secret "Death Ray" docs indicate that he'd discovered the Electrospray effect, and was using it to generate a stream of liquid metal atomic clusters which could be focused and deflected like electrons. This was rediscovered and used in early ink-jet printers, as well as in contemporary mass spectrometers (even got someone the Nobel.) Whether the original hypervelocity atomic-cluster beams are currently part of military particle-beam weapons is probably difficult to learn.

Of course there's an earlier history of scorned Tesla inventions. The brushless motor. Highly scorned at the time (Tesla's physics teacher, European investors, Edison.) The spark transmitter. Marconi et. al. did a good job in applying the derogatory label "Tesla Coil" to Tesla's high-power single-freq radio transmitter breakthrough, while applying a different label to his stolen version. (What good is a "tesla coil?" Not good for much. Unless you name it "spark transmitter.") The Alexanderson Alternator: hooking a high-freq multi-pole AC generator to an antenna. Nobody had anything to do with that device ...until Tesla's patent ran out two decades later, and Alexanderson presented his own faster version as the breakthrough solution to voice transmission. A critical advance was a closed-loop RPM control to keep the transmission frequency from wandering around. I recall that NT wrote of this, but didn't patent it.

You see, any "scorned" invention, if proved valid and usable, is then by definition a non-scorned invention. Only inventions yet remaining in the untested/unknown category can remain "scorned," and the untested/unknown ones, by definition, aren't being sold as products. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, or a form of circular reasoning.

Possible exception: the vacuum-tester or "violet wand" device. Not strictly Tesla-approved (descrptions lead me to suspect his own version used hard vacuum button-lamps, and sterilized surfaces via soft xrays.) Violet Wands sold tens of thousands, if not far more. Success? They're widely used as leak detectors in chem and physics labs. They "cure all known ills" and are tarred with quackery, so they remain scorned. But they certainly have genuine effects: injecting ozone and nitrogen oxides and perhaps altering skin flora. (They don't seem to kill off skin fungus. Athlete's foot. Damn. Perhaps try a hard-vaccum x-ray version? That type might kill everything *execpt* the skin fungus.)

Brain fag! My antique Violet Wand booklet insists that the device is a sure cure for "Brain Fag." Today we have Starbucks. Less carcinogenic nitrogen oxides.
  #49  
Old 12-19-2010, 07:19 PM
wbeaty wbeaty is offline
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Which makes me think "Great! We can ask Tesla about our outstanding questions directly". The only problem being that I doubt that Tesla believed in ghosts....
Or start the tape recorder during a seance and ask Tesla your questions. Play back the tape and listen for answers. Hmm. I bet this only works if you use ...a WIRE RECORDER! Or perhaps an AM radio tuned to a blank spot ...at the very bottom of the band.

For some real fun we need psychic Remote Viewers to tell us the location of the lost voice recordings made of Tesla. There was also mention somewhere of an "Edison" (meaning film,) made of the interior of his CS laboratory.

Here are some excellent fake films of Tesla rants, w/pigeons:

http://www.myinventionsthemovie.com/cms/
  #50  
Old 12-19-2010, 07:45 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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I think it is more accurate to say that for the most part Tesla's theories about power distribution were correct and form the basis for what we do today. He invented polyphase power and induction motors and generators. These things are at the heart of power distribution. I don't remember if it is fair to say that he invented alternating current, but he certainly created many of its advantages. The bit about the big towers radiating power doesn't seem to have been much use, but it hardly represents his main work.
You have this right.

How easily we forget. Names like Westinghouse and Edison are remembered, but Tesla was the man who made the 20th century possible. So what if later in life his notions didn't pay off? Even if they are utter nonsense, that shouldn't diminish the contributions he made. If he his to be measured only by success, he had plenty of those.
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