The Unstoppable: Nikola Tesla

Usually I refer to folks who “overcome” as “Unstoppable”.  But sometimes someone is so utterly awesome that they merit “Unstoppable” even when life gives them a shit sandwich, their brain pretty much melts, and that jackoff Edison screws them six ways from Sunday.

I present Tesla; the original mad scientist.  He stood on the shoulders of giants… then took a flying leap into the stratosphere.  Tragically he went to his grave documenting only a fraction of where his mind had gone.  (Less unhinged scientific minds like Marie Curie have done us the favor of keeping good notes.)

Tesla was the real deal totally unfathomable genius.  To use an odd analogy; Tesla played with elemental forces in the same way that Jimi Hendrix made guitars do unexpected things.  Sadly he was crazy enough to make Jimi look dull.

No this is not satirical comic! It’s his lab in Colorado. Tesla played with lightning the way a cat plays with a ball of string. He was the EMBODIMENT of mad scientist.

Part of being nuttier than a fruitcake and a genius at the same time is that nobody knows where the brilliance ends and the crazy starts.  Thus he died broke.  The jury is still out on what might have been had he been sane and well funded.  (I’m thinking hovercars on Mars.)

He might have given us all free renewable wireless electricity.  How cool would that have been?  He felt wires were a cop out.  The smart way to conduct power was to use the planet’s ionosphere to make electricity available everywhere.  Let that sink in for a few minutes.  Sounds nuts doesn’t it?  Really?  Does it sound nuts while wifi sends porn to your laptop through the atmosphere?  Does it only sound nuts when you’re listening to your car’s FM radio 50 miles from the transmitter?  Yeah, that’s right.  He was thinking it back when PacMan was a distant dream.  That’s why Tesla was a genius… because some of the crazy was correct.

Tesla’s shockingly impressive experiments are interesting but the duality of insanity and poor record keeping does him no favors.  Half the stuff he did is still hard to reproduce.

Speaking of power, Tesla thought fossil fuels were chickenshit thinking.  He thought renewable forces like hydro power were the cat’s pajamas.  (Which tended to piss off business interests of the day.)

In fact Tesla was a shit magnet because his ideas, awesome as they were, invariably ran aground on someone’s business model.  It was something of a lifelong bout of bad luck.  Imagine knowing how to cure Cancer but getting pummelled because it’ll reduce  Starbucks’ profits.

Here’s an example, who would hate the idea of “free power for everyone everywhere?”  How about everyone who wanted to sell expensive power to people who pay?  Remember that when our modern era of 2012 requires high tension power lines shoving coal fired electrons a thousand miles to heat your pop-tart.

Tesla ran aground on some things which should have been merely technical details.  In our modern era we know that DC power usually sucks for anything bigger than cranking a Subaru’s starter and AC is better for long range transmission.  Tesla knew that right away.  Tesla’s “peers” (he had no actual peers) disagreed.  Big names like Edison were hooked on DC.  Rather than let that brilliant freak Tesla perform unGodly tricks with power they tried to prove AC would spot weld grandma to the coffee pot if it were widely adopted.  (Here’s a hint; both AC and DC can kill you but Tesla was right and Edison was a douchebag.)

Tesla is also proof that being batshit insane isn’t a good way to get venture capital.  To the people of the time (and probably us if we’d had the opportunity) watching Tesla tweak lighting bolts like Thor getting his groove on must have been a mite disturbing.  He wasn’t writing anything down, you couldn’t repeat some of his experiments, and he was apparently picking up alien voices in his head.  How pathetic… well except the whole thunderbolt thing which is terrifying… care to throw money at that?

It is my (unscientific) opinion that Tesla could have been an even bigger boon to humanity if someone had hired a stenographer to trail him and write down his every move.  On the other hand who knows what would have happened.  It could have been a bad thing.  He could have made Oppenheimer look like a chimp with a sliderule.  Of course the US military turned Tesla down.  Fools!  They had a man ready willing and able to open the gates of hell but their pet CEO (Edison of course) recommended against Tesla’s silly ideas.  You know.  Voodoo fantasies… like radar.  “Seeing invisible space rays is just silly.”  (Yes, the military could have had radar long before they got it.  Losers!)  Tesla, the man who played with lightning and could power a lightbulb from 20 miles away, also wanted to make a death ray.  If you can channel ball lightning and make a bulb glow at distances limited by the curvature of the earth…wouldn’t you want him on your side?  Nope, our military turned him away.  Smooth move gentlemen!

It’s a shame Mr. Tesla never got much respect.  But nobody called him stupid and anyone with half a brain knew he was as brilliant as he was crazy and dangerous.  Tesla, the ultimate mad scientist is officially Unstoppable.

Note: Tesla is hardly an unknown character.  Aspiring mad scientists can research him on their own.  For fun I recommend  the two links below.

Here’s a post from Badass of the Week.

Another from The Oatmeal.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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4 Responses to The Unstoppable: Nikola Tesla

  1. Shepherd K says:

    Tesla was truly an amazing man; but, like most true geniuses, he had no clue how to play nice with others. Read a biography about him several years ago now. Some amazing stories. Shaking a tall building with a small, handheld device. Causing Samuel Clemens (better known as Mark Twain) to have an urgent need for a bowel movement using an early MRI like gizmo. I think you are right. We could have had hover cars on Mars by now.

  2. KA9VSZ says:

    Nitpicky note: I read (somewhere, sorry, no cite) the photo of him in the chair with the lightning was done with a double exposure. Not even Nicky was nuts enough to take the chance of getting fried. The dude did rock big time, though. (Where’s my hovercar, dammit?)

  3. MSgt B says:

    I knew there was something special about you.

    You’re unstoppable….

  4. Fred2 says:

    Ahem. HVDC Gods way to move electricity long distances without all the problems of AC.

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