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Is Nikola Tesla Overrated?


Are His Plans For Scifi Inventions Even Viable?  

23 members have voted

  1. 1. Are They?

    • Yes
    • No
    • Maybe In The Future
    • Tesla Was Making It Up To Get Funding Or Fame


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12 hours ago, YNM said:

(Newton did great on maths too however, the whole calculus thing was practically almost out of thin air.)

I contest that, nothing almost comes out of thin air, there is always lots and lots of stuff been done before and around.

Yes it was probably impossible for other people to organize all that stuff and come to that remarkable achievement but still...people worked day and night for that to happen,

and then someone brilliant managed to connect the dots and add some crucial missing ones and ''boom'', like a detective movie.

Edited by Boyster
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22 minutes ago, Boyster said:

I contest that, nothing almost comes out of thin air, there is always lots and lots of stuff been done before and around.

I mean, yeah, esp. given that the way it's thought of now mostly relates to piecewise or stepwise stuff that's just infinitely smoothed out, but still, like, even today in engineering we often take the lazy route and use numerical methods, just because it's easier.

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36 minutes ago, YNM said:

even today in engineering we often take the lazy route and use numerical methods, just because it's easier.

Not because it's easier, but because it's much, much more practical than solving ODEs analytically for every single analysis you want to make and yields results with the same (practical) precision. In some cases, actually, the analytical solution can be less exact than the numerical one because it may require you to make additional assumptions (famous example: small angle approximation). Try solving a nonlinear PDE analytically for any practical problem, suddenly numerical methods become anything but lazy

Edited by Guest
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59 minutes ago, Aperture Science said:

Not because it's easier, but because it's much, much more practical than solving ODEs analytically for every single analysis you want to make and yields results with the same (practical) precision.

We take the laziness a step further by putting out pre-prepared graphs and tables...

 

... and we take the laziness another step by putting the numbers in, then re-trace it with some polynomials. (yeah that's what I do to those decades-old tables.)

Obviously we know not to step out of the bounds, but like, it's something I'm sure scientists would pull hairs off.

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On 11/17/2020 at 3:45 AM, Nuke said:

he understood ac and radio very well, but he didn't even believe in electrons. i think he is overrated but that doesn't mean the guy wasn't a genius. science is a group effort and i think its wrong to give any one scientist all the credit. 

i always wonder if the edison-testla fued has been blown way out of proportion. most of that was just edison electric and westinghouse jockeying for market share. 

He didn't believe in electrons.
Tilt:
Yes that explains a lot, we live in an world there the rules are set by nuclear physic and relativity. 
Tesla was the last generation before this, he grew up then sci-fi=steampunk, granted as an old man he was into an world of modern physic he probably did not understand or wanted to believe in. 
And yes had he focused on stuff like radar back in 1920 well he would been seen as more important.

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On 11/16/2020 at 8:46 PM, Spacescifi said:

In other words...are his plans for inventions that were never built viable at all?

The stuff he talked about seems farfetched.

1. Wireless power: Yes we can do it, but Tesla had in mind doing it WITHHOUT satellites or solar. Probably electromagnetic  waves since he was fond of those.

2. Death rays: I really do think Tesla was over his head here. Beam weapons work a lot better in space than in the air. Unless he knew a way to straighten a lightning bolt and shoot accurately across the air that way.

3. Flying wingless air vehicles: It is popular to say Tesla designed all manner of UFO wingless EM craft that could have flown.  I doubt it was viable though...unless Tesla was just that good and his knowledge died with him.

What do you think?

 

Overrating depends on source. Tesla was a great inventor and his inventions are well known. But there is some cult around him and I do not think that for example these three inventions was credible. Maybe he had some hypotheses or primitive ideas around these topics but not anything which could have been developed to work. Electromagnetism is extremely well known area of physics.

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On 11/16/2020 at 1:46 PM, Spacescifi said:

In other words...are his plans for inventions that were never built viable at all?

The stuff he talked about seems farfetched.

1. Wireless power: Yes we can do it, but Tesla had in mind doing it WITHHOUT satellites or solar. Probably electromagnetic  waves since he was fond of those.

2. Death rays: I really do think Tesla was over his head here. Beam weapons work a lot better in space than in the air. Unless he knew a way to straighten a lightning bolt and shoot accurately across the air that way.

3. Flying wingless air vehicles: It is popular to say Tesla designed all manner of UFO wingless EM craft that could have flown.  I doubt it was viable though...unless Tesla was just that good and his knowledge died with him.

What do you think?

 

They weren't built because they don't work.  Maxwell's equations (and moreso the quantum electrodynamics that cause them)  are known to be correct to something like 8 decimal places.  There is no room for Tesla to be right.  In general, any invention that isn't built either doesn't work or is sufficiently derivative to not be worth the name.  These don't work.

Delivering high power without wires is indeed possible, and that is more or less how transformers (the reason AC won 100+ years ago) work.  The catch is that while electrodynamic waves lose power by r-2 (inverse square law), inductive losses lose power by r-3 (inverse cube law).  Also the "breakeven point" is related to the wavelength of the frequency being transmitted.  You see this a lot in wireless charging, and getting the location *exactly* right is critical in getting the thing to charge at all.

The shocking thing is that Tesla not only managed to make the inductive motor, but quite a few more things to work.  But I suspect that his broken understanding of electrodynamics was *just* correct enough to get the induction motor to work (while his competitors simply didn't understand induction at all).  But from what I've heard of the "other things", they were more like radio control and other things that didn't rely so much on inductive effects.

The last thing to take away from all the Edison-vs-Westinghouse (instead of Telsa) malarky is that AC is more or less an obsolete installed base that we are stuck with.  DC transmission is more efficient (in the 21st century,  not earlier), but would require massive investment to replace the grid.  USB outlets are leading the way for low-voltage DC outlets, but electric cars (and any other high power HVAC or appliance)  wants high voltage DC..

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On 11/19/2020 at 3:49 AM, magnemoe said:

had he focused on stuff like radar back in 1920 well he would been seen as more important.

Given that the guy that eventually invented radar started off helping meteorologist that wanted to map out distant lightning strikes, I question Tesla would even be able to steer on to the right path.

Still, given a headstart of a few years, combined with the right ideas off the bat, things would've changed quite a lot, but alas he didn't do much on it.

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A funny fact. There was no Tesla hype in Soviet school and university at all, he was just one of significant inventors of XIX-XX.
It took me a lot of efforts to understand why do the computers games continuously pray his name in a strange cult.
 

Edited by kerbiloid
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  • 3 weeks later...

The problem with all this, which is evident in your first post, is that you misattribute things to Tesla, and then discuss whether it's overrated.

There is the real Nikola Tesla, and there is the kooky image crackpots made out of his smeared name.

Public image is between those two. Sometimes more real, sometimes more kooky. Especially kooky in ex-Yugoslavian countries, where his name is used by the "common folk" as a typical excuse to rant about the West.

 

The worst of these ideas is that his plans with wireless electricity were to obtain energy for no money, and that supposedly it made his investors retreat. Tesla did not work on "free lunch". He worked on wireless transmission of electrical energy, and baseload energy of his time was coal, with emerging hydroelectric potential he contributed to.

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On 11/17/2020 at 10:39 PM, YNM said:

At least until someone else came and thought of "what if you fell off a roof". (Newton did great on maths too however, the whole calculus thing was practically almost out of thin air.)

If the "whole calculus thing was almost out of thin air", then why did Gottfried  Leibniz  invent it at essentially the same time?

I'd recommend some of James Burke's "Connections" material to correct much of the "great man" theory of scientific/technical progress.   And if it leads to study the rest of the history behind his shows so much that you see the real flaws they have, so much the better.

To point out how rare the exceptions are, the only one I can think of is the invention of turbo codes.  Error correcting coding had barely gone anywhere in 20 years, and then someone published a paper (and patented) a means of producing nearly theoretically "perfect*" error correcting codes.  A few years later, somebody dug up a long-existing competing algorithm "LDPC" which even its creator didn't bother to put in "The Book" of error correcting codes as it was a theoretical exersize to produce  near perfect codes, but considered it required far too many cycles to take seriously.  Several decades later (long enough to prove patent unencumberance no matter whose patents you had) it no longer took "too many cycles".

* "perfect" here means that with enough calculation and enough source bits you can produce a theoretically minimum number of redundant (typically called parity) bits that will perfectly correct the original.  Obviously, it should be possible to create an algorithm that uses far less operations and thus be "more perfect", but communications companies are far more interested in what goes through those expensive frequencies they bought/leased than what is needed in the base stations.

Edited by wumpus
left out the whole reason we can use LDPC now.
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On 12/12/2020 at 6:51 PM, YNM said:

He had hoped that the free lunch actually existed, though.

He had many hopes and wacky ideas, more near the end of his life when he went crazy. That shouldn't avert us from what he truly was - a brilliant electrical engineer (not scientist!).

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15 hours ago, lajoswinkler said:

He had many hopes and wacky ideas, more near the end of his life when he went crazy. That shouldn't avert us from what he truly was - a brilliant electrical engineer (not scientist!).

 

The difference between a scientist and an engineer is that an engineer has every intent to actually build something.

The scientist? Not always. Science is by it's very nature a quest for more knowledge about the universe. Building new stuff is secondary to that...even though it is often the intent behind the science in the first place. Knowledge is and always will be power. Being all knowing would make anyone a god more or less...but we are'nt..thus science.

Scifi tends to blur the line between brilliant engineer and mad scientist a lot.

 

Edited by Spacescifi
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  • 1 month later...

I think personally he's more misunderstood than anything else, mostly because he's always seen as a foil to Edison.

We should always view historical figures as products of their times, and i don't think Tesla is an exception. Without A/C transmission of power we would've wasted hilarious amounts of energy to losses over the line, and his work on motors and generators is definitely notable. But his ideas about wireless transmission were questionable at best, and even today the idea is rather silly.

Wireless is one of the absolute worst ways to transmit power, and the losses don't just stop at rectification from the mains. You lose an additional chunk to the induction used to actually get the energy into a flow of electrons that can charge a battery/complete a circuit. And that energy is lost as heat, so if you want to take more time to charge any device while also reducing the lifespan of the battery significantly. Wireless Charging is the closest to an ideal method as possible!

But, Tesla didn't understand that. Or not as well, and likely if he had built a scaled-down version of his proposal and tested it...he would've realized that himself.

Death Rays are actually far more possible in my opinion, you already need high energy and have accepted the fact that you're losing most of it. But who cares? It's a ******* death ray.

You can use a bit of the hilariously large amounts of energy to ionize the atmosphere in the path of the target a few milliseconds before discharging the primary pulse, whatever is at the end will complete the circuit from there and likely have a very bad day. Also his "Death Ray" if i remember correctly would've been intended to target Zeppelin and Aircraft, modern Laser CIWS don't actually attempt to completely destroy the craft.....because why would you? That craft has a massive store of potential energy just waiting for enough energy input to make it go kinetic (Gasoline, jet fuel, Hydrogen...etc.) So instead they focus on heating small parts to melt, ignition temps.

Tesla, likely would've done the same after a couple field trials assuming it ever got built. This further reduces the (Still hilarious, but now slightly less comical) amount of energy needed.

Flight without wings by riding Electromagnets.....

I think i had a discussion about this somewhere, and basically it's somewhat possible. But by the time you get the needed strength of the field you're either going to be causing your magnets to fly apart, attracting any ferrous materials towards you at lethal velocities and more.

Which made me sad, because for once i was the one with the fanciful idea D:

To summarize; Tesla is what happens when you have revisionist history overcorrect for perceived errors. Before people thought he was underrated, and now people not only think he's overrated but we've obscured some of his most interesting accomplishments in the process.

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