Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Tesla Effect

Portrait of a Moron
When you meet someone for the first time, how do you know if they actually possess a rigorous grounding in the "hard" sciences and engineering disciplines, or if they are only pretending to have one?

They may wear glasses and know words like "entanglement" and "wave function collapse" and "nonlinear phonon scattering," but do they actually know what the flip they are talking about?

Here is a simple test that works 99% of the time.  Ask them what they think of Nikola Tesla.  If they say something like, "He was a misunderstood genius that science is still struggling to catch up with," then that person is a moron.

The Tesla Effect

Chances are that such a person will also think that perpetual motion is possible and is being actively suppressed by the government, that aliens are currently snooping around our planet and the government is suppressing this information, and that oil is generated through geological processes unconnected to paleo-biology and the government is, well, you get the idea.  They march in step in the ranks of the Cult of the Willfully Ignorant. They are often also much enamored with Creationist beliefs of the most absurd and demonstrably false sort.

Therefore you would be pretty safe, once someone expresses any kind of admiration for Tesla, in ignoring anything else they may happen to say.

The truth is that Tesla's understanding of physics in general and electromagnetism in particular was a hundred years behind the science of his day.  He had no real idea why some of his "inventions" accidentally worked and why most of the rest of them did not.  Most of his so-called "accomplishments" are merely urban myth, hyperbole, and straight-up fantasy.

The more a person's understanding of things comes from empirical science and mathematics, the less interest one has in lame things that are well behind the curve and superseded by fact.

Tesla was an accidental inventor at best, a self-deluded kook at worst.  Get used to it.

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