Nikola Tesla Day

Tesla at Colorado Springs, 1900
Tesla at Colorado Springs

Nikola Tesla was born on this day, 158 years ago. Depending on who you ask, he was either a crazy eccentric who fed pigeons, or a brilliant engineer who changed the world. If he were to be judged by his works, there would be little debate.

Do you use electricity from a power grid to light your home? Did you listen to the radio today? Have you used an electric motor, or ever had an X-ray? All of these things can be attributed to Tesla.

Tesla made it clear, in his writings and lectures, that his motivation for discovery was to improve the quality of life for humanity. Tesla was a pacifist, and although much is made of his plans for a so-called “death ray”, he never used that term and in fact had designed a particle beam device solely for the defense of nations. The same technology was intended to power electric airships for convenient, safe transportation.

It was a tradition, while Tesla was alive, to honor his birthday with a lavish party to which prominent members of the press were invited. The tradition continues, as evidenced by several articles that appeared on the Internet today. People are still fascinated by Tesla, although men of science generally scoff at his claim that nature could supply limitless amounts of free energy. Of course, those are the same people who make a big deal about Newton’s apple that fell from a tree, but never ask how it got up there in the first place. They like to quote the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that all systems tend to dis-associate and decay. But they will spend two or three hours on a Saturday, cutting back the lawn that self-assembles in their yard.

In 2013, Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal series of Web comics, led a successful crowd-funding campaign to acquire Tesla’s old laboratory, where the famous Wardenclyffe Tower once stood. And today, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, contributed $1 million dollars to help build a museum there. It’s a good day.

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