The image comes from a recent presentantion by Alanson Sample, Intel Research, featuring 60 Watts transmitted without wires over a distance of around two-feet at 75% efficiency. Among the applications envisioned four years from now are laptops drawing energy inconspicuously from charging stations around the house and even the possibility of abolishing batteries in favor of supercapacitors, almost weightless and capable of instant recharging.
Drowned among chargers, wires and exploding batteries, this all sounds like a dream of the future, doesn’t it?
Now, look again at the spirals from Intel’s recent work and then at this photo of a peculiar guy who more than a century ago claimed he would create a wireless world:
Some resemblance? This is not a casual coincidence, as this man did in fact invent resonant circuits which are the fundamental basis of the contemporary research.
His name was, of course, Nikola Tesla, the genius who single-handedly envisioned the fundamentals of a complete system of electrical energy generation and transmission used to this day. With wires.
After winning a war with Thomas Edison based solely on the clear superiority of this electrical system, Tesla soon announced he would go on to even greater things. Without wires, of course. Watch his video from Intel’s research:
It’s almost identical to demonstrations done by Tesla a century ago:
Tragically, the life of the man of the revolutionary ideas was a real drama. His Colorado Springs laboratory burned down. He gave away his patent rights over electricity generation and transmission to save his partner Westinghouse, only to soon afterwards see himself bankrupt and with nobody to save him. His Wardenclyffe laboratory, where he would develop the “World System” of wireless energy transmission, was never completed and was then dismantled.
Needless to say, he never completed his vision of a wireless world, and all the while some of his ideas were shaping the world, he spent the last decades (not years) of his life as a penniless man without a real laboratory to work. If that wasn’t enough, he was depicted as the stereotypical mad scientist, being even a villain against Superman in 1941.
Tesla was not always right, much to the contrary, he condemned Einstein’s ideas, for instance, and his tragic end had much to do with his utter naiveté on social relations. Even his image as a mad scientist was in part due to his own propensity to make exaggerated claims.
We will never know if he did in fact invent a practical means of worldwide wireless energy transmission. Much as it would be a nice story to think that he did, he very probably didn’t. On the other hand, it’s just as much probable that if he had had the chance, he would have got closer to it. Such a genius sure deserved better.
And even without inventing such a golden world wireless energy system, it’s a historical fact the wired energy system was his. It’s also well-established in his remaining papers and patents that he also pioneered if not invented the radio, radioastronomy, radar, robots, logical gates and even one world network of electronic information exchange. That idea sounds familiar.
Intel’s latest research draws upon an also recent work from folks at MIT, and both of them made sure to mention Nikola Tesla as more than a pioneer in the field, a century ago.
Interested on more on Tesla’s life? PBS has a nice website on the Life and Legacy of the Master of Lightning.
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