So I walk into a bar in Belgrade, Serbia. Turns out to be a private party, lot's of drinking and merry-ment but my girl and I felt a bit out of place. Just before we turned for the door a man pulled me by the shoulder to the bar and started asking what we were doing there, real intimidating-like.
He said we could have drinks on him but I felt a little like we didn't want to be indebted to this guy. On the other hand I felt I had no choice.
He had asked me what I'd studied and I mentioned physics. He got the bar-tenders attention, got me a drink, and asked me "so... you say you know something about physics... tell me: 'what nationality was Nikola Tesla?'"
I responded "Croatian" of course. Suddenly the faces of the man, the bartender, and (so it seemed) the rest of the bar too went very gloomy, eyes piercing into me like shots of raiki (the liquor they drink).
I learned that night that the Serbs claim Tesla was a Serbian who lived in Croatia. The Croatians and Serbs (who hate each other very much) both claim him as their national heros.
- if you're in Serbia, Tesla was a Serbian (and a god)
- if you're in Croatia, Tesla was a Croatian (and a god)
- if you're anywhere else, well I guess now I know he wasn't god
2) In Serbia you don't have to feel indebted when someone offers you a drink. I believe this is true for many "old-school" cultures. I realize it might seem intimidating or aggressive but don't fear. Just have a drink ;)
3) Nikola Tesla was Serbian. And yes he was born in Croatia (there are lots of us)... but I have a feeling your host would've been more offended had you replied "Who?". Either way you made it out of there in one piece didn't you?
The confusion came about for two reasons. 1. that Krajina became part of Croatia (that part of Yugoslavia) and 2. the old unifying Yugoslav government claimed Tesla as one of their own, and they did what they could to rid of ethnic divides so referred to everybody as 'Yugoslav' (or 'Yugoslav from Croatia' etc.).
This gets even uglier with the recent war where nationalists from all sides attempted to claim historic figures and celebrities as their own in an effort of ethnic superiority propaganda. (The funniest example of this was the President of Croatia leading an archeological dig in a part of Croatia where he discovered that the Croatian nation pre-dated the Roman empire - it got really messy). This really muddied the waters.
Most people in the region are pretty chilled out now, though - as a Serbian I have no problem with Croatians referring to Tesla as 'one of us', just as I often refer to Croatian football players as 'one of mine' (being from the Balkans). There is a lot more that unites us as a people than divides us.
Don't be so sure.
During the recent war they burned his memorial house and destroyed the monument in front of it. They also demolished his monument in the nearby town of Gospic at the beginning of the recent war and it appears they don't want it back: http://bit.ly/JnSQkg
In Croatian schools, they always say Tesla was Serbian and born in Croatian territory. Both Croatians and Serbs are proud of him, I guess.
As for mutual hatred, many people lost their families in the war, and obviously many Serbs were part of the aggression, so the relationship is no wonder.
Anyway, the article is great! Just what I needed.
The hatred dates well before the 1990ies. See this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasenovac_concentration_camp. The more you know, the less you want to know.
EDIT: OK correction, Wikipedia says it's also spelt rakia .. although I've never seen it written that way.
Of course, since he was born into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and studied in Graz, we might as well let the Austrians take credit, as the Austrians really need it (what's Austria's greatest accomplishment? convincing the world that Mozart is Austrian, and Hitler is German!)
But really, he did his best work as an American, so USA! USA! USA! :)
Oskar Morgenstern: German
Ferdinand Porsche: German
Valier: never heard of this guy until I looked him up just now; a true Austrian - albeit born in Italy and worked in Germany. Damned shame he died so young.
Karl Popper: Jew
Ludwig Boltzmann: the second real Austrian on this list.
Christian Doppler: another real Austrian...
Ernst Mach: Volksdeutsche from what is now Czech Republic.
Wolfgang Pauli: Czech-Jew, and related to Mach.
Kurt Gödel: German AMERICAN, F YEAH!! :)
Gregor Mendel: Volksdeutsche, from Silesia (now part of Czech Republic)
So I see only 3 Austrian on this list!
P.S. the Brits/Finns/Ukrainians/Russians always make a good joke at Germans' expense, but Austria always gets a free pass... I'm trying to right that wrong! :)
If you are going to assert that Jews cannot be Austrian, you may as well go all the way and give Hitler credit for being Austrian.
Due to changing borders, I'm not attributing Austria-Hungary's borders, but people who held Austrian citizenship after the breakup or resided in Austria proper were Austrian, regardless of where they were born. I'm ignoring the notion that Jews can't Austrian.
"Nikola Tesla was born to Serbian parents in the village of Smiljan, Austrian Empire near the town of Gospić, in the territory of modern-day Croatia. His baptismal certificate reports that he was born on 28 June (N.S. 10 July) 1856 to father Milutin Tesla, a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church. His mother was Đuka Tesla, née Mandić, whose father was also a Serbian Orthodox priest."
It doesn't get any more Serbian.
The other several billion do not give a shit, even under the most promising of conditions, because they have real, actual, human problems in their modest, meager, live-a-day lives.
Are you fucking stupid, sir? Or are you simply ignorant? Do you not understand this is the very meta-issue that finds itself under debate? Are you incapable of abstract thought?
Two Caucasians (ethnicity) who are US citizens living in China gives birth to a baby in China, then the baby would be Caucasian (ethnicity), and American (nationality, by US law), but probably also Chinese (nationality, by Chinese law).
Maybe that example is not so great because the baby would have dual-citizenship, so consider a different example:
3rd generation Chinese immigrants in the US who are born in America, never left the US to visit China (same as their parents), it is their grand parents who migrated from China. These 3rd generation immigrations are Chinese (ethnicity) and US citizens (nationality), also called Chinese-Americans (format: [ethnicity]-[nationality]). These Chinese-Americans are not citizens of China, but they are ethnic Chinese.
Hope that clears up that one small point.
 Most countries have a 'if you're born here, you get our citizenship automatically' (I'm not sure about China specifically, just using it as an example).
 easy to mix up and confuse, but order matters here
That principle is called 'jus soli', and is far from universal. Only ~15% of all nations confer it. A few more grant it under restricted conditions. China is emphatically _not_ one of those countries.
The term Caucasian is highly confusing as it's a racist term invented by the same German who came up with Negroid and Mongloid, and is - as far as I know - only used in the United States. In fact, the Supreme Court in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923) decided that Indians were "Caucasian", but were not white.
Also, China is a bad example, as Chinese is not an ethnicity, it's a nationality as China is a multi-ethnic nation. The ethnicities being Han (what most people consider to be "ethnic Chinese", Hui, et al.
So presumably Tesla was a Croatian-Serb, or possibly a Serb-Croatian, and whether or not those two groups get along doesn't really affect that definition. I mean, I fully understand that it is a touchy subject, but I don't really think that it affects long dead physicists very much.
It's still American.
(At least to us Europeans) what matters is the culture of the parents/kid, not the nationality or the ethnicity itself.
A 3rd generation Irish-American is an American, not an Irish, and a 3rd generation Chinese-American is by all means an American too.
Really I suppose I got the wrong idea in my head because Italians are much more familiar with their naval neighbor Croatia than further-away Serbia :)
I enjoyed the tone of the comic, however, even if it was inaccurate or disputable or at times just plain wrong. For me, Edison is one of those figures, like Christopher Columbus, or George Washington, that you learn about every single year growing up, since kindergarten, and whose myth is so grand and ubiquitous that every teacher I had from elementary school up until junior year physics said the exact same thing about him. Tesla was just another of a dozen names in the textbook.
So in a way I understand the sentiment. You grow up being told that this is guy, Edison, is the most awesome inventor in the history of America. And because of that I always felt a certain distrust about his accomplishments (even if I'm wrong), because so much of what my teachers taught me growing up turned out to be wrong.
Yeah, but isn't what The Oatmeal did just as bad as what grade school teachers do? If we go from "Edison is the most awesome inventor in the history of America" to "Edison is the biggest asshat in the history of America," we've gained absolutely no honesty in our discourse. The Forbes article was nuanced and factually correct, which is what we should be striving for.
Edison, as a larger than life figure in the past 100 years seems to be untouchable. The Oatmeal comic was a rush because I was thinking "you can't say those things about Edison".
Of course, the real story is more complex than either hagiography.
Well, consider this. Let's suppose Tesla was actually the most awesome inventor, and Edison was second. Which do you want to show children? The one who was a genius, or the one who made no bones about the fact that hard work was the main ingredient to his success?
In other words, do we teach children that being smart is important, or do we teach them that hard work is important?
Just in case you don't read the book, there is a story where they first got the lightbulb to burn for a long time... I think it was 30-something hours. And they just stayed awake sitting there in amazement watching it burn until it burned out. I feel like that awe is so in the spirit of today's modern startups when we first launch or discover something. When they "launched" the new lightbulb they strung them up all over the yard of Edison's house, and people came driving up at night for the event and it was like magic. I would give anything to have seen that.
I think its really cool that he improved on other people's inventions, helping make things like the telegraph and typewriter into practical, affordable, useful tools that lots of people could buy. That might not be as grand as making brand new things, but it has a huge impact on human life. He also created the phonograph, the first idea of "records" (wax scrolls) and did a ton of work on early motion pictures. The list just goes on and on, learn about him, you'll be surprised to find that what they taught you in school was just surface-level and there is really so much more there.
This strikes me as pretty naive. Edison had the patents that effectively controlled the market for DC electricity. He would have been a Carnegie or a Rockefeller had DC been adopted. He had such an extreme conflict of interest that it's unreasonable to assume good faith.
In the beginning DC dominated because of technical reasons. Efficient AC motors and generators were just getting invented eand transformers weren't that good.
And for various reasons some applications still use DC motors - for example only in robotics, servomotors; but consider that in the last 20 years do things like air-conditioners and elevators start to use AC motors (because of the efficiency made possible with solid-state inverters).
In other words, the presence of an extreme conflict of interest causes me to take anything the person says with a large grain of salt, but does not, to me, cast doubt on a person's good faith.
More generally, as a matter of etiquette, it seems to me that (a heuristic that encourages people not to assume good faith in response to evidence that does not include any implication of unethical behavior) is unwise. For example, the evidence here is that, "he would have been a Carnegie or a Rockefeller had DC been adopted," which is not, in itself, unethical. Therefore one should not, on the basis of this evidence alone, assume good faith any less than one did prior to this evidence.
I read in one of his biographies that in the latter years he kept a lot of employees, against his son's wishes, who were basically doing nothing for sentimental reasons because they had been with him in the early days.
The Oatmeal always run with something already popular to the crowd that frequent reddit and the likes.
Unlimited wireless electricity, among other Tesla's inventions are still mind boggling 100 years later. He drove a car with an electric engine, powered wirelessly, over 100 years ago.*
What have we done since?
From a more day to day perspective:
- Marconi's patents for inventing radio were overturned in Tesla's prior invention of radio.
- Inventor of Lasers
- Remote Control
I think we've gotten over the light bulb. Still, the disposable lightbulb sells and sells, a testament to Edison's business mind.
Based on the number, and staggering impact of each of Tesla's inventions, I don't believe Edison could spell Tesla on his best day; especially where it camee to innovation and creating things that hadn't existed before, let alone imagined.
The main question about Edison vs Tesla is, why no one knows who Tesla is even though he was at least an equal to Edison, if not arguably more.
* There's some argument about this occurring but there are also media reports that exist.
Because the comic is spreading non-sense as it is clearly evidenced in the article?
I don't believe Edison could spell Tesla on his best day
This is exactly the attitude I believe the article is opposed to, that I personally find naive as well - mythologizing people and single contributions and making science/engineering look like a game of who is more awesome. This is a conception that some popular science writing installs in many people and that could easily be cured by tracking the long history of many things we consider simple, in which at least tens of people contributed ideas that made the final invention tick. The article sums it up very well:
First of all, I’d contend that nearly every invention in the engineering or sciences is an improvement on what has come before – such as Tesla’s improvements to alternating current. That’s what innovation is. It’s a social process that occurs in a social context.
Also, his aggressive filing of patents doesn't exactly endear me to him either. He held 1,093 patents at his death; did he really invent 1,093 things? He seems to have been an early player in the game of patenting every incremental improvement to everything, which as we see in software hinders rather than promotes "the progress of science and useful art."
This is a textbook case of argumentum ad hominem. You may not care for what he did but that doesn't change the fact that he did it.
What I'm saying is "he was a douche so I don't care if he invented anything."
Can you recommend any primary sources to learn more about this history (besides the patents themelves)? It sounds like you have read some?
On the bright side, not everyone took the Edison approach. Are you familiar with the history of Hans Bessemer and his approach to patents?
Tesla clearly invented things that did not exist before him, and also improved other things.
To me, those are on an order of magnitude different.
I don't mean to fuel a comparison either, but that's what's being discussed. Instead of simply giving an opinion, I listed why I believe Tesla has more of an impact on my life every day today than Edison.
It's cool if others feel different.
Reading the article, I would bet the comic under the second paragraph of "Tesla Wasn’t The First Person To Discover X-Rays" was what started the article. The comic is out-and-out false.
As to being a comic so why should he care. I would point the the Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Both are listed as comedies, but a lot of people report what they say as fact. The Oatmeal got a lot of play for the Game of Thrones comic so people use it as a source also.
To give a bit of political example. If I were to ask for a description of President Ford one of the first words to come to mind during the 70's would have been "clumsy" or "physically inept". This is the result of comedy sketches on SNL and not reality. Reality is he slipped on camera. He was probably one of the most physically gifted of the modern Presidents as he played center and linebacker in college. He was a star athlete.
Letting popular untruths sit, no matter the medium, tends to make them "common knowledge".
There's a big difference between editorial/opinion and journalistic pieces, sadly the comic can't be held to a standard, but neither can the writer to know the difference.
Blurring the line between editorial/opinion pieces and journalistic pieces starts to present or promote an opinion as fact.
This is also known as propaganda, and once that word was made dirty, called public relations.
Propoganda/Public Relations was created by Edward Bernays in the 20's for manufacturing ongoing demands for goods, known as consumerism. He was a nephew of Freud, and a fascinating read.
I don't think medium is the defining item for being held to a standard. Comics, as a form, have long been used for commentary. This particular artist did it prior to this with the Game of Thrones commentary that resulted in a lot of serious discussion.
I'm also not very concerned with something listed as editorial or opinion. If you make a statement of fact in error then corrections are needed. It looks like one whole wall of text panel was untrue.
PS: If you still think his idea of charging the ionosphere could work, watch this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXhZvyGtMrk But, you can see people walking around the field prevents the bulbs from lighting up. Just, ignore the audio on this as they don't know what their talking about.
Lighting flourescent bulbs with high frequency rf energy is nothing special, and really has nothing to do with serious discussion of tesla. In tesla on his work with ac this is what he refers to as "parlor tricks" along with the opposite spectrum of rf energy, the single extremely large capacitive discharge, which he could vaporize wires and sheets of tinfoil with.
Tesla on his work with ac was not available until the mid 90s, and the resurgence of interest in tesla in the 80s was not able to benefit from the information, thus much of the experimentation today hasn't taken into account what tesla actually said. These "parlor tricks" are what the wireless energy charger people are pushing today, and it's laughable. It's not at all what tesla was talking about.
Study electrical engineering then go back and study the man. It's a more interesting story, and just because he made some mistakes does not mean you need to make the same ones.
If you read "tesla on his work with ac" you will see his transmitters could be tuned to close to 100% efficiency, minus heat and spark losses from the power plant at the transmitter. This has been replicated using single ground wires instead of the earth at a small scale and at higher frequencies recently in various open source hardware forums on the Internet. Note these smaller devices use higher frequencies which generate much more rf radiation than tesla suggests, thus not being able to achieve the efficiencies tesla was talking about -- tesla was working with a 50 foot diameter by 10 foot tall primary and secondary, plus an extra coil about 8 feet tall and wide and frequencies around 50khz, pretty much unused today.
The secondary and extra coil in the tesla arrangement take the place of straight antennas that are in use for normal communications today. The transmission is effected through the ground, not through the air. If the device is emitting radio waves, then it is not a tesla magnifying transmitter. Most tesla coils built today are hopelessly out of tune... They have far too many turns and are far too tall in comparison to diameter. Each additional turn adds capacitance, and the narrow diameters used make for a small inductance. The capacitances are far too high and inductances too low in these arrangements, and thus they need extremely inefficient drivers.
"Colorado Springs Notes" is of course the definitive resource for this material, although "tesla on his work with ac" exposes the concepts in easier to understand language. The exact schematics and dimensions are given for the Colorado springs experiment. Scaling it down is not trivial, but in the late 80s golka built an exact replica and performed successful experiments.
I don't think OP was "attacking" the author. Seemed like a reasonable critique.
Other commenters talk about Edison is idolized throughout education and glossing over his imperfections.
The Oatmeal is providing an alternate viewpoint that takes some things to the extreme - but proves a point - Tesla was overlooked both in his time and in the education system.
Also, why you might not have found it at funny as his "reasons your cat is plotting to kill you" comic, if you could honestly read the comic and not laugh a couple times at least I'd be surprised.
And really the part about Edison electrocuting animals is horrifying enough on its on merits, but to aggravate that by including that he paid little kids to steal pets so he could do it? What about the part where Oatmeal basically said Edison purposely experimented on humans with radiation and killed his assistant and amputated his arms? I am sure Edison was no saint but the author makes him out to be a monster which I think is irresponsible of the author of The Oatmeal to claim without never bothering to research. It seems as though the author just met someone who was a fervent Tesla supporter and took him at his word.
The Bengali polymath J. C. Bose demonstrated the practical uses of radiowaves - but he didn't patent it.
"An article appearing in the New York Daily News, April 2, 1934 titled "Tesla's Wireless Power Dream Nears Reality" mentions the planned "test run of a motor car [for a distance of 30 or 40 miles] over a stretch of [Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe] railway track [running from Boise City, Oklahoma] to Farley, N. M." using wireless transmission of electrical energy to power the vehicle. The equipment was assembled by "two Californians" and is described as "including a high-powered radio transmitter with big coils and and short antenna."
1)Mocking existing/others' technologies/inventions just to claim theirs is better, even while its not. 2)Marketing skills 3)Focused on sales.
Sorry for upsetting you, fanboys ;)
Tesla/Jobs are driven by a desire to change the world. Edison/Gates by the desire to own the world. You can see the difference in all the decisions Apple made in its history, often making choices of design purity over market dominance. It ultimately dominated by sticking to its design principles, showing that sometimes the long-view wins.
I think Tesla would have thrived if he could have gone to Jobs instead of Edison for support.
Nokia/Samsung/etc still lead the sales in Asian countries, for instance.
Third, I 'personally' think its a good thing that Tesla didn't meet Steve J. Well, look at what XEROX is now. That is all I can say.
Apple's influence is very noticeable in other developed countries too. Tablets and app phones (except for Windows Phone) are all heavily inspired by iOS devices. On the desktop it's similar, but not as visually obvious. Unit sales are not the way to measure this.
Of course, that still only covers the developed world.
The hive minds opinions (reddit cough) regarding Edison/Tesla always reminded me a bit on the absurd "Moon landing history theme ride" in Futurama or the UN-Dinosaur-War-against-Nazis in "Idiocracy".
I wonder if he'll write an article next about how working from home doesn't actually destroy our abilities of communication and continence.
I don't know enough about it to have a position on who's more correct, but the fact that it's a webcomic, and therefor somehow "unserious," doesn't imply that the author doesn't believe what he's saying. If the point is being missed, if it's not that Tesla is an overlooked genius who deserved, and deserves, more admiration, what is the point, exactly?
Tesla is the perfect subject for a comic whose point is pageviews through resonance and pandering. There has always been a mythos about Tesla the Geek Underdog in geek circles. Many act like it's a badge of honor to know more about Tesla or to revere him or contrast him with Edison. I've even seen t-shirts like this comic. The subject matter and the treatment of it fit perfectly with my idea of what The Oatmeal has always been about.
I guess that the author was simply refuting the comic as the latest manifestation of an annoying trend.
Perhaps he really could do some of the amazing thing he claimed but talking to aliens and pigeons that had laser eyes? I dunno maybe he was a wee bit unstable.
A really interesting book about Edison and Tesla is "Empires of Light" by Jill Jones.
Duncan Trussell clearly disagrees with the OP. In other words, the OP is anti-oatmeal and anti-booze. What is wrong with him?
That's funny. I didn't know Pierre had any long-term, serious problems with radiation. I thought he got run over before the symptoms started showing up.
Some math geeok have enjoyed calling Évariste Galois a "hero of the revolution", bringing mathematics to the people. It's a nice myth but like the myth of Tesla, probably not quite the full story.
Tesla claimed he could redesign Edison's inefficient motor and generators, making an improvement in both service and economy. According to Tesla, Edison remarked "There's fifty thousand dollars in it for you - if you can do it". This has been noted as an odd statement from an Edison whose company was stingy with pay and did not have that sort of cash on hand. After months of work when Tesla finished the task and inquired about payment Edison claimed he was only joking replying, "Tesla, you don't understand our American humor". Edison offered a $10 a week raise over Tesla's US$18 per week salary, but Tesla refused it and immediately resigned.
So, yeah he does sound like a CEO
This is not much different than Steve Jobs vs. Dennis Ritchie.
In fact there is no Steve Jobs vs Dennis Ritchie.Tesla vs Edison however was very real.
Beginnings of which have already been pointed out by that Facebook picture that went viral, the one that tries to contrast their contributions and their fame.
The viral facebook picture you cite is comparable to one saying that Ritchie was just stealing the innovations of Turing. Or that Ritchie was just a thief of the game changing ideas of John Backus.
At least Tesla and Edison were working in the same space at the same time frame on similar problems.
2. Think of the comparison as Engineer vs. Designer/Inventor(because this IS the legacy of Steve Jobs when looked at as a role model).
3. If you're REALLY hard pressed for details then...iOS is a descendent of Unix. Everything Apple runs on C.
I can appreciate why it could be difficult to abstract the two men to the level at which I make the comparison. But you must ask yourself why did someone, Forbes in this case, have to make the effort to set straight the details of Tesla vs. Edison when they are general knowledge to begin with. Why did that misleading poster promoting Tesla go viral? Its because details rarely matter. What matters is what Tesla and Edison represent - Edison is seen as rich and powerful while Tesla is the viewed as lost soul whose sole vice was science.
Tesla died alone and still in-debt. This fuels our current perception of a true scientist/engineer/maker, unadulterated by desire except for truth that is science. He is an inspiration.
Edison's practicality and willingness to use business (as a tool) to promote his work is not viewed kindly by posterity. Edison was also a great inventor but falls short, at least in our eyes, when contrasted against Tesla. Where did his practicality to invent of people rather than science come from? His first patent, an electronic voting machine, did not sell (because, I THINK, they could not fudge the numbers with it). So he resolved to only work on things that people want.
And thats really all there is to it.
It really boils down to one question: why didn't Dennis Ritchie achieve greater fame and money than earned by Steve Jobs? "Thats the way the world works" or any variant thereof is not an acceptable answer.
Tesla became aware of the position he had placed himself in and his work became focused on leaving his research to us, the future. I hope we listen because he knew what he was doing.
I've also heard that Morgan realized all the copper mines and refineries he had stakes in would lose value.
I'm sure there are others reasons floating around out there too, they're a dime a dozen. Frankly I doubt Morgan ever explained his real reasoning to any journalists or authors, and these stories got narrated in somewhere along the way.
The proof is in the pudding, imo. Morgan also backed Edison's company (Edison General Electric, which later became General Electric). Morgan, via Edison, was going for ownership of the new electrical grid that was growing in the US 100+ years ago.
There's no way Morgan would ever allow Tesla's work with wireless to gain any traction in his lifetime.
Good for him: It's physically impossible.
The WiTricity project you may hear of does things based on a completely different technical footing, which is more efficient but less broadly useful. For example, with the WiTricity technology, power receivers can't be any more than a quarter-wavelength from the transmitter, which means that they can't be any further away than a few meters. Definitely not what Tesla had in mind.
I know enough physics to know that. Tesla's diaries are irrelevant.
And our discussion is about Tesla's broadcast power ideas. Bringing in a completely different concept is dishonest.
I'm refraining from further conversation. Good evening.
Judge a man by his work, not by his rhetoric