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Let's build a Tesla museum (The Oatmeal initiative) (indiegogo.com)
326 points by SanderMak on Aug 15, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments

I'm especially confused as I've lived my whole life in Colorado Springs, and already visited a Tesla museum here several times. After looking up their website (http://teslamuseum.us/), it seems like they are in dire financial straights, and not really functioning anymore, but it might be worth considering the Springs as a site, since Tesla did so much work here.

Also, (shameless plug alert), I'm currently working on a TV show based on Tesla (http://theteslaarchive.com), so if you're into Tesla, it might be worth looking into chipping in a few bucks to that project too.

From the Indiegogo page:

All the funds raised from this campaign are going directly to a non-profit group. Details about the non-profit behind this project can be found on their website: Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe

He's not building a new museum; he's raising funds so the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe[1] can buy Tesla's final laboratory and turn it into a museum.

[1] http://www.teslasciencecenter.org/about/

"up until recently he's been an unsung hero in history books"

Tesla must be the most sung unsung hero in history. I hear more about him than Edison nowadays, by quite a bit.

I think part of that is the narrative that his wilder inventions were "suppressed". Things like wireless power transmission, which as designed by Tesla, (1) is ridiculously inefficient and (2) would cause significant collateral damage. The narrative of the competing current systems (AC versus DC) was inflated into some kind of larger ideological conflict between Edison and Tesla themselves, and we like to root for the underdog (even though Tesla won that debate). I suspect that the biggest part of his modern popularity is just due to retro aesthetics you see in video games like BioShock and Fallout, or appearances in media such as The Prestige.

He deserves museums, but not hero worhsip.

When you combine David Bowie with anything it adopts a certain cachet that cuts across many different groups. Tesla's some kind of hacker hipster, the patron saint of sorts of many in this generation.

Some of his theories fit your description but his overall theories on wireless technologies (not just wireless power transmission) are legitimate.

I'm not sure who "deserves" hero worship but if anyone did, Tesla does.

> but not hero worhsip

Does anyone?

Giving Tesla credit as a brilliant and prolific inventor -- and in particular, giving him credit for electricity and related electrical technology -- is a new meme.

Twenty years ago it was all about Edison in science textbooks and in popular science. Tesla was a footnote.

I never heard of Tesla growing up, which is either a sign that my school gave a poor education or a sign that we've recently gone back and looked at this part of our history again. (Or a sign that I was a lazy kid who slept in science class.)

I swear anymore he is more sung than many prototypical sung heros.

I mean, I've hardly heard anything about Martin Luther King Jr. in the last year, but I've probably seen something on Tesla (The Oppressed Forgotten Genius) every week.

Maybe it is because you frequent tech forums and sites over sites covering human right and humanitarian issues. MLK has a museum, national historic site and a national holiday, and many many roads. Well deservedly.

Nowadays. I was almost completely unaware of him in science and history education. Tesla coil was all he got credit for, if that. Maybe history/science books have changed since the 90s.

I think he gets a lot of "street cred" and hoopla among hackers and techies and the like, but you'll never learn about him in elementary school. Every single second grader in the country knows who Edison is. The rest of America has no idea who Tesla is.

I did.

yeh, they even named a car company after him.

Yeah, I clearly remember being taught about him in science class, certainly more than they taught us about Edison.

I just mentioned this article to a workmate and he didn't even know who Tesla was =(

Hence the "up until recently".

I have to wonder how much of this is about Tesla (who was obviously a staggering genius and unjustly forgotten in the US and much of the rest of the world), and how much of it is about The Oatmeal's publicity.

I guess good can come of anything though.

edit: Having read more closely, the IndieGoGo project is to raise funds directly for an existing organisation, which is a great use of media profile. I think I'm all out of reservations on this.

Why can't it be both? What's wrong with using his Internet Fame for something like this?

That's kind of what I'm getting at with the line "I guess good can come of anything", but I suppose I'm instinctively wary of 'good causes' with a media spearhead.

e: I just read more closely - The Oatmeal is apparently raising funds for an existing organisation, and the IndieGoGo funds go directly to them. In this case I fold, this is definitely a good use of his fame.

Also, @Oatmeal is famously nuts about Tesla. His interest is neither casual nor recent.


Well, this is just to purchase the property. Actually turning it into a museum would require an even inordinately greater amount of money that has yet to even be addressed.

This idea is half-baked at best, and I'm a bit astounded $380k has already been put up for it.

>Even if we raise the full amount and end up with $1.7 million, this isn't enough to build an actual museum / science center. But it will effectively put the property into the right hands so it can eventually be renovated into something fitting for one of the greatest inventors of our time.

It's not exactly comforting to know that my donation is to some hackneyed attempt at "keeping the building in the right hands". What about maintenance? Taxes? Revitalization? Who's going to run this effort? Who's going to reach out for donations of materials and resources? Run fundraisers? Curate exhibits?

So, why does this need to be built on a piece of dirt that costs $1.7M?

Trust me, I love Tesla, and would certainly like to see a museum dedicated to his genius and achievements, but this seems like a waste of money, thrown on whoever the fuck happens to currently hold the deed to that piece of land. Why not build it wherever, where $1.7M might actually... well, finance a museum, and not just dirt?

Somehow, I can't drop the feeling that this whole thing is somehow started by the current landowner, but I know I sound like a tinfoil hat saying that.

There is a lot of history related to Tesla and Wardenclyffe (the place they are trying to buy). After reading the history of Tesla, I believe that it is a historical site worth immortalizing and memorializing.

The wikipedia article on Wardenclyffe has some info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wardenclyffe_Tower

His lab is still there. It's not just dirt.

No it isn't. The building was razed in 1917. All that's left is the foundation.

I read it as the tower itself being demolished in 1917, but the laboratory building, which surrounded the base of the tower, and the foundations of the actual tower, being still intact.


Edit. Found a link to a report of the current state of the site: http://www.teslasciencecenter.org/2011/05/visit-to-wardencly...

> The folks behind this project are a 501(c) non-profit organization and they've spent the past 15 years trying to find a way to save this property. This IndieGoGo account is linked directly to their bank and all the funds will go directly to them.

Does anyone know if this means our donations are tax deductible?

So long as they do not accept pledges by credit card, only PayPal, and their PayPal account is registered as a 501(c)3. (It looks like this campaign accepts credit cards, which would imply the answer is no.)


According to U.S. tax laws, contributions must go directly to a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in order for the contributor to be eligible for tax benefits. Indiegogo offers PayPal as a payment method to ensure that your contribution will go directly to the organization. If you are contributing to an project that offers tax deductions and you are given the option to pay by credit card, please be advised that your contribution will NOT qualify as tax deductible! Please do the campaign and yourself a big favor and notify Indiegogo's Customer Happiness team at support@indigogo.com. We will then make sure that the campaign is set up properly to offer tax deductions.

So... did you notify indigogo?

I'm not contributing, and I wouldn't care about the deduction if I were... You're welcome to, though :)

Do they really list their email as @indigogo.com when the website is indiegogo?

Hah, I missed that both times. That is in fact what they have on that page. I assume it's a typo.

Tesla vs. Edison, the age old fight of the Manager vs. the Engineer.

As much as Edison seems to be vilified by The Oatmeal, I can't help but think that many of the things Edison did were in the context of the times pretty commonplace. That said, Tesla really is an unsung genius.

Pretty sure electrocuting animals to death was not commomplace, I agree with everything else. :P

Telsa: Hey guys all this stuff I've been talking about, I figured out a way to get it all for free! Guys?... Hellooooo? Son of a...

I suspect that's because electrocution was rare at the time, more so than animal cruelty being rare.

I just finished reading "In the Plex", about Google, where the author pretty frequently refers to Sergey and Larry consciously making decisions early on not to get "Tesla'd". Seems that Tesla's legacy of being an unsung genius (presumably for not taking commercial credit for your efforts) had some lasting impact after all.

Awesome, awesome idea. I find it sad that if you want to visit a Tesla museum you'd have to book a ticket to Serbia, even though the majority of his work was done here in the U.S., and he spent the majority of his life here.

"Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla" was a fascinating read.

Actually, the Tesla museum in Belgrade, Serbia, is quite good. Here, Tesla is a kind of national hero, or at least a God of science. I even remember a child song about Tesla inventing electricity back from the early school days, so he's not quite unsung.

Have to second this. Really enjoyed my visit to the Tesla Museum in Belgrade (and the rest of the former Yugoslavia in general-- jewel of Europe.)

I wish I could "third" this. I should have clarified that the only thing I find sad about the Tesla Museum being in Belgrade, is that I don't have the time or money to go and visit it.

If I remember correctly, those behind the museum had to work quite hard to get some of Tesla's paperwork back from the U.S. government after Tesla passed away. I have the feeling it was stuff that would have never seen the light of day again if it wasn't for their efforts.

Is the museum (descriptions, films, etc.) presented in English, or in Serbian only? I have to ask because I often find museums to be presented in the native language. In Berlin, for example, which has a bunch of great museums (such as the Pergamon museum), almost everything is in German.

Most of the exhibits are multi-lingual. Also, the museum is frequented (perhaps partially staffed?) by university students studying engineering and physics, who have excellent English skills and are very friendly.

Visited Tesla's museum in Belgrade week ago. There was a tour of half an hour in English and then they showed a documentary about his life and work. There are several devices being demonstrated.

Entrance is around 2.5EUR equivalent to $3.

It's definitely a great museum, I went during a quiet time and didn't get to see the gadgets do their thing. They even put Tesla on the money, I still got a couple Tesla-100's left.

I guess if there's a children's song about a guy, you pretty much have to admit that he's not an unsung hero...

There's a Tesla museum in Colorado Springs, CO.

I don't want to see this fail by any means, but to me it seems like a slightly immature response to a [very public disagreement][1] The Oatmeal had with a Forbes journalist, which involved a [very unusual retort][2].

[1]: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/05/18/nikola-tesl...

[2]: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/tesla_response

The comic introducing this initiative: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/tesla_museum

The comic is amusing but it's narrative doesn't match history on some points:


Also there's a Tesla museum in Serbia. But I like the idea of turning his NY lab into a museum.

I have read quite a few biographies on Tesla. Unless every single one of them are wrong (they all had citations), the inaccuracies of that Forbes article are not even funny. Do they always post articles that haven't been fact-checked?

Edit: Just saw The Oatmeal's response. Good for him, but I doubt many of the people that read the Forbes article are also going to read the rebuttal.

It's weird that the forbes article(and that the guy from the oatmeal agrees) thinks that radar would be useless for tracking u-boats in the 1st world war. They couldn't stay underwater for very long at all(because they had to operate on batteries as there was no way to vent diesel exhaust), radar should have been able to see the uboat before it went underwater to attack, and then saw that it had disapeared.

FYI, tracking items on water with a land (or sea) based radar is very difficult due to atmospheric effects (mainly ducting) and can cause unacceptable levels of false detections. Combine this with the lack of computer processing at the time means that you have a human operator trying to determine from a scope which targets to attack. I think that this makes detecting and tracking u-boats with early radar very unlikely. If you ever make it to Pearl Harbor on Oahu you can see some examples of the radar scope technology from the Pearl Harbor attacks, it was not very easy to use.

fyi alex knapp is full of shit: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/tesla_response

Man, I'm not trying to take a side here -- history is pretty complicated -- but that writing style is seriously aggravating. In general, if you ever find yourself in the position of saying, "I'm a comedian, you shouldn't take what I say seriously," you should probably take a step back and ask yourself if you ought really to be participating in long-form debate.

That is exactly the problem I have with the oatmeal. A lot of people BELIEVE what he says, no matter what, especially, when he knowingly spreads false information for the sake of comedy. The people who read his site don't know any better.

Personally, I think the oatmeal is a bully, and find him to be too arrogant. I will admit some of his comics are good though.

It's funny how Inman criticizes Edison for not actually inventing the light bulb, just making it practical. However, if you make the same observation about Tesla and AC, then you better keep an eye out for the bear-love posse.

that oatmeal guy sure does love attention

I'm trying to fathom this level of disregard for marketing savvy coming from a guy who works for Apple, and I just can't do it.

You, sir, have blown my mind.

Or maybe he is fascinated by Tesla's life and is willing to use his own publicity powers to help a related cause? But no, that doesn't make any sense.

He loved attention yesterday too. He's a viral marketing guy and this is what he does.

If I get a few good laughs a month out of giving the guy some attention, I'm okay with that.

I'm curious, in what way is a famous person (made famous by their own creative works) using their existing fame to raise money for a good cause an "attention getting scheme"? Seems pretty common place.

For one, the "more information" link is just a link to his blog, not even a specific post.

Thank goodness for that!

I can't help but hate the guy. I just can't help myself there.

Less known details about Edison:

- The biggest animal for which Edison organized electrocution was an elephant(!):


- Edison paid for the development of the electric chair (for death penalty) -- his propaganda against alternative currents:


It's funny to see all that sudden surge in Tesla fanboy activity.

I live about 200km from Tesla's birthplace, I went to two schools bearing his name, and about a block from my place is a technical museum which carries a regular daily show of his experiments in practice.

And I especially like the irony that about 20km from where I live there is this being built: http://www.rimac-automobili.com/ (tl;dr: Tesla Roadster eats dust). ;-)

Cool idea, but does it make sense to put a museum 70 miles outside NYC on the far end of Long Island? How are people going to get to this museum? It's not near anything.

I agree, let's move the building to Central Park! Will you start the Kickstarter campaign or shall I?

PS: Long Island is the most populated island in the US, it has 7.6 million inhabitants. Also, Brookhaven is in the middle of the island (close to Fire Island), not the far end. The Hamptons are way farther out, and yet plenty of people manage to find their way there.

When you exclude Brooklyn and Queens, which are ~70 miles away from this site, Long Island has only (7568304 - 2532645 - 2247848) = 2.8 million residents. And that 70 mile distance will be far enough out of the way to exclude most out-of-area tourists who are visiting NYC.

The site significance is cool, no doubt, but I question how many people will ever trek out to visit this.

Eh, 70 miles is still daily commuter distance; there are thousands and thousands of people who commute daily from 70+ miles away in Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Upstate to Manhattan.

A good science/history museum there would still be in range of the informed tourist (ie, those likely to spend a day at a Tesla museum) and more importantly of elementary school field trips. Personally I would pair it with the Teddy Roosevelt museum on Long Island and do a Turn-of-the-Century Internet Celebrity Day Trip.

2.8 million, that's hardly anything. Only two third of the population of the whole of New Zealand.

Long island is part of the largest metropolitan region on earth. You don't need to worry about "how many people will ever trek out to visit this".

Brookhaven is relatively close to Bellport LIRR (3 min drive). I could see them buying a van and hiring a driver to travel back and forth between the location and the station.

In any case, Dia: Beacon is one of the most famous galleries in the world, and it's 90 miles away from New York City. Lots of people commute from the city in the summer to check it out.

I am so glad I went to Dia:Beacon when I visited NYC. It was awesome, absolutely beautiful and literally a breath of fresh air. And I mean literally, I almost forgot what fresh air smelled like after a week in NYC :-P

It's Tesla's old laboratory, so it has something to do with Tesla, and isn't just a building. I'm sure people interested will go out of their way to get to this museum.

You know, that's the problem. They want Tesla's life and legacy to be known -- you don't do that in the middle of nowhere. Much as I would love to go visit this myself, it's dooming it to the geeks, largely.

It's not exactly in the middle of nowhere. It has Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory. It has half a dozen airports, more than 400K inhabitants, and it's the largest town (by area) in the entire state.


Well, there's the technical museum in Zagreb, Croatia that features Tesla vastly: http://tehnicki-muzej.hr/

There's also a memorial center in Smiljan, Croatia, the village he was born in: http://www.mcnikolatesla.hr/english.html

Oh, now it's ok to alter the titles. Awesome

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