Friday, September 9, 2011

Finding the Next Tesla in a Dumbed-Down Society

Nikola Tesla, a Serb by birth, immigrated to America in 1884. He was 28. His education transcript listed “some college.” Mr. Tesla may have been fortunate to have ignored pursuing a college degree for his true genius might have been “dumbed-down” had he mastered the knowledge of electricity as was known and taught at the time.

Tesla’s inventions were critical to creating the alternating current electrical system that powers the world. He conceived the first electric induction motor in 1882. Then he went on to develop equipment needed to operate the electrical grid.

Tesla also mastered radio wave transmission. Although Guglielmo Marconi is considered father of the radio, Marconi’s work had more to do with the successful commercialization of radio than the underlying physics of radio waves that Tesla proved. Tesla demonstrated radio transmission a decade earlier than did Marconi. Tesla transmitted radio waves through the Earth as well as through the atmosphere.

Nikola Tesla was born at the right time. Had he been born 10 years earlier, he never would have met and worked with George Westinghouse (Westinghouse Electric Co.) to build the alternating current electrical system. Had Tesla been born 10 years later, America would have already accepted Thomas Edison’s plan to electrify America with the direct current system that Edison’s inventions were built around.

When Tesla and Westinghouse electrified the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with alternating current and fluorescent lighting, the die was cast. AC power would be the electrical standard.

What amazes me most about Tesla’s work is that he transmitted electrical energy without wires as early as 1891. His laboratory was lit by fluorescent bulbs. But there were no wires, and the bulbs had no electrodes.

Steve Jobs, the brains behind the Apple Gadget & Widget Co., recently announced his retirement. Immediately, he was hailed by the business press as the greatest American genius since Thomas Edison.

Oh, puhleeeze.

The next time you wet your pants in excitement because your iPad or iPhone found a hotspot, consider for a moment that wireless technology is 120 years old. Nikola Tesla not only dreamed of making every spot on Earth a “hot spot,” but he envisioned wireless-powered trains, ships and vehicles. Tesla’s goal was to use the electrical charges in the ground, in the seas and in the atmosphere as the “grid.”

As usually happens, the constant inventor (ala Tesla) meets two roadblocks. First, technology cannot keep up with the inventor’s mind. And second, the investors want to milk the old patents for all they are worth. Society is then dumbed-down to accept the status quo.

Some of you, especially the disciples of Steve Jobs, are accusing me of blasphemy; I can hear you because I have a tPhone (Tesla phone.) No matter how much you adore Steve Jobs, he is no Nikola Tesla. Steve Jobs, like Nikola Tesla, was a college dropout. End of comparison.

Nor is Steve Jobs the next Tesla. But if Steve Jobs is the best candidate that we have to consider, then how do we find the next Tesla in our dumbed-down society?

My talking about electric currents and electric gadgets is nebulous. So allow me to re-phrase my question in a more practical sense. How do we find the next Red Adair in our dumbed-down society?

On April 20, 2010, a BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico caught fire and exploded. It took five months to resolve the oil leakage. Throughout the five-month period, it was obvious that neither the oil industry nor the government had a man like Red Adair to rely on — a man who instinctively knew how to tame an oil well fire.

When Saddam Hussein set fire to Kuwait’s oil wells, environmentalists the world over declared that the flames would burn for years. Wrong again, Greenies. Red Adair extinguished more than 100 fires in short order.

Red Adair also should get credit for extinguishing all of Kuwait’s oil well fires. During Red’s career, he hit a slow spell when there were no oil well fires. So he decided to manufacture equipment based on his designs and sell the equipment to his competitors.

Red Adair dropped out of high school.

In our dumbed-down society, Nikola Tesla and Red Adair could never get jobs of importance. They would have no certificates from the Wizard of Oz to vouch for their genius. And neither of these men would suffer the ignominy of dumbing himself down just to get a foot in the door.

I predict that battery makers will be profitable for a long time to come. And I predict that President Obama will continue to promote non-flammable energy.