Added: Kole Steere - Date: 01.11.2021 04:23 - Views: 36702 - Clicks: 5020
He added his little mite — that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that. The Oatmeal is a fantastic comic that I recommend that you make a habit of reading. However, even the greatest can go astray, and I'm pained to admit that The Oatmeal has done so regarding someone I regard very highly, and that's Nikola Tesla.
Alas, The Oatmeal has fallen prey to Tesla idolatry, confusing his genius for godhood and of course, setting up the now all-too-common 'Edison as Tesla's arch-villain' narrative. There are quite a few errors and misconceptions about both Tesla and Edison in this comic. But they're errors that I've seen before and they are often repeated, so it's worth the time, I think, to address some of the big ones.
Let's start with the first thing the comic says: "In a time when the majority of the world was still lit by candle power, an electrical system known as alternating current and to this day is what powers every home on the planet.
Who do Edison New Jersey guy looking for tomorrow have to thank for this invention that ushered humanity into a second industrial revolution? Nikola Tesla. This is just wrong. Alternating current was developed in principle by Michael Faraday and in practice by Hippolyte Pixii in the early 19th century. Practical devices employing AC in the medical world were developed before Tesla was even born. Contemporaries of Tesla working for George Westinghouse developed practical methods of distributing AC power from power plants before Tesla came to work for Westinghouse. Tesla himself actually studied the use of AC in college - he had an electrical engineering degree.
For those interested, here's a nice, concise timeline of the development of alternating current. Now, did Tesla Edison New Jersey guy looking for tomorrow refine AC? Did he make some key innovations that made it even more practical? There's no question about it. He had an intuitive understanding of electricity that I quite frankly envy. He could make it dance. But was he indispensable to getting AC in place as the dominant means of electric power transmission? Almost certainly not.
Most of what the Oatmeal comic says about Edison is true. Yes, Edison did put on public demonstrations where he electrocuted animals to show the dangers of alternating current. Yes, he fought tooth and nail for his belief that direct current was a better way to transmit electricity. He was wrong. But, you know, AC is more dangerous than DC if it's not handled properly. Thanks to my commenters for pointing that out. Is it possible - just possible - that Edison honestly believed that AC was dangerous and honestly did not think it should be used?
Very rarely on the Internet is this possibility even considered. Because every narrative needs a villain, right? And one more quick thing. It's worth pointing out that alternating current was superior to direct current when it comes to the transmission of electricity Edison New Jersey guy looking for tomorrow new technology is changing this. But as Alex Waller rightly points out in his critique of this Tesla comic:.
The irony here is that the computer that the author used to draw this graphic runs on DC power. The author's cell phone also runs on DC power.
In fact, if the author went around their house and looked at all the electronic devices coffee maker, microwave oven, clock, television, laptop, stereo, etc. This is because while alternating current is indeed great for long distance transmission of power Edison's ature invention is the light bulb. Of course, Edison didn't actually invent the incandescent bulb, something that the Oatmeal comic is quick to point out when it says "Edison didn't invent the light bulb, he improved upon the ideas of 22 other men who pioneered the light bulb before him.
Edison simply figured out how to sell the light bulb. But what the Oatmeal says is fallacious. 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.
As Robert Heinlein once said, "When railroading time comes you can railroadbut not before. Individuals move things forward - some faster than others - but in the end, the most intelligent person in the world can't invent the light bulb if the foundation for it isn't there. Secondly, the comic doesn't appreciate why Edison was able to sell light bulbs. He was able to sell them because through a lot of work by both himself and the scientists and engineers who worked for him, he was able to develop a light bulb that was practical.
Before Edison, incandescent bulbs were Edison New Jersey guy looking for tomorrow and tended to burn out quickly. Edison fixed both of those problems. And many of those men who pioneered the light bulb before Edison, such as Joseph Swan, openly admired Edison's solution to a very tough engineering problem. Probably one of the most bizarre claims in the Oatmeal comic is that Tesla developed the idea for radar in World War I, but was thwarted by the evil Thomas Edison. And it's true that Tesla pitched the idea of using radio waves to track targets in a way that anticipates radar.
It's also true that the Naval Consulting Board turned down Tesla's pitch. And you know what? Do you know why? Because Tesla pitched radar as a means of tracking submarines. Members of the Naval Consulting Board I can't find documentation as to whether Edison was directly involved noted, correctly, that water would attenuate radio waves to the point that they'd be useless for tracking submarines.
That was true during World War I, and it's also true today. That's why the Naval Consulting Board pursued sonar instead.
Which is still the way submarines are tracked. The Consulting Board didn't get far, though. The British were way ahead, having developed a sonar prototype in So did Tesla invent radar, like The Oatmeal claims? He pitched an idea, but never developed a prototype.
That said, a lot of his work did become the backbone for radar research in the s, but there was a lot of work done between Tesla's work and the eventual development of radar. Tesla pointed the way, but there was a long road that had to be dug out of the jungle.
Oh, and just one more note on the Naval Consulting Board. Unlike Tesla, who pitched "death rays" and other weapons to countries in his later years, Edison's condition to working on the board was that it would work to develop defensive technology only. That was true for his entire existence. Edison once remarked that, "I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill. That's something Tesla can't say. In the course of researching this article, I surprised myself by learning that Tesla did not, in fact, discover X-Rays.
I'd been under the impression that he had. He played with them before Wilhelm Rontgen, that's true. But other researchers were also experimenting with them. It wasn't until Rontgen, though, that some of them knew what they were dealing with For example, Edison New Jersey guy looking for tomorrow Pulyui's work pre-dated Tesla's, but he didn't realize he was working with X-Rays until Rontgen published his work.
The Oatmeal also correctly notes that Tesla did identify the dangers of X-Rays and didn't experiment with them much. This then le to one of the most morally reprehensible portions of The Oatmeal's comic, where he takes the tragic death of Edison's assistant Clarence Dally and Edison's disability as an excuse to pummel Edison again. Here's what the Oatmeal says:. This is some of the most anachronistic, patronizing things I've ever read. Please, readers, turn the clocks back to the early s. People didn't really understand how radiation worked and how dangerous they truly were. When it came to Edison's X-Ray experiments, the "human trials" were conducted by Edison on himself and his assistant, who readily volunteered.
Not yet understanding radiation, they both took excessive doses and suffered for it. This was the fate of a lot of brilliant researchers in the early days of radiation. Like Marie and Pierre Curie, for example. What's more, Edison was haunted by Dally's death to the end of his days. It agonized him. While Dally was alive and suffering, Edison kept him on the payroll and took care of all of his expenses until the day he died. In the early 20th Century, let me assure you that keeping employees on the payroll who couldn't work was not a common practice.
Had he worked for most of the tycoons of the time, Dally would have probably ended his days a beggar in the streets. Finally, and I can't emphasize this enough, the work that Edison and Dally did led to the development of X-Ray's as we know them today. The X-Ray in your Doctor's office? It still uses Edison's basic de. Tesla refused to experiment with X-Rays medically. Edison did do that research.
And he suffered for it. But in so doing, Edison invented a device that has saved lives and alleviated suffering for millions of people. And while Edison himself stopped using X-Rays out of fear, he did have this to say at the time when he was asked. In the hands of experienced operators they are a valuable adjunct to surgery, locating as they do objects concealed from view, and making, for instance, the operation for appendicitis almost sure.
But they are dangerous, deadly, in the hands of inexperienced, or even in the hands of a man who is using them continuously for experiment. The Oatmeal strip goes on from there, thankfully moving away from the mindless Edison bashing and discussion, in brief, some of Tesla's other achievements. Of course, during this part, he mostly gives short shrift to a lot of the brilliant scientists and engineers who developed things like wireless communications, remote controls, and other things. This isn't to say that Tesla didn't have a big hand in a lot of these inventions - he did!
But a lot of other people worked on them, too. They built on Tesla's initial work, advanced it, and developed practical inventions. That's how science and engineering works. The inventors who came after Tesla built Edison New Jersey guy looking for tomorrow Tesla's work, just as Tesla built on the work of Faraday, Pixii, and countless others. The comic also makes the probably false claim that Tesla had developed a practical means of wirelessly transmitting power. He certainly claimed to be able to do so.
But there's no actual evidence that he did. Tesla was just as prone to self-aggrandizement as anyone else. Especially in his later years. What's more, there are a two things that the Oatmeal didn't comment on that I think are worth mentioning. For one, Tesla claimed to have observed cosmic rays traveling faster than the speed of light. They don't. He was famously skeptical of relativity, but his Edison New Jersey guy looking for tomorrow have since proven unfounded.Edison New Jersey guy looking for tomorrow
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How Edison Invented the Light Bulb — And Lots of Myths About Himself