Free Energy Amateur Hour
Part of my job as a Stoic is to remind people that the Earth is not flat. So I imagine that some fraction of that has to come from me as someone in the hard science area that has developed a good ear for technical mumbo-jumbo when I hear it. It turns out that somebody I know quite well has gotten her knickers in a twist over the question of whether or not the genius of Nikola Tesla was exploited by the US government. Were it not for this foul play, she asserts, we would have freely available electricity distributed wirelessly. At the center of this fantasy is the great tower at Wardencliffe.
I just wasted a fun two hours tracking down some stuff about this. The bottom line is best expressed here: http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2011/ph240/shu2/
Whatever Tesla came up with it doesn’t scale. The level of ‘free' energy that can be distributed wirelessly is basically little more than what we do with radio. That’s the realization of Tesla’s dream. Free radio.
He wasn’t the only one working on the ideas, he just got into a gangsta beef with Edison and that brought it to the attention of the public. More recently, I read something about the idea thrown around with giant atmosphere free solar arrays in space. Just like with the idea that some reasonable fraction of the Sahara could be converted into solar panels and power Europe - the idea that you could put that equivalent into space without environmental impact gained some traction. The problem is with sending it back through the atmosphere. The probable best way would be with masers (microwave lasers), but they lose a lot of energy. So this say 75% efficiency. Now all we have to do is spend x Billion to Elon Musk to launch all those satellites and hire all those smart people to do it. Meanwhile oil tankers do the job today via people with high school educations.
Distribution of electricity is not a technology problem. Nikola Tesla had no solution that would support any reasonably sized town.
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