Tesla now questioned his own knowledge. He questioned the foundations on which he had placed so much confidence in the last several years. Maxwell was the “rule and measure” by which all of Tesla’s polyphase generators had been constructed. Tesla penetrated the validity of Maxwell’s mathematical method. It was well known that Maxwell had derived his mathematical descriptions of electromagnetic induction from a great collection of available electrical phenomena. Perhaps he had not studied enough of the phenomena while doing so.
Perhaps newer phenomena had not been discovered, and were therefore unavailable to Maxwell for consideration. How was Maxwell justified in stating his equations as “final”? In deriving the laws of electromagnetic induction, Maxwell had imposed his own “selection process” when deciding which electrical effects were the “basic ones”. There were innumerable electrical phenomena which had been observed since the eighteenth century. Maxwell had difficulty selecting what he considered to be “the most fundamental” induction effects from the start.
The selection process was purely arbitrary. After having “decided” which induction effects were “the most fundamental”, Maxwell then reduced these selected cases and described them mathematically. His hope was to simplify matters for engineers who were designing new electrical machines. The results were producing “prejudicial” responses in engineers who could not bear the thought of any variations from the “standard”. Tesla had experienced this kind of thematic propaganda before, when he was a student. The quantitative wave of blindness was catching up with him.
Tesla and others knew very well that there were strange and anomalous forms of electromagnetic induction which were constantly and accidentally being observed. These seemed to vary as the experimental apparatus varied. New electrical force discoveries were a regular feature of every Nature Magazine issue. Adamant in the confidence that all electrical phenomena had been both observed and mathematically described, academicians would be very slow to accept Tesla’s claims.
But this academic sloth is not what bothered Tesla. He had already found adequate compensation for his superior knowledge in the world of industry. Tesla, now in possession of an effect which was not predicted by Maxwell, began to question his own knowledge. Had he become a “mechanist”, the very thing which he reviled when a student? Empirical fact contradicted what that upon he based his whole life’s work. Goethe taught that nature leads humanity.
The choice was clear: accept the empirical evidence and reject the conventional theory. For a time he struggled with a way to “derive” the shock effect phenomenon by mathematically wrestling “validity” from Maxwell’s equations … but could not. A new electrical principle had been revealed. Tesla would take this, as he did the magnetic vortex, and from it weave a new world.
What had historically taken place was indeed unfortunate. Had Maxwell lived after Tesla’s accidental discovery, then the effect might have been included in the laws. Of course, we have to assume that Maxwell would have “chosen” the phenomenon among those which he considered “fundamental”.
There was no other way to see his new discovery now. Empirical fact contradicted theoretical base. Tesla was compelled to follow. The result was an epiphany which changed Tesla’s inventive course. For the remainder of his life he would make scientific assertions which few could believe, and fewer yet would reproduce. There yet exist several reproducible electrical phenomena which cannot be predicted by Maxwell. They continually appear whenever adventuresome experimenters make accidental observations.
High voltage impulse currents produced a hitherto unknown radiant effect. In fact, here was an electrical “broadcast” effect whose implementation in a myriad of bizarre designs would set Tesla apart from all other inventors. This new electrical force effect was a preeminent discovery of great historical significance. Despite his fact, few academicians grasped its significance as such. Focused now on dogmatizing Maxwell’s work, they could not accept Tesla’s excited announcements. Academes argued that Tesla’s effect could not exist. They insisted that Tesla revise his statements. Tesla’s mysterious effect could not have been predicted by Maxwell because Maxwell did not incorporate it when formulating His equations. How could he have done so, when the phenomenon was just discovered? Tesla now pondered the academic ramifications of this new effect. What then of his own and possibly other electrical phenomena which were not incorporated into Maxwell’s force laws? Would academes now ignore their existence? Would they now even dare to reject the possibility of such phenomena on the basis of an incomplete mathematical description?
Seeing that the effect could grant humanity enormous possibilities when once tamed, Tesla wished to study and implement the radiant electrical action under much safer conditions. The very first step which he took before proceeding with this experimental line was the construction of special grounded copper barriers: shields to block the electrical emanations from reaching him.
They were large, body sized mantles of relatively thick copper. He grounded these to insure his own complete safety. In electrical terms, they formed a “Faraday Cage” around him. This assembly would block out all static discharges from ever reaching Tesla during the tests. Now he could both observe and write what he saw with confidence.
Positioned behind his copper mantle, Tesla initiated the action. ZZZZZZ…the motorized switch whirring, dynamo voltage interrupted several hundred times per second, the shock action was now continuous. He felt a steady rhythm of electrostatic irritations right through the barrier accompanied by a pressure wave which kept expanding. An impossibility. No electrical influence should have passed through the amount of copper which composed the shield. Yet this energetic effect was penetrating, electrically shocking, and pressured. He had no words to describe this aspect of the new phenomenon. The shocks really stung.
Tesla was sure that this new discovery would produce a completely new breed of inventions, once tamed and regulated. Its effects differed completely from those observed in high frequency alternating current. These special radiant sparks were the result of non-reversing impulses. In fact, this effect relied on the non-reversing nature of each applied burst for its appearance. A quick contact charge by a powerful high voltage dynamo was performing a feat of which no alternating generator was capable. Here was a demonstration of “broadcast electricity”.
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