Woo-Woo? We commence “down time” with an interesting discussion about Nikola Tesla.
Was he a great inventor? Yes.
But, is he also being deified by the simple-mind social mobs of the Internet? Yes, I’m afraid so. In this, however, lies a tale of mental acuity that we can all learn from. Or, not.
Let me back-up to the beginning: Got an email middle of the week from a reader.
“I love this quote from Telsa
I don’t mind someone taking my ideas, what worries me is they don’t have any of their own.”
At first, I was just going to pass it off as more “murmur-mongering” on the web – which it’s full of, if you hadn’t noticed. But, there will come a time when maintaining the questioning mind and a keen ability to “call BS” may turn into a high art. So I replied to the sender:
“There is the cult of personality. So I must ask for a source (book or interview) as a source for this. Otherwise, just more fake stuff on the web… Sorry –
George Ure – grinch at large”
To his great credit, the sender went looking – a good first step:
“Hi again George below I found the quote, I have however no
way to prove it.
Except, that doesn’t prove anything, since Tesla has been undergoing a YUGE deification process sponsored by a number of factions which (other than a small automaker) includes the free energy crowd and those anxious to break out of the limits to the Laws of Physics.
Lest you doubt me on this, take a quick read of “Debunking the Tesla Myth” over here. You will learn, among other things, that Tesla did NOT invent alternating current electricity, nor did he invent the induction coil or the transformer. Nor the loudspeaker, nor the fluorescent light.
This is not to take anything away from his invention skills where were in fact prodigious. I have all his patents on DVD. I’ve had copies of Tesla’s purported involvement with the PX (still available here), for a long time, too. People just have a hard time accepting the statistically probable, lol.
But, what bothered me was that the statement attributed to Tesla in the email, didn’t have the “ring of Truth” to my ear. Since I’ve recently been in the ‘be very picky’ mode writing my latest book, I wasn’t about to put up with a “soft answer” like “here’s a link to…”
Links to a “source” are often not what they purport to be.
So, off I went on my quest. Thank God for Google: I was able to trace back to this….and notice the word “fiction” which is how Google indexed the material in Google Books:
Tesla’s Venusian kin-folk? Yeah, that’d be fiction in my world.
Still, it was only a good start. Did Matthews in 1973 have a
“direct line” to Tesla? Since Tesla died in 1943, this is looked fairly suspect.
I had run into several Tesla references when working on “Dimensions Next Door: Hacking Space-time” because of his purported involvement in The Philadelphia Experiment. As I have mentioned before, there were actually three ships bandied about as being the experimental platform for the invisibility project during World War II: the USS Eldrige, the USS Timmerman (after the war) and the USS Martha’s Vineyard, also referred to as the IX-97.
There is a report (that I gave some creds to in the book) that Tesla may have been peripherally involved in 1941-1942 and possibly up until his death.
But, that gets us back to the question where did Matthews get his source material in 1973 if Tesla had been dead for 30-years?
More research and we find that much of what is attributed to Tesla may be dated to a series of a half-dozen articles published in 1919 in Electrical Experimenter Magazine.
And in one of those wonderful moments of “Oh how cool!” that comes to researchers (not often enough), it turns out there is a whole page offered by Twenty First Century Books that allows us to date back to the earliest autobiographical remarks (in those six parts from 1919) and then conduct a linguistic comparison with the 1973 Matthews work cited in Google Books.
When you use “Search page” functions in a browser, you can make quick-work of slicing through hours of ponderous research: We find, almost instantly, that the often-quoted part about Tesla’s affection for books is apparently quite real.
Not that it was the red-flag…it didn’t strike me as out-of-place.
On the other hand, the specific quote I flagged in the email didn’t seem to be included in the 1919 Electrical Experimenter.
So, as an amateur physics sleuth, it seems to me “most likely” that the quote in question was added (ginned-up) to bulk out the Matthews book. Because it certainly sounded much more egoic than the personality I had been tracking in my own work on point.
Is this what I meant by an interesting discussion about Tesla?
You see, it’s really an interesting discussion about several much more pressing and contemporary issues:
- When doing research or “hitching your beliefs” to a human personality, always go back as close to source as you can.
- Beware that especially in books, a story told once is likely to “hair” when told again. And in Tesla’s case, again, and again, and…
- One of these days, we expect the Social Sciences to wake up and report that Social Media and Computer Use is dangerous. Because it provides for easily disseminating partial truths and even untruths on the web.
This is all “right next door” to the whole Fake News discussion that comes and goes with the waxing and waning of headlines.
Next time you see a fancy quote, check the attribution closely. When a lie is presented in the close company of truth, the lie often goes along for a free-ride.
And in that certain fact is the reason why eventually, like Citizens Band Radio, the Internet may be setting itself up for Chinese-style regulation worldwide.
Especially for those of us who will be relegated to the “slow lanes” because we can’t outbid corporate interests. Which, as a study of pesticides, wars, and pharmaceuticals will demonstrate, are the most effective liars of all.
Write when you get rich,