Jul 19, 2014

Is This Tesla Tower A Scam Or Just Bad Science? Via @adele_peters #energy #tech #news

Via @adele_peters, fastcoexist.com: A team of Russian physicists wants to resurrect one of Nikola Tesla's old ideas: A huge tower that would, in theory, transmit electricity all around the world. An enormous solar farm in the desert could supply the power. The only problem? There's no way it could work.

The Moscow-based team is raising money now on Indiegogo, and as of this writing, had collected over $40,000. So far, it's well short of their $800,000 goal, but they'll get to keep all of it--and it's enough to illustrate a fundamental problem with crowdfunding. Just because someone says something is possible doesn't mean it actually is, and no one's fact-checking the science for the people donating money.

"It's a 100-year-old idea," says Tom Lee, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University who calls Tesla a hero and has studied Tesla's patents and notebooks. "It's certainly a nice sounding dream. But as with everything else, the fantasy kind of falls apart the closer you look at the details."

One of the biggest problems is the fact that the device can't direct power only where needed. "There are so many ways this thing fails," says Lee. "If you're going to deliver a useful amount of power to an arbitrary point somewhere distant, that means you're going to have to be spraying an enormous amount of power to lots of other points that aren't necessarily using the power."

"Imagine a fire hose spraying all over a gigantic sphere," he explains. "All you wanted was to water the lawn over there, but you're spraying water everywhere else. In principle, yes, you could in fact supply energy this way, but it would be a horribly, horribly inefficient way to do it."