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Nikola Tesla in a space cult's storefront display.
Nikola Tesla in a space cult's storefront display.

Tesla, Everyone's Favorite Mad Scientist

Before Tesla was the name of a company making expensive electric cars, it belonged to Nikola Tesla (1856-1943). Crackpot or genius inventor, take your pick. The verdict was "crackpot" when he died a penniless recluse, but in recent years he has grown in stature -- not because he invented the dull-but-useful induction motor and spark plug, but because a new generation of geeks appreciates his plans to build a death ray and to beam power to everyone through the air for free. His spark-firing electrical gizmos have always been popular with the visual-minded, from Frankenstein movie set designers to modern Steampunks.

Tesla Theater.
Tesla Theater, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Tesla's lengthy public relations battles even drove Thomas Edison to electrocute an elephant. Nikola Tesla: he made madmen of us all.

Tesla once said that he lived in the future, not the present, so his long-delayed posthumous popularity is entirely appropriate. 2012 saw the debut of the "Lightning Cage" at the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention, while Tesla's old laboratory on Long Island was purchased by a group of fans (thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign) who want to transform the long-abandoned property into a museum.

And although the world's most colossal Tesla Coil is currently in New Zealand, owned by a member of the superrich for his own amusement, its designer plans to build twin Tesla Coils even more colossal in Nevada -- ten stories tall -- that will hurl continuous lightning bolts over an area the size of a football field!

The future for Tesla is looking as bright as the business end of a death ray.

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