Why Nikola Tesla's Wireless Power Was Fated to Fail Due to Exploding Airships

Nikola Tesla is one of the most tragic figures in the history of science, a history that is practically filled to the brim with tragic figures. Francis Bacon, a 16th century philosopher and scientist, caught pneumonia and died because he was trying to stuff snow into a dead chicken. Marie Curie died as a result of her long-term exposure to radioactivity, and her papers from the 1890s are too radioactive to touch without protective gear to this day.

So saying that Nikola Tesla is one of the most tragic figures in the history of science is a pretty bold claim, though most will agree that he lived up to it. Tesla was responsible for a huge number of inventions ranging from alternating current to vertical take-off planes.

However, not all of his inventions were useful.

One of the most well-known projects he worked on was Wardenclyffe Tower, his experiment in providing wireless power to the masses. While the tower was never fully-functional and was taken down in 1917, conspiracy theories abound for why Tesla never succeeded. I've heard theories ranging from evil corporations stepping in to ensure that he couldn't provide "free" power to the people, to the American government shutting him down and stealing his secrets.

Few people understand the complexities that wireless power entails, and the real reasons why Tesla was doomed to fail. The best example of Wardenclyffe's fate comes to us by way of a recent article about the Hindenburg airship.

Scientists have just recently discovered that the definitive cause of the explosion of the Hindenburg was a discharge of static electricity. Apparently the airship had recently been through an electrical storm, and had become charged with static electricity. As a result, a spark ignited some leaking hydrogen, and boom! The rest is history.

It's pretty clear to see how this relates to Tesla's wireless power.

The way Tesla's wireless power worked was in many ways similar to an electrical storm. The air becomes charged with electricity, and because air is a conductor, it can cause arcs of electricity. This means that if Tesla had been successful at Wardenclyffe, his method would likely have caused airships to explode!

So in other words, Tesla's wireless power and the age of airships were mutually exclusive. Both couldn't have existed simultaneously.

There are plenty of other reasons why Tesla's wireless power never really took off, for example it's very lossy. You have to spray electricity out in the air, and whether that power is used or not, it eventually dissipates. Further, you're shooting it out in every direction, which is a waste. And finally, given the body's delicate electrical systems, I can't imagine that living in a continually charged atmosphere is healthy.

Tesla himself suffered from many mental problems; who knows whether his experiments were his own undoing, like Francis Bacon or Marie Curie before him?

Tesla was the sort of close-mouthed person who would likely have avoided saying anything if he suffered from constant electrical shocks. The understanding of electricity on our body still isn't very well understood!

However, one thing is certain: Tesla would never have lived it down if he'd caused the destruction of the Hindenburg!

Images from The Velvet Rocket, Fine Art America, Tesla Memorial Society, and BAM Investor.


Hey Austin, i just wanted to say its always great to read current thoughts and reviews on Nikola Tesla...i am quite the fan so please forgive me if im wrong that my understanding of Tesla's wireless power transmission did not involve using the air as a conductor but rather using the schuman cavity as a type of high frequency battery and the earth itself as a conductor......punching longitudinal waves through the ground......which i still fear shared its own potential risks.....afterall the schuman cavity apparently reasonates at the same frequency as all of earths creatures bio-electrical systems ....7 Ghz if i remember correctly but then again im about as educated as a sloth just thought it may be worthy of you looking into

No, you're absolutely right, Shaun! For the most part, at least, so far as I understand.

Now, let me preface by saying that I'm not an electrical engineer, so my understanding may be inherently flawed. However, I have read about it fairly extensively, so you can take that for whatever it's worth. ;)

That all said, my understanding is that yes, you're right about the Schumann Cavity, and about using the Earth!

However, I also understand that this method still makes use of the air as a conductor, used in conjunction with the Earth as a conductor. Essentially, the two are connected in some way that I'm not entirely clear on, but I believe that it still creates a charge in the air.

There was, I believe, three components involved. The upper atmosphere, the ground, and the ground-level air. As I said, I'm not 100% sure about the relationship between the ground and the upper atmosphere, but once the power had been passed through the ground as a conductor, it was then transmitted into the air, to be used for various electric devices.

So either way, we're losing power into the air, and putting a charge out there, which can contribute to a static buildup.

Did that make sense?

Very sad, but also quite interesting.

That's not the whole story. You're only mentioning the headline from the BBC. There's several widespread accounts on static and the LZ129, but most mention not only the presence of static (which is obvious with anything that has the surface area of 8 football fields and moves, certainly it was to ground crew who knew not to touch landing lines for up to a minute when they were dropped unless they wanted to have a short and final lesson in electrocution), but the lack of a proper discharge path for all accumulated current when landing. The morning lines and the tower should have sufficed, as they did for other ships, including the hydrogen powered LZ130 which followed the Hindenberg. However, insufficiently conductive lines securing the external skin to the frame provided no easy path for the current to pass, thus causing arcs around the gas cells (which is bad during landing. The eletricity isn't the problem (they ran storm trials of the Graf Zeppelin II) and didn't find any meaningful change to the crafts usual charge. Improving the lines to allow the craft to discharge allowed the GZ2 to fly accident free until retirement regardless of the lifting gas (arcs can ignite painted cloth too so helium alone wouldn't have solved the problem. The point to all this is, electricity isn't a factor until you land, and discharge.

Interesting! Thanks for sharing, MGab!

So the electricity wouldn't arc within the vessel itself, only when near a ground?

Oh wow (Ajax errors suck when you do more than 300 words in a reply) geesh.

Correct. The charge wasn't the issue as much as where it needed to go when it was being grounded. The insufficient doping on the lines securing the skin to the frame allowed large panels of the skin to act a capacitor. With no direct route for the power to go, the arcing to the frame only occurred during landing (which would ignite the skin regardless of the gas, albeit in less dramatic fashion with helium). This problem with the LZ 129 was quietly (hence the mystery for decades until the revisions were released by the archives just recently, but in interviews most of the story was told to a public who preferred sensational headlines about 'sabotage' as recently as the 1960s) fixed during the final building of the LZ130 which flew safely as a result (regardless of the lifting gas) until it's decommissioning. The Luftwafe needed the duraluminium for their aircraft during WWII thus ending the reign of Zeppelin travel (and not because of the Hindenburg disaster as is often mis-attributed.

In a personal note, when I ran a (side) special-event decorating business in the SF Bay Area ( ) I'd occasionally take delivery of "nazi" helium tanks. This was because most of the US Zeppelin program was war reparations from Germany either in whole airships, or in designs and support material for our brief fleet. The Macon was moored in Mountain View's Moffett Field, and when the tanks were auctioned off to the local helium suppliers the local tanks would occasionally sport inspection stamps (the date when they were pressure tested) down the whole of the tank back to the 1930s - but more obvious were the swastikas also stamped in the tank from pre-war / post-Weimar Germany.

Why did you think I was making perfect 1.15-1 scale models of zeppelins in minecraft? I've been a lighter-than-air freak since I was a kid, and I'm the son of an aerospace engineer. I tried to do a smiley emoticon at the end here but it's what caused the ajax error.

LOL! Wow, that's amazing!

You're extremely knowledgeable about these things, MGab... It's a shame you don't live nearby, or I'd have you as a panelist at a Steampunk convention to talk about zeppelins!

Nikola Tesla wrote in 1916 Patent #1266175 for a Lighting Protector "I was earlier able to produce artificial lightning comparable in nature with his Tower, Wardenclyffe" and send power wirelessly, at any levels, without loss to any point on the earth. (Patents 454622, 645576, 649621, 685957, 787412 , 1119732)

"If in a Thunderstorm, Earth (or Wardenclyffe) was struck with Lighting, it would create concentric waves, that slowly circle the planet and come back where they started".

The Earth, mechanically is hereby a huge "Helmholtz Resonator", and electrically it is hereby a huge "Cavity Resonator". Also, as explained by N. Tesla, the "Earth-Ionosphere Condenser" is far too thin to support any wave-guide modes. Only electro-magnetic waves parallel, of magneto-dielectric waves normal, to the surface of the Earth are possible.

Nikola Tesla was the greatest scientist who ever lived, world would be much better place. But capitalists and US government didnt let him to finish his greatest inventions. You can read more about it at

Have you ever heard about witricity? Well maybe some theories could be correct

The reason Tesla couldn't get his tower to work was solely because nobody wanted to fund an invention that created free electricity. Investors want money, and Tesla's idea of powering the world had no profit.

there's range of electricity called cold electricity which is related to zero point energy. it states that energy is transferred outside for instance a wire with huge speed or maybe instantaneous. wire is host and responsible for carrying this energy. our environment filled with this kind of energy better saying, enormous amount of energy that can recreate our universe. we are in a great loss that we can't use this. the reason for that is our conventional knowledge is just even an approximation or maybe not right. in order to use this we must excite this field energy. thus a battery is not source power but excite this energy into form of electric energy whatsoever. to see this phenomena we have to assume that electric monopoles or charge density of that, must tunnel internally i.e charge density is not constant in time. just assume a const volume that its charge change for instance harmonic. this leads to scalar waves. diverging/converging currents should excite these waves. maybe bi-filar coils of tesla can do this. a suitable theory is needed in order to explain it. maxwell equation are damn wrong. it's just an approximation. I think maxwell formulated his theory in a right way but something happend that he didn't publish his quaternion form of his theory. there's big gap between science and technology and we must pass it behind. tesla's inventions work properly. you can gain power from nothing and tranfer it completely wireless without loss without harm or ill. but care must be taken, this a very powerful technology. idea's of k.meyl maybe inconsistent mathmatically but of great importance. but I think we should first found our theory on physical phenomena. and these phenomana state that real physical effects are in presence that we can't explain. maybe quantom theory could

Nice try there Sherlock. Bet you played Einstein in your school plays too. If you really believe that Tesla's tower was doomed because it would destroy airships? You are a fool of fools and would believe the Easter bunny delivers Cadbury eggs to sick children through their drain pipes.

I got news for you buddy. You are either clueless or are purposefully trying to deceive others. Tesla's work was beyond what those rich barons of years back wanted to employ and Tesla's funding was pulled because his inventions would eliminate a major wealth source for the elitists.

Thanks God Eric Dollard and those scholars who have been taught are picking up where Tesla left off. Tesla was altruistic but was a bad business man. And the evil ones took advantage. But that was then.

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