Dr. Marc Seifer on Nikola Tesla, Pioneer of the Modern Electrical Age

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Marc Seifer, author of the acclaimed biography Wizard: The Life & Times of Nikola Tesla. He reviews what teachers and students should know about the life of Nikola Tesla, the world-renowned engineer, physicist, and inventor who is more widely known nowadays for the electric car and clean energy companies named for him. Dr. Seifer describes the remarkable variety of world-changing gadgets Tesla invented, along with his hundreds of patents, including the alternating-current electricity system (AC), the induction motor, radio-controlled technology and what students today can learn about STEM, inventions, and innovation from studying his work. They explore Tesla’s bitter rivalry with Thomas Edison, their “war of the currents,” and Tesla’s deep struggles with the business and commercial aspects of his work. They also delve into Tesla’s experience as a Serbian immigrant, interacting with a variety of powerful, Gilded Age elite figures, and the renaissance that his reputation has more recently enjoyed. The interview concludes with a reading from Dr. Seifer’s biography of Tesla.

Stories of the Week: What will President Biden’s Build Back Better plan mean for universal pre-Kindergarten education? Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is launching a five-year, $750 million effort to open access to charter schools for 150,000 more children in 20 cities across America. The Department of Education is expanding the Second Chance Pell program, allowing 200 colleges and universities to participate in prison education programs that can transforming lives and help people reenter society.


Dr. Marc Seifer is a writer, university lecturer, and also a handwriting expert. Dr. Seifer has been featured in The Washington Post, Scientific American, Publisher’s Weekly, Rhode Island Monthly, Investor’s Daily, MIT’s Technology Review, and The New York Times. In Europe, he has appeared in The Economist, Nature, and New Scientist. With publications in Wired, Cerebrum, Civilization, Extraordinary Science, Lawyer’s Weekly, Journal of Psychohistory, and Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Dr. Seifer is internationally recognized as an expert on the inventor Nikola Tesla (the subject of his doctoral dissertation). He is the author of the acclaimed biography Wizard: The Life & Times of Nikola Tesla.

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Please excuse typos.

[00:00:00] Cara: Well, Gerard it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, I thought, since you always saying, I would open with a little bit of, I know not all of our listeners celebrate the Christmas holiday, but at least here in New England it is getting cold and Hanukkah is over. It was, it seemed to be quite early this year, but maybe not.

[00:00:42] but that there’s a stretch of the world’s going to shut down at least for a day or two coming up between the new year and those of us that celebrate the Christmas holiday. And, it feels like it’s nothing but a sprint right up to that point. It’s like you’re spending money on gifts.

[00:00:57] People are asking you for money in the form of [00:01:00] donations before the end of the year, and it’s just nonstop. So that’s where I’m at my friend. How are you doing?

[00:01:07] Gerard Robinson [GR]: First of all, it was great to hear you sing. So listeners, I think this may be only the second time this year, and probably the first, where you’re saying lyrics.

[00:01:18] So

[00:01:23] GR: So much of a Renaissance woman.

[00:01:25] Cara: I have to tell you I was the lead in the Canton middle school. I don’t remember which one. Maybe central middle school. Production of Bye. Bye. Birdie, Gerard.

[00:01:37] GR: I’m not shocked.

[00:01:40] Cara: Speechless. Yeah, there you go. There you go. Yeah, go with it.

[00:01:45] Well, I listen, I’m glad you’re doing well. We’ve got a couple of stories to get to it. And as I said, I have some general asked about the holidays, but I have some general angst about another thing. Tell you what that. What would that be? That would be the implications [00:02:00] for universal pre-kindergarten in the build back better bill that is now sitting with a Senate, has passed the house.

[00:02:06] Looks like it’s going to pass question is in what form? Probably the form it’s in now. And then the other question is when some are saying, I think that, , Schumer and others would like to see it happen. now, others are saying, yeah, right. We’ve got like, we don’t have other things to do.

[00:02:19] We’re going to get to this in January. Been digging into this a little bit, Gerard, and here’s the deal? some of the provisions around childcare and universal pre-K I think because this went through reconciliation are very confusing and some of the omissions, it seems to me, you could drive a truck through, but our friends at the United States conference of Catholic bishops and other places.

[00:02:40] Are reminding us that there are huge implications for faith-based providers, especially in the universal pre-K portion of the bill. it’s kind of misleading because it leads with like, Hey, we want a healthy, strong, mixed delivery system, which I will say in some of the states, in the states that have [00:03:00] done universal pre-K and by universal pre-K, I mean, free preschool for.

[00:03:03] Three and four year olds or four, and five-year-olds are all of the year olds if you’re you’re doing it well. which states aren’t there yet? you can be a school district that has a pre-K program, or you can be a childcare provider or private childcare provider in yes, you can be a faith-based institution and a lot of families across this country, whether or not they are people of faith rely on.

[00:03:25] Different kinds of faith-based institutions childcare and for preschool. So the concerning part of this bill is it looks like, , unlike. Childcare development block grants, which is how we usually fund the federal portion of [00:04:00] pre-K in this country. the build back better plan. Does it mention childcare development, block grants in the universal pre-K section?

[00:04:09] Which is leading folks to believe that this is going to be direct receipt of financial aid for any private institutions with choose to participate. And as you know, Gerard, if private institutions that are facing. Our direct recipients of federal funds, meaning they don’t get them through an indirect route.

[00:04:29] then they can’t, teach or actively engage in religious activities. So for a lot of faith-based providers that could cause them to say, Hey, states, if you take this, build up better money, we’re not going to participate in the program. And that could mean big changes to the landscape of how we deliver.

[00:04:45] Pre-kindergarten. In this country. So, , something that I wanted to make all of our listeners aware of lots of folks that are sort of writing about this as it comes up to the last minute. So that’s, that’s the bad news today. Juror that’s where it, this morning, my brain is [00:05:00] going for the bad news, but kiss your brain because there is some good news that I wanted to support.

[00:05:04] I wanted to shout out an article in the wall street journal. , mayor Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York. And he made an announcement that I am sure you’ve read that he’s making a big bet, a big investment, 750 million in charter schools. very good to hear, , the article is great because it sort of goes with.

[00:05:26] What you and I already know, which is that, parents need charters as an alternative. Many of them are high-performing when they’re not high-performing the clothes. and that, especially now we need to, charge has been sort of up against the wall for awhile. We really need to make investments in them.

[00:05:42] One thing I will say to mayor Bloomberg, who is saying he’s investing in new seats is please, sir, could you also maybe. Some money in helping states that have draconian charter school cats get those lifted because we can’t take your money and create new seats. When our legislature won’t allow it as happens here in [00:06:00] Massachusetts, in a place like Boston with a waitlist of way, upwards of 20,000 kids.

[00:06:03] So I’ve said a lot, Gerard, I’m sorry to ramble on you. I know you’ve got stories of the week to get to, to what are you thinking?

[00:06:11] GR: Question

[00:06:11] for you because you know, way more about pre-K investments than I do for the program. Are you saying, or am I hearing that possibly private faith-based providers

[00:06:23] will be left out

[00:06:24] Cara: indirectly.

[00:06:25] Indirectly. Absolutely. That’s what it’s looking like. And like I said, you can drive a bus through the emissions, but this is like, what’s not in the bill speaks louder. And so, , advocacy groups for faith-based schools are saying, whoa, let’s be careful. We should be doing this while we always have by giving faith-based providers certificates, which are essentially an indirect way of them receiving federal funds so that they can operate, but not having to give up.

[00:06:51] Ability to engage in religious activities. And it’s looking like under build back better. If they choose to participate, it’s a big trade-off, which will push many of them [00:07:00] out of the pre-K market.

[00:07:01] GR: And we know

[00:07:02] that with a lot of the cares money that trickle down to the states, we know that private schools weren’t given, let’s just say the fair share or the benefit of investments.

[00:07:14] And so something like this could be seen as yet another. possible as you say, unintended consequence. So as , not to put any intention of ban wheel on what may come of this, but we do know that there are people who are anti faith-based schools for a host of reasons. let’s just say it a better angels of our nature.

[00:07:29] Say, no, it’s not that it’s a procedural change. Well, if it’s a procedural change, Listen to the people on the ground. We actually have to implement the work because they’re telling you don’t go that route. They’re saying it for a reason. So

[00:07:43] Cara: this is what we’re hoping. And you’re optimistic. Thank you for that.

[00:07:47] GR: Michael Bloomberg 700 million. , is it two to three organizations? Is it to states? Is it his own foundation? You applied to it?

[00:07:56] How’s that? And

[00:07:56] Cara: he’s going to be, he’s going to be helping mayors, invest in high [00:08:00] quality charter school seats. Yeah.

[00:08:02] GR: Got it. Well, mayor, as you know, we have a new governor here in Virginia, governor elect Younkin who wants to expand what he calls innovative schools, which can include charter schools.

[00:08:13] And while we only have seven charter schools in the state mayor, what I would say is. If Virginia decides to apply for funding in terms of mayors

[00:08:22] include the innovative school as part of your

[00:08:26] concept for charter, because it’s going to take a couple of years to move the needle in ways that we want.

[00:08:33] And in the interim mayors want to do things that are innovative, that could include public schools that are charter. But until we get to, actual charter schools consider Virginia for some of that money. So my 2 cents,

[00:08:48] Cara: it’s a really good suggestion. And I think that there are a couple of organizations that would get on board with that.

[00:08:53] and something that I hope he’ll listen to. I should also add that this money is to. make needed improvements, it supporting charter schools in [00:09:00] ways to help them expand, serve more kids, existing charter schools instead of just new seats as well. So it’s pretty exciting stuff.

[00:09:06] You’ve got a, different story of the week. This week, Gerard what’s on your.

[00:09:10] GR: So my story is build back

[00:09:13] better, but from a different institution. So this story is about a mirror cell Garcia. She’s a 44 year old woman who is going to graduate soon from Trinity college.

[00:09:24] Initially people were clapped

[00:09:26] because a she’s a woman who’s finishing high red.

[00:09:29] And while we know that there are more women in higher ed than men, that’s a relatively new phenomenon. So, so yes, we still clap for the number of women who are earning. The fact that she is 44, in and of itself is something to celebrate. , she’s also a Latina or another reason. And then you’ll find out, well, one reason that she’s graduated in 44 is because she spent two stints in prison for a crime.

[00:09:55] And so she was a good student in high school. She said she wanted to go to [00:10:00] college. And like so many of us, when she finished high school, she realized two things. Number one, College costs a lot of money. And number two, I don’t have the funds to go. She said she received it through scholarships. So that still wasn’t enough to close the gap.

[00:10:15] And he even looked at a local community college. So she decided like millions of students do every year. You know what? I’ll always go back to college, let me go to work. And it makes a lot of sense. You and I’ve talked about the importance of having students go directly into the workforce to save money.

[00:10:29] To build, social skills to build all the skills. So when you go to college, if you choose to do so, you’re going in not only with more money, also better skillsets. Well, during that time period, her mom was diagnosed with cancer. And so she worked at a law firm and then used her inside knowledge to embezzle $40,000, , from the company that led to her getting a six year prison sentence.

[00:10:55] And she began to serve time. she started taking a few classes while she was in there and [00:11:00] wanted to better herself. She then left and within five years she was Leah arrested for violation of her parole because of larceny and some other activities. So she’s in prison again, and she decides, you know what, I’m going to get pretty serious about college.

[00:11:15] So Trinity college, , at a program where she could have. And as you know, I’m a big supporter of education in prison. So she’s one of the people who said, I’m going to use this to advance myself so fast forward, when she went back to prison the second time, get what she said. She said I was surrounded by the daughters of the women.

[00:11:39] Who are

[00:11:39] incarcerated with me the first time. And I

[00:11:42] said like you, wow. And I’m pretty sure a lot of our listeners are saying, wow, but let’s put this in

[00:11:48] perspective at

[00:11:50] the same time. Children of incarcerated on average are six times more likely to be incarcerated themselves. We currently [00:12:00] have at least one, four miners in the United States.

[00:12:02] That’s 5 million children. Who’ve had a parent incarcerated in prison or in jail at some point in their life. And so at some point from a research perspective, I’m not shocked. I also realized. This from the research of doctor behind Muhammad at Howard university, who’s written a lot of research on children of incarcerated and why some students, in fact, through resiliency and other things don’t go to prison, do well.

[00:12:27] Here’s the instance where she said, Hey, I was surrounded. And so she’s going to graduate the article. They also talked about the second chance pill program, which, , was put to an end in 1994. With the 1994 crime bill that basically said if you’re incarcerated, even if you qualify for a Pell grant because you meet the income requirement.

[00:12:47] And right now the Pell grant program for freeworld students is the largest post-secondary grant program in the country. Working for students from lower income homes. If you’re a state or federal prisoner,

[00:12:58] you no longer

[00:12:59] [00:13:00] qualify. For a Pell grant. And so they talk about that in the article. Well, through some private and public investments, she was able to, , go to school.

[00:13:08] She also talked about the importance of having a live. there as well. So her story is a good one. It’s a story about second, third chances, but it also raises other things that we as taxpayers, we, as people who want to better, our society have to think about, there are a lot of people who don’t support providing pilgrims to people who are incarcerated.

[00:13:30] They believe that in 2021, and people believe that in 1994, they believe that free world. who didn’t commit a crime or taking second work, just when their holes send their children to school. While people who are incarcerated are going to college for free, there are two myths. Number one, many people who voted college even without a Pell grant are going for free.

[00:13:51] Many students are self. They bring in money from their family. And then number two, you have private and public sector, philanthropic groups and [00:14:00] organizations and alumni of universities who invest money into places like for example, Bard college, , to make that move forward. Well, we know that right now, the U S department of education, , is meeting with to talk about students in prison and Pell grants, the several members on that committee, two of them are formerly incarcerated.

[00:14:17] One of them, Stanley Andrews is a professor at Harvard medical school. So this is a good feel, good story, but not everybody buys into the fact

[00:14:27] that we should pay for people. What are

[00:14:29] Cara: your thoughts? my thoughts arrive a question, and that is Gerard, and I’m sure you probably know the answer to this question.

[00:14:35] So this is, yeah, it’s a feel good story. It’s an exceptional story. It’s a story that needs to be told, but for the skeptics, for those that say, no, no, no, this is a program that shouldn’t be, , what’s the return on investment? , for giving Pell grants and college giving second chance grades, helping folks who haven’t had the opportunities, right.

[00:14:54] Helping to break that cycle so that you’re not seeing , the same women you were with in prison. You not seeing their daughters. what’s the [00:15:00] ROI. Can we quantify?

[00:15:02] GR: That’s actually a good question. So let’s look at what scholars at the Rand corporation has said. they conducted the largest analysis of correctional education programs in the country covering 30 years and by correctional education programs, that includes adult basic education, adult secondary education.

[00:15:20] Vocational as well as post-secondary.

[00:15:23] So your question

[00:15:24] here for returns are four things to consider. Number one, incarcerated people who participate in correctional education have a 43% lower likelihood of returning to prison than their peers who did not

[00:15:36] participate in the program.

[00:15:38] Number two, incarcerated people who participate in correctional education had 13% higher odds of post release employment compared to those who didn’t.

[00:15:49] Third incarcerated people who participate in vocational

[00:15:51] programs at odds of obtaining post-release employment that were 28% high of an individuals who did not, or did not. And [00:16:00] lastly, a $1 investment in correctional education reduces incarceration costs by four to $5 through the first years. And that’s just across the board.

[00:16:11] If you look at the research for, , Vera Institute, , who has a contract from the department of ed to evaluate, the a hundred plus programs that are part of the second chance program, , you’ve got over 22,000 people, who’ve gone through the program and they’ve earned associate degrees, baccalaureate degrees, certificates, and they’re.

[00:16:30] So we’re getting jobs. Some are going into post-secondary institutions, but here’s something we overlook the parole officers and the wardens who say these programs make their prisons safer. It makes those reg involved, incarcerated

[00:16:45] students,

[00:16:45] more productive, and it even gets, , parole officers and guards also involved in, we build station, in ways that we see education and really prison is only, , for punishment, not be able to.

[00:16:58] Cara: Wow. I mean, so, see to [00:17:00] me, those are some staggering. Statistics. And I think that, , too often, we don’t , here framed that way. Right. And so for those who aren’t swayed or compelled by a heart argument or a moral argument or an emotional argument, just the data on economic return on investment should be compelling enough.

[00:17:19] I have to tell you, Gerard, I’m very proud to say, and she’ll be, calling you for an interview. My sixth grade daughter, they have to do a sixth grade research project that they spend the whole year doing. And it culminates in a presentation and she chose to study the criminal justice system. She chose to study some of these issues that you’re talking about.

[00:17:37] So I’m going to take all of this information and pass it on to her. So thank you for that. that’s a really enlightening article and. Yeah, we need to get this woman as a guest on our podcast. So no problem. So if you

[00:17:50] GR: need more resources, as you know, Elizabeth English Smith, and I coauthored a book in 2019, and it’s called education for liberation, the politics of [00:18:00] promise and reform inside and beyond America’s prisons.

[00:18:04] you can find it on a number of sites, but it is one place. And it’s an edited book with really good smart people from different walks of life, including people who were incarcerated and talked about what education did for them.

[00:18:18] Cara: That’s amazing. I think I met some of those people at your conference a few years back.

[00:18:22] You.

[00:18:23] Okay, Gerard coming up after this, we’re going to be talking to Dr. Marc Seifer. So cool. I’m going to lead with this guy is a handwriting expert. He’s also a very accomplished author. So I don’t think we’re going to spend much time talking to him about handwriting because he is like the definitive biographer of Nikola Tesla.

[00:18:42] So looking forward as always to that conversation coming up.[00:19:00]

[00:19:03] Welcome back, Learning Curve listeners. We are here with Dr. Marc Seifer. He is a writer, university lecture, and also a handwriting expert, which I find to be really neat. Never met one. Dr. Seifer has been featured in the Washington post scientific American publishers, weekly Rhode Island, monthly investors.

[00:19:21] MIT technology review and the New York times in Europe, he’s appeared in the economist nature and new scientists with publications in wired, cerebrum, civilization, extraordinary science lawyers, weekly journal of psycho history and psychiatric clinics of north America. Dr. Seifer is obviously internationally recognized as an expert on the inventor Nikola.

[00:19:46] There’s also the subject of his doctoral dissertation. He is the author of the acclaimed biography, wizard the life and times of Nikola Tesla, Dr. Seifer, welcome to the.

[00:19:57] Marc: Thank you for having me.

[00:19:59] Cara: Yeah. We’re excited to [00:20:00] have you. I mean, I feel like I could probably ask you lots of questions about being a handwriting expert, but I do want to talk to you about the work that you were so very well known for.

[00:20:09] and these days now I have to say I’ve been, my husband has a long commute and I’ve been bothering him that we need to see. So that he can get a nice clean electric car. , and that’s what the name Tesla is normally associated with these days. But you have your leading expert biographer on the man, the physicist, the inventor.

[00:20:29] we have a lot of just education minded folks, teachers, and others who listen to this show. Could you give them sort of the highlights, if you will, of what you would want students especially to know about Tesla?

[00:20:40] Marc: Well, Tesla was born in 1856 in Smulian Croatia, which as the Crow flies, it’s about 150 miles from Rome across the Adriatic sea, but I’ve been there.

[00:20:52] It’s a really, a backwards place, way up in the mountains. And he lived along a long plane and way in the distance was [00:21:00] the generic Alps. So I think he definitely saw lightning storms in the Alps and then travel across the plane towards his home. And I think that influenced him. His father was , a Greek Orthodox priest and his mother was related to the regional Bishop.

[00:21:15] So she was, in the higher echelon. So he was part of the educated elite. And, , , after high school, he went to the university of grads, which is like the MIT of, , Austria at the time, very, important, college. And, uh, in fact, one of the teachers, there was Ernst Mach. influenced Albert Einstein.

[00:21:36] And then later he went on to the university of Prague. He was in advanced mathematics, student. And in fact, the math teachers would give him extra problems. I’ve seen the calculations that he’s done, and he was pretty incredible. So at the time there was a problem of the day. And the problem of the day was that alternating current could only travel, , about a mile.

[00:21:56] And the reason was because. , [00:22:00] electricity by its nature changes its direction of flow at thousands of times a second. So think of, let’s say a stream going downstream than upstream than downstream and upstream at thousands of times of second, how do you make that go in one direction? That was the problem.

[00:22:16] So what they did was they eliminated the upstream and just created the downstream and that’s called direct current. And that was, there was a commutator which removed the up So that was the problem of the day in Tesla Feld, you could remove the commutator and somehow harness alternating current unencumbered and his, professor professor said that this was,, a situation that was impossible to do and that it could not be done.

[00:22:43] And you are wasting your time. I know you’re brilliant Mr. Tesla, but this is a waste of time. So Tesla spent the next five years, working on that problem and he saw. By essentially creating two, circuits out of phase with each other. And that created the induction motor, , which changed the world. but [00:23:00] it took a brilliant scientist, , to really look at this and, have the intuition to, feel that.

[00:23:04] the electricity by its nature, we should be able to harness electricity by its nature. We didn’t have to send out, alter it to direct current to do that. And so that really is a lot of his background.

[00:23:13] Cara: love that story in part, because I, hope that all of the teachers and parents and others out there are listening because it feels like with so many great minds and great adventures, there was always somebody that told them, like, it’s impossible.

[00:23:24] Don’t bother, , quit while you’re ahead kid know. the great minds that persist, past all of that. So, you’ve talked about alternating current, which is what Tesla is, very well known for. And you mentioned a couple of his other, , like the induction motor, but there were 300 patents.

[00:23:40] He had 300 patents worldwide and tons of gadgets. I’m looking here at our notes that say radio-controlled technology. , my two little boys who just got a remote control car, one of the first person. I don’t know if that helps. Maybe it’s not the same thing at all, shows you how much I know about science, but could you tell us about a couple more of his [00:24:00] inventions?

[00:24:00] And I wonder too, if you could give us a little insight into what you would have teachers and others take away about like how we focus on stem and innovation in school, how do we get kids essentially to think and behave more like.

[00:24:16] Marc: Well, I think in terms of today, , what is the problem of today?

[00:24:20] And the problem of today is how to kill this COVID virus, how to kill any virus, really. And I’m working on another book it’s called Covitz Achilles heel, and it has to do with those own therapy. That ozone is Another derivative of oxygen. Oxygen is owed to when ozone is owed three and this oh three will kill viruses.

[00:24:39] So that’s the problem of today. The problem today is how do we stop this pandemic? How do we cure cancer? How do we cure? This virus, the problem of that day was how do you harness alternating current and Tesla figured that out. And before I get to some of his other inventions, I just want to tell you a little about his induction motor.

[00:24:57] He calculated how many man [00:25:00] hours he would save on the planet. , when the motor came into being, so instead of having a horse, plow the field, you would have a motor plowed the field. So motors would do the work instead of animals and humans. And so he actually calculated how many man hours per person for the entire planet that he was saving.

[00:25:18] That was his mindset at that time. , which to me was, mentioned, you know, the remote control, car that , you’ve gotten your son. Here is Tesla’s genius. Tesla invented remote control robotics. What Tesla understood was that when you have, he had a remote control boat, the kids that are playing with these cars, they don’t think that the cars have intelligence inside them.

[00:25:41] They think, oh, I’ll make a right. Tell it to go right. Or tactical level about tell it fast or slow. But Tesla saw the machine itself as a primitive thinking machine. And so he’s the first person. To invent a robot. And it’s out of that, very device that you port your son. So he looks at [00:26:00] what we see is just a toy.

[00:26:01] He sees the inherent intelligence inside that toy as the basis of how all learning takes place. So I think that is one of the most brilliant insights.

[00:26:10] Cara: It’s sort of like a change of a shift of mindset, , so talking about, , character traits and how one thinks about a problem. we have had recently on this show, , not to be provocative here, but a biography of Thomas Edison, who of course was, a rival with Tesla at the time.

[00:26:27] And they’re both. Great renown inventors that gave our world our society. So, so much can you tell us a little bit about their relationship, like the war of currents, and I’m also curious to know what is it that you see in both men? Like what similarities did they possess and what.

[00:26:44] Marc: Yeah, Edison at the time was known as the Napoleon of invention, the wizard of Menlo park and Tesla couldn’t wait to meet him.

[00:26:52] He was actually working for Edison in Paris. And in my book wizard, I discovered a trip that Edison took. That’s never been written any of the [00:27:00] biography that he went to Paris and met Tesla in about 1880. 1883 and Tesla came to the United States in 1884 to work for Edison and he wanted to, give him his alternate and current machine.

[00:27:13] as I mentioned a little bit before the induction motor, was it, wasn’t just an induction motor Tesla is the inventor of what we can call the hydroelectric power system. So, if we’re looking at what’s happening in 1884, when Tesla comes to New York to work for Edison, electricity is all direct current.

[00:27:31] They’re all using commutators, they’re all eliminating the upstream. So by eliminating the upstream, you actually lose 90% of the efficiency of, , transmitting electricity. So Edison and Westinghouse and Elihu Thompson. These were three major companies had about 3000 power plants throughout the 1880s.

[00:27:51] They were only transmitting electricity, about one mile with power dropping off of a distance and only for lighting homes. So if you were [00:28:00] near the power plant, which would be running on call, your lights would be bright. And if you were, , a mile away, your lights would be dimmed. You couldn’t run refrigerator, a toaster, you could only light light bulbs.

[00:28:10] That was the situation. Before Tesla. So Tesla now meets the great wizard of Menlo park and he wants to talk Edison into using both an incurrent. Well, how can you harness a current that’s changing its direction of flow at thousands of times per second. That was Edison’s thinking. So what his son didn’t want to hear anything about it.

[00:28:29] Westinghouse was dabbling in AC and Westinghouse was a company. Of Edison’s. So Westinghouse said, I don’t want to hear anything about this. So Tesla said, well, I’ll do the best I can with your direct current. I think I can increase its efficiency by 15 or 20%. He said, if you could really do that is $50,000 in it for you.

[00:28:48] And of course, Tesla achieves all that. And Edison was said, I was just joking. I was really going to give you 50,000. I mean, to American joke. So Tesla quit. And that was the basis of the, , animosity that [00:29:00] existed between them. But , the two brilliant scientists, the two brilliant inventors. And when Tesla’s laboratory burnt to the ground in 1895, Edison provided a laboratory for him, , in the interim until the time that he could find his own way.

[00:29:15] So after the war, the consequence Edison realized that he was wrong. Eventually. Because once the hydroelectric power system was put in, which was Tesla’s system at Niagara falls, you could transmit energy, hundreds of miles and you could run factories. So the DC system that they were using that Edison was using in the 1880s as compared to Tesla’s AC system, I think is kind of comparing or worse in buggy to a jet plane.

[00:29:41] There’s just no comparison, whatever. Tesla created a quantum leap, in the field of energy , transmission. And on top of that, if you look at the hydroelectric power system, it’s free energy in the sense that the waterfall you don’t have to pay for the waterfall and it’s non-polluting and it’s running.

[00:29:59] Because [00:30:00] as long as Niagara falls falls, as long as the waterfall continues, you can continue to run electric power without polluting the world. So Tesla was very aware of not sapping the earth of oil and coal of its natural elements of running on what he called the wheel work of nature. His invention eliminated the need for 3000 power plants operating on coal.

[00:30:22] So we also helped clean the environment. And I think he’s the single most important person to helping slowing down global warming, because if he had not come in, when he did, we’d still be using perhaps now, , coal operated power plants, and still some DC equipment. Even when I was a kid, it was still some DC, equipment out there, , that was being used.

[00:30:42] So that was the basis , of the animosity that existed between them. before, Niagara falls was a Westinghouse, won the contract by buying Tesla’s patents, Edison began, electrocuting cats and dogs and a horse, and even an elephant with AC to try and show that it was dangerous.

[00:30:58] But in fact, people were dying with [00:31:00] DC machines as well as AC machines. And that’s when Tesla decided to send electricity through. Just show that it was safe if you knew what you were doing. So he would send hundreds of thousands of volts through his body. It was very weak, current, and his body would be lit up and was away.

[00:31:15] It was a PR campaign to show that if you knew what you were doing, AC was fine. And so that’s some of the, , , unusual experience between Tesla and Edison. They were friends and they were enemies. And then they were friends again.

[00:31:27] GR: I want to follow up on that because Tesla lived in an era in which big American businesses were on the assent and they were colliding with the world of inventions and patents.

[00:31:38] Could you talk about Tesla’s deep struggle with business and commercial aspects of his work and what students today could learn about scientific discoveries and their relationship with the hard realities of finance and.

[00:31:50] Marc: Yes. Well, I always talking about Tesla’s invention of the remote control robot, which leads into all of this, what Tesla did to, in order to control his [00:32:00] remote control boat, which was an 1898.

[00:32:02] He created two different frequencies. And when Tesla realized. Was that the problem would be, let’s say you had a, you know, a torpedo when you send it to another ship, what would prevent the enemy ship from using their own electrical machine and have the torpedo turn around and come back and hit your ship.

[00:32:19] So you wanted selective tuning. You wanted to create separate channels. And what Tesla realized was that you could multiply the frequencies. So we created oscillators. He’s the inventor of they call it hurts in waves, but they’re really Tesla wave. The oscillators that are used for the frequencies for wireless communication.

[00:32:36] So we invented wireless communication. Not only did he invent wireless communication, he invented the ability to create an unlimited number of wireless channels, cell phone technology. So he goes back to, you know, it was in Colorado Springs in 1899. sending electricity around the world and then it comes back to New York and forms a partnership with JP Morgan.

[00:32:57] Who’s the richest most powerful man in the [00:33:00] world. There’s nobody comparable today to Morgan. You could put bill gates, Elon Musk, Ted Turner, and a couple other people together. And you’d still would not have the. That Morgan had. He controlled everything. I have cartoons where you see Morgan as a giant, and you see the president of United States, the Kaiser of Germany and the king of England is all small people underneath Morgan that’s who tests the phones, a relationship with.

[00:33:24] , he goes to build a wireless communication system, a worldwide wireless communication system out on one island. And, , he gets $150,000 from Morgan. I don’t know what 150,000. In today’s dollars in 1901, but , it’s in the millions and he runs out of. And one of the reasons he runs out of money, he’s in competition with Marconi.

[00:33:46] And once he finds out that McCone is pirating, his apparatus, he decides to double the size of the tower without telling Morgan Morgan was in Europe at the time. And he figures if I double the size of the tower now, Can I send electricity, wireless [00:34:00] impulses to Europe. I can send it across the Pacific, around the entire world or Australia, you name it.

[00:34:05] So just by doubling the size of the tower, the revenues would come in and a geometric rate. And he tries to tell us to Morgan, but Morgan sees it as a breach of contract and Morgan refuses to give him money to complete. his tower. The sad thing about this story, you’re talking about, , business relationships, Tesla definitely breached the contract with Morgan.

[00:34:25] There’s no doubt about it, but Morgan, but he’s trying to say, Morgan, we’re talking about changing the world. He’s envisioning exactly what you and I are doing right now. You’re in Virginia, I’m in Rhode Island. We’re speaking. He said, , we be able to speak from here to Australia. If you sitting across the room from each other, I’m trying to create a world communication system.

[00:34:44] So, right. I doubled the tower, but look, I’m advancing the world of century can’t we transcend the contract and Morgan said, no, I promised you 150. I gave you the 150,000. You didn’t do it. But what Morgan also did was he blocked other investors. [00:35:00] From investing in the project, then Jacob Schiff, Thomas fortune Ryan, , William Henry, clay Frick, Morgan had given Frick $60 million.

[00:35:09] His percentage of, us steel Carnegie got another 300 million. So Frick was very, very wealthy to Frick to come and give tests. Or another a hundred, 200,000 was pocket change, but Morgan prevented him. So that’s the sad story of. What happened in big business? , so I would say that the lesson is don’t breach a contract that you have with somebody.

[00:35:30] I mean, I think that’s the ultimate lesson here,

[00:35:32] GR: just to follow up on the idea of the contract and is contained to his relationship with big business or they, with he, we’re also talking about Andrew Carnegie and Western house and others, knowing what you know now, is there something Tesla could have done differently?

[00:35:49] if you say, you know what, don’t breach the contract, that’s one thing let’s just say he did not breach it. Do you think the business community would have treated

[00:35:57] him better or is there

[00:35:58] something about [00:36:00] geniuses and being ahead of their time, that makes the kind of master non master relationship like this critical.

[00:36:08] Marc: I think, , people resent people that are outstanding in certain ways. That was part of it. Tesla claimed he received impulses from outer space that didn’t help his PR. I think though he was really trying to change the mind of one man. And had he changed Morgan’s mind how we would have had cell phone technology in the early 19 hundreds.

[00:36:29] We didn’t have radio 20 years ahead of its time. , so I think that, is really, what could have happened. there’s individual people. Let me look at Steve jobs, for instance, he creates apple computer. He lost his company that he was basically kicked out of the company.

[00:36:44] And for various reasons, fortunately for the world, he was let back into the company. So even, the. jobs, gets thrown out of their own company for various reasons. So I agree with you that oftentimes the genius is thrown out of a company, , or, , put on the [00:37:00] outs because they’re not understood, but look at the monies.

[00:37:03] Wireless communications generated. , I love football. I watched all the time. I mean, I can’t believe, fallback or a linebacker will make 40, 50, $60 million. Where’s those money coming from it’s coming from advertising, but really it’s coming from Tesla’s invention of, wireless communication and global communication.

[00:37:22] so. He’s trying to tell Morgan, the money’s gonna come in , and fistfuls, and Morgan doesn’t understand that it’s a whole different paradigm. , and that was , the real sad story underneath this all.

[00:37:33] GR: I’m a football fan as well. I’m in New York here in Charlottesville at the university of Virginia where we’ve been invited to a bowl game , , in fact in Boston and you’re right.

[00:37:43] Advertising pays for a lot. For pro football, but college football as well. But you’ve given me a research project in terms of looking at wireless or communication advertising and what role it’s funds are used to generate, this big thing we call [00:38:00] college football and

[00:38:00] pro football.

[00:38:01] So, let me go to my last question.

[00:38:03] Since you’ve published your work in the mid 1990s, Tesla’s reputation has moved from relative obscurity to real notoriety. they’re not like cars named after him, but when you think about someone who’s smart, They’ll say Tesla. In fact, at one point it was always Edison Reinstein. Well, not Tesla.

[00:38:22] it’ll come up. Will you talk about how the betters and their works gained fame over

[00:38:26] time and why schools children today should know about famous mentors and

[00:38:32] how maybe their stories can encourage them to do something great in genius in their lifetime.

[00:38:38] Marc: Yeah, , Tesla’s been my life’s work.

[00:38:40] I’ve studied him since the 1970s and I’m continually learning new things about him. I have a new book called Tesla wizard at war, which is now out in audio and will be out as a physical book. And then I discussed, Tesla’s dynamic theory of gravity. I had studied them for 20 or 30 years before. I started to get into [00:39:00] his dynamic theory of gravity.

[00:39:01] And I now think that I understand what it is, and it’s a whole different way of looking at what gravity is. So you continually learn new things about Tesla. Another thing I learned, recently about Tesla. the run-up to world war II, he had a particle beam weapon, of course, which I knew about, but we’ve now uncovered.

[00:39:21] I’ve uncovered, , let us between, , the president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, wanting to meet with Tesla, because of the particle beam weapons during world war two, there was a fear that the Nazis would have the atom bomb. How would we stop an atom bomb from being delivered to the United States?

[00:39:37] And one possibility would be this, later. star wars kind of a thing that Tesla was inventing I’ve discovered the Tesla was negotiating with the higher ups in a secret weapons development in Canada and the British, , military, It was general McNaughton was the head of secret weapons development for Canada.

[00:39:56] And Vannevar Bush was secret weapons development for the United States. [00:40:00] And Tesla was negotiating with both these guys, after Tesla died, John, , G Trump looked at his papers. Trump was happened to be a president Trump’s uncle sound believable story. but , , it was at MIT and, , they were trying to figure out was there really something to, the particle beam weapon?

[00:40:18] Tesla was constantly growing as a person. So he’s in his eighties negotiating with a gentleman, one who was a third in line to be head of allied forces, Eisenhower got the job, but he was third in line for that position in negotiating with Franklin Roosevelt, , I have declassified stuff from the Soviet union.

[00:40:36] He was negotiating with Joseph Stout. So Tesla constantly grew. And the more you study. The more you yourself grow because you start to learn all these new things. , this thing about the dynamic theory of gravity, , its direct relationship to the God particle and what’s happening in Seren and the supercollider.

[00:40:55] So I would say that it’s very good for students to study, , highly [00:41:00] intelligent individuals. They in the recent biography of Einstein, certainly worth reading by Isaacson, , Edison. You know how he invented. And of course, Tesla, Tesla invent an electric car. That’s what the car was named after him.

[00:41:14] And, Elon Musk is, the Tesla of today. and that’s why you to test. That’s one of the main reasons Tesla’s name is, has come back, but you know, a lot of kids today, , they don’t know that it’s named after a person. They just know the name, Tesla that it’s a car. They don’t know that it’s an inventor underneath at all.

[00:41:30] So. He’s a fascinating guy that you just never stop learning , once you really get into his life.

[00:41:35] GR: You mentioned earlier

[00:41:36] that Tesla of course, was an immigrant. we know that

[00:41:39] many leaders of startup companies, people who are already patents are also immigrants

[00:41:44] to the United States. in fact, mainland China a couple of years ago passed the United States for the first time.

[00:41:50] And the number of international patents, , file. Is there something about the immigrant experience? leads into this and, or is there [00:42:00] something about the American experience that is not encouraging

[00:42:04] enough? That kind of entrepreneurial.

[00:42:07] Marc: Yeah, I taught for 40 years in college. And, , I agree with you that kids from the other countries, we live in a great country.

[00:42:13] I don’t know. I certainly think of it as the greatest country in the world. But I think Americans over time get complacent on and the new kids on the block that they come from. Other countries, they come to this great country and they want to work in and make a name for themselves. , we also get, you know, the people that go to college from other countries here , are the cream of the crop.

[00:42:35] Sergei Brin, , helps starts Google. , So I agree. I think that we should not be complacent. we should, I think that the cost of college is way too high, but it’s very important for people to continue to learn. And that was one of the reasons why Tesla invented the induction motor, he actually writes about this.

[00:42:53] He said the less time people have, , manual labor, the more they can get. To school so that the [00:43:00] intelligence of the planet will increase geometric proportions. He actually wrote on that very level, that it’s very important to be highly educated. I love reading. I love learning new things. And I think studying these kinds of individuals who are enlightening, we went to the UN to try and get Tesla’s birthday as an international holiday.

[00:43:21] I thought it was a way that the whole world could get around one, like Thanksgiving here, it would be one, event that the entire world would celebrate together. I said, why not? Tesla’s birthday? So that’s some of my thinking along those lines.

[00:43:34] GR: Well, speaking

[00:43:36] of reading would love for you to read a passage.

[00:43:38] Yeah. it’s, early in my book, , it’s a quote from Tesla himself, and you really get into his genius here. So this is Nikola Tesla, The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention. It is the most important product of his creative brain. Its ultimate purpose is the complete mastery [00:44:00] of mind over the material world.

[00:44:02] The harnessing of the forces of nature to human needs. This is the difficult task of the inventor is often misunderstood and unrewarded, but he finds ample compensation in the pleasing exercises of his powers. And in the knowledge of being one of that exceptionally privileged class, without whom the race would have long ago, perished in the bit of struggle against pitiless elements.

[00:44:24] Speaking for myself, I have already had my full measure of this exquisite enjoyment so much that for many years, my life was little short of continuous rain. I think what he’s saying here is, , he just loved his work. And I think that, , speaking to students, whatever you love, that’s what you should do, whatever it is.

[00:44:43] If you love something, do that, that will give you passion. And so he, didn’t see it as work. He saw it as enjoyment. And I certainly have tried to live my life that way to, do what I had a passion. , so that’s what he’s telling us. He’s also telling us without the inventor, humans would have never made it.

[00:44:59] [00:45:00] think of, the movie 2001, and you see the invention of the tool and how it evolves into the rocket ship. It’s that concept, I think that he’s really talking about, ,

[00:45:10] Cara: Dr. Seifer, what a great, sentiments, Conclude on today. Thank you so much for your time and your insight. It was just a pleasure to speak with you.

[00:45:20] Marc: Thank you, Karen. Thank you, Gerrard. It was a great pleasure be on your show.[00:46:00] [00:47:00]

[00:47:33] Cara: And this week’s tweet of the week is from education. Next. It is a quote from a study of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. and it says, quote, we find that students attending schools with more competitive pressure made larger gains as program enrollment grew states. Then did students at schools with less market competition, this difference was more pronounced for low income students.

[00:47:58] So for those of you who have [00:48:00] absolutely no idea, what I am talking about, this is a study by David Figlio and colleagues, about the better. Of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. So a program that uses tax credit, donations that, , corporations give in exchange for tax credit to fund scholarships for eligible children, low-income children to attend private schools in this study, found in the study was published several years ago and then updated, but it found that there are benefits for the student.

[00:48:31] Who remain in public schools as well. So this is very similar to some of the competitive effects studies that we’ve seen of charter schools and what they do is really, really neat. And they look at school districts where there’s a lot of quote unquote market competition, because a lot of kids qualify and have private schools nearby that they could use with a tax credit scholarship.

[00:48:51] And what. Not surprising to those of us have watched this for a while and know that not always, but man, a lot of the time market competition can work. , [00:49:00] the private school competition made the public schools sort of rise to the occasion and do better for those kids in terms of academic outcomes.

[00:49:07] So always great to read education next and thanks to them for doing such great work. , and Gerard, next week, we’ve got a really exciting show.

[00:49:17] We’re going to be talking about the case being heard. By SCOTUS. , I think the day that this podcast is being released on Wednesday in that case is out of Maine it’s Carson. The Macon many are calling this the follow-up to the Espinosa case that really, , opened up the opportunity for states to enact private school choice programs in many states though, not all Michael Bendis, who we’ve had before on the show is the senior attorney for the Institute for justice, who is involved in the case.

[00:49:44] He’s going to be. And we’ll also be speaking with David and Amy Carson, who are the lead plaintiffs in the Carson, the Macon case. So looking forward to that, , folks who are interested in school choice, please be sure to tune in until then, [00:50:00] Gerard, I will look forward to chatting with you next week. Stay warm, stay well.

[00:50:06] GR: . I will. And let me give a quick shout out to Jamie and McKayla for getting us, , the plaintiffs to talk about. There are very, in fact, I don’t know if there’s another education podcast. That’s actually had an attorney and the lead plaintiffs in two Supreme court cases of note recently on one show.

[00:50:27] This is why you have to come to The Learning Curve.

[00:50:29] Cara: You have to come to the learning curve and Jamie and Micaela also , the unsung heroes we get to do all the talking. They do all the hard work. We should just own that. Right?

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