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Huge Tesla Coils Will Recreate Natural Lightning 199

Posted by samzenpus
from the warm-up-the-lightning-cannon dept.
jjp9999 writes "In order to study the nature of lighting, the team at Lightning on Demand (LOD) plans to build two, ten-story-tall Tesla coils—the largest ever—that will blast arcs of lightning hundreds of feet in length. LOD founder Greg Leyh said the project aims to reveal details on the initiation process of natural lightning, an area that remains a mystery, since smaller generated arcs have more trouble breaking through the air. It is believed that 'laboratory-scale electric arcs start to gain lightning-like abilities once they grow past about 200ft in length,' according to the LOD website, and so the team hopes to build Tesla coils large enough to do this. According to Leyh, 'Understanding how lightning forms [and grows] is the first step towards being able to control where lightning strikes or being able to suppress it completely in certain areas.'"
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Huge Tesla Coils Will Recreate Natural Lightning

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  • by mysidia (191772) * on Sunday November 27, 2011 @05:33PM (#38184610)

    This can't be anywhere near civilization, as a Tesla coil can fry any electronics. It also can't be in some forest wilderness, as a Tesla coil can easily ignite trees. As they say, they're making something that's more and more lightning like, which is also more unsafe. So building a 10' Tesla coil is probably not the hard problem.... the hard problem is operating it Safely, and actually being able to take experimental observations.... because, this is all very dangerous.

    And also, will the FCC allow them to operate it, once they've built it?

    Considering spark gap transmitters have long been banned due to the spectrum-wide interference they cause; and the earliest such radio transmitters were tesla coils... and EMI in particular can be generated across the spectrum as well, resulting in disruptions to communications, with such a large tesla coil, and such a large arc, especially if they are attempting to use frequencies associated with wireless transmissions; I wonder what will the RFI fallout will be.

    ; and any horizontally long metallic structure can get induced currents and also become antennae for further RFI emissions. Yes, lightning does show up on the radio spectrum as well, but a powered up Tesla coil emits many arcs not spread out by time, a much bigger footprint than lightning....

  • by ustolemyname (1301665) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @06:07PM (#38184840)

    So building a 10' Tesla coil is probably not the hard problem

    It's not 10'. It's 10 stories, so more like 100' Tesla coils. I would call that hard.

  • by mark_reh (2015546) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @06:12PM (#38184866) Journal

    and it's wrong. Tesla coils produce high frequency -i.e AC- discharges at very high voltage and very low current. Lightning, on the other hand is a DC or very low frequency phenomenon combining extremely high voltages with extremely high currents. The currents are so high that they instantaneously heat the air and produce a loud boom- you may have heard it before- it's called thunder.

    If he really wanted to duplicate lightning he'd charge up some big capacitors to extremely high voltages and draw arcs between their terminals. THAT would be a better simulation of lightning than the output of any Tesla coil.

    Major props to the guy for marketing his idea. It's been picked up by every news agency from here to Mumbai. I'm sure he'll get the funding he needs to go through with the project.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2011 @06:22PM (#38184932)

    Tesla's bad assery [badasshistory.com] far exceeds the Tunguska myth. He figured out how to turn our great big ball of iron surrounded by an electrostatic atmosphere into a giant fucking power source. He knew burning fossil fuels was a bad idea 100 years ago before anyone ever conceived it would be an issue.

    He was trying to hand us a solution to problems we didn't even have yet and give us technology not unlike the telecommunications we have today 100 years ago! He even told us how to fucking do it when he filed a patent [tfcbooks.com] on the process.

    But hey, maybe these guys are on to his work and just needed a cover story to get funding for their own Wardenclyffe tower. One can only hope...

  • Re:Exciting! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @06:47PM (#38185080)

    the electromagnetic field between the phone and antenna tower would provide a path for the lightening

    To make the lightning actually hit the poor sod on the phone, you would need to ensure that the bridge generated by the field between the phone and tower was the path of leaast resistance for the lightning to follow. While it may create a path of (microscopically lower than the air) lower resistance, it would still need to become the optimal path - which is where it would fall down.

    You would have more luck trying to get the guy to play golf swinging metal sticks around, or better yet stand on top of a sand dune in the desert during a storm. In fact it would be much easier to try to rig the house of the person and call their landline (as long as it isn't a wireless phone, but one of the old fashioned curly cord types) and get the lightning to to id that way. There are many more documented cases where lightning has travelled along phone cables [snopes.com]. This is because the resistance differential offered by a metal cable is in the order of many many magnitudes higher then the resistance differential offered by an EM field.

    It's like trying to divert a huge river with two options, one is a path in the sand drawn with your finger (That's the EM field) and the other option to divert is with a Panama sized canal (that's the metal phone cable). The lightning will try to pick the path of least resistance from the clouds to the ground, but the likelihood that the path just happens to be the EM field caused by the phone signal is so miniscule that it is almost not plausible. A wet tree, a telegraph pole, an overhead wire, a nearby hill or even a lightning rod would almost always provide a path of lower resistance.

    Not saying it isn't theoretically possible, but to be able to "set it up" to happen just at the right moment when a call is made to "kill" the person isn't realistically plausible.

  • Re:Exciting! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2011 @06:58PM (#38185154)

    That's not irony. That's just a coincidence.

    It's not much of a coincidence; nothing coincided. Technically it's an example of 'something slightly relevant to this conversation'.

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