Part of the  

Chip Design Magazine


About  |  Contact

What Would Tesla Do?

I’ve got Tesla on the brain this week, so I’d like to review some of the events in his life and their outcome with you. Don’t worry, I’m getting to a point.

Tesla is rumored to have attached a mechanical vibrator to a support structure of his building, tuned it for resonance, and caused the entire building to shake. He got the gadget turned off before the police arrived. Did he get arrested? No.

Later at his laboratory near Colorado Springs he built a giant Tesla coil that electrified the ground for miles around. People wouldn’t ride their horses near his lab because of electric discharges between the ground and their horseshoes. Was Tesla arrested for this? No.

At the same laboratory, one night his experiments pulled too much power from the town’s overtaxed generator. The generator caught on fire and was destroyed. Was Tesla arrested? No. He did, however, have to replace the generating system.

Tesla claimed until his dying day that he was in possession of a death ray. As far as his contemporaries knew, he both the knowledge and the means to construct such a device. Was his home stormed by police? No. At least not until after he died of natural causes.

Now, fast forward a few hundred years or so. Last week, a high school student, Kiera Wilmot, in Bartow, Florida mixed a few household chemicals in an eight ounce plastic water bottle and screwed on the lid. She was standing in a mostly empty hallway at her school at 7:00 in the morning. A bit later, the lid popped off the bottle making a loud noise, and some smoke poured out of the bottle. No one was nearby, no one was hurt, and no property was damaged.

Guess what happened next? The young lady in question was taken to the principal’s office where he ascertained she had acted with no ill intent.  He then proceeded to send her to the school’s resource officer. The resource officer expelled her from school, and then called the police. The young woman was charged with weapons felonies and will be tried as an adult. Make a science mistake, go to jail!

There was a complete abdication of responsibility by every single adult involved in this incident. Watch the news interview below where the principal of the school blithely says that it’s just unfortunate such a good student made such a bad decision.

He could have prevented the whole mess. He’s presumably in charge of the school. The school’s resource officer could have acted differently. The police could have accepted responsibility for their actions and refused to arrest her. The individual at the prosecutor’s office who made the decision to try the case as a felony and in an adult court also had the option to not act or to act in a far different and less severe manner.

We have a young woman who acted out of scientific curiosity and has paid dearly for her actions so far. I’m reminded of the culture of the dark ages where science and magic were indistinguishable, and anything out of the ordinary was treated as heresy. The punishment for such heresy was swift and disproportionate forcing rational thinkers underground. Is that really the society we want to live in? Have we let our fears and desire for security push us so far that we’ll jail a kid that made a harmless mistake with a few chemicals? Has our sense of personal responsibility to our fellow human beings become nothing but meaningless platitudes that start with phrases like “My job requires me to…”, or “The rules state that I must…”? Have we become so entrenched in our efforts to prevent kids from bullying kids that we no longer care about adults bullying kids? I for one hope not. I hope this catastrophic failure can serve as a rallying point for Americans to turn things around and begin to accept responsibility for their actions and for defending their personal freedoms again. I hope this serves as a lever to begin to push out unreasoning, unthinking authoritarian structures that have obviously gone far beyond ‘beginning’ to permeate our public institutions.

3 Responses to “What Would Tesla Do?”

  1. lisafrequency Says:

    I felt really bad when zI heard about this.

    I am older but it seems like there were high school lab explosions all the time and nobody ever got arrested and charged with a crime. Maybe some suspensions happened but not jail .
    It seems like something needs to be done about this.

  2. safety team Says:

    Insufficient data. Such Devices HAVE hurt people, That the specific items were tried indicates some expectation of specific outcome. A ‘test’ indoors is hardly advisable. Whether extensive felony charges are apropos seems unlikely. To extend the parallel: (I study Tesla) he did the Colorado Springs work well away from city center (then). When the vibrator seemed to be running wild, he took a hammer to it.

  3. hamilton Says:

    I did have insufficient data actually. The actual police report was made public a few days ago and it turns out the experiment was done outdoors, still on school grounds, but away from the building. I didn’t mean to imply that she didn’t expect an outcome, I’m sure she did have an idea of what would happen. There are videos of the specific experiment all over youtube.

Leave a Reply