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Two More Words: Secret Labs

Saving Wardenclyffe

Tesla's Wardenclyffe work was over almost before it began. While the tower was still under construction, Marconi made his famous trans-Atlantic radio broadcast, robbing Tesla of his great moment, and the stock market crashed. J. Pierpont Morgan, who financed Wardenclyffe, was already dubious about providing free electricity, and backed out of the deal. The government demolished the tower in 1917 as a wartime security measure [sources: Jonnes; PBS; Vujovic].

In August 2012, Matthew Inman, the Web cartoonist behind The Oatmeal, raised enough money through crowd-funding to enable The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe to buy the land. The plan is to turn the land into a museum [source: Greenfieldboyce].

Like any great movie scientist or Bond villain, any self-respecting science god requires a secret laboratory -- preferably one located in some remote locale and bristling with mad machines. Tesla had two.

In 1899, Tesla constructed a lab in Colorado Springs, Colo., to delve into the mysteries of high voltage and high frequency electricity [sources: Jonnes; PBS; Vujovic]. In one experiment, a 42-foot (12.8-meter) metal mast drove huge electrical impulses into the ground; in another, a Tesla coil shot 100-foot (30.5-meter) arcs of electricity across the room. The latter's surge blew out the electric company's dynamo and cast Colorado Springs into darkness [sources: Jonnes; PBS].

While at Colorado Springs, Tesla proved the existence of terrestrial stationary waves -- a means by which the Earth could conduct energy at certain electrical frequencies -- by illuminating 200 lamps from 25 miles (40 kilometers) away [sources: PBS; Vujovic]. As far as we know (contrary to the film "The Prestige"), he never worked on human teleportation.

Tesla later built his second secret lab, Wardenclyffe, closer to his Manhattan home. The Shoreham, Long Island, facility featured a 50-ton, 187-foot-high (45,000-kilogram, 57-meter-high) transmitting tower above a 120-foot-deep (36.6-meter-deep) well, along with 16 iron pipes sunk 300 feet (91.4 meters) deeper. Tesla planned to transmit power through the planet, using the rods to "get a grip of the Earth ... so that the whole of this globe can quiver." [sources: Greenfieldboyce; Jonnes; PBS].

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