Nikola Tesla's Biggest Coil Turned Butterflies Into Blue Balls Of Fire

Nikola Tesla's Biggest Coil Turned Butterflies Into Blue Balls Of Fire

We've already talked so much about Nikola Tesla, master of alternating current, inventor of the twentieth century and owner of earthquake machines and fake death rays; surely there aren't any electrifying tales left? But just like his genius, when you think it's hit the limit, out pops another strange story of the Serbian savant. In this case, it's one that ends with a ballet of burning wings and silent insectoid screams.

Thomas Edison should always be remembered as that dick who electrocuted an elephant just to prove a point. But it's not like Tesla let his love of animals (a deeply romantic one in regards to pigeons) get in the way of his experimentation with electricity. This is what the people of Colorado Springs witnessed when, in 1899, the only slightly mad scientist unleashed the largest Tesla Coil ever made into their backyard. Nearly fifty feet in diameter, this coil produced millions of volts of artificial lightning whose discharge electrified the very air. It was an extraordinary phenomenon noticeable when the town's light bulbs started glowing, horses became nervous -- oh, and butterflies burst into flames.

Payback's a bitch, butterfly effect.

When Tesla experimented with undamped charges, the electric field was so powerful it zapped the many tiny bugs in the laboratory's surroundings. Most noticeable were the butterflies, who would start twirling around in circles while their wings became engulfed in St. Elmo's fire (not actual fire but ionized air molecules turned into blue-ish plasma). For a brief moment, the fields of Colorado Springs would be lit up by tiny blue balls swirling around impotently ... until the Tesla Coil's electricity finally finished them off. 

Luckily for all of insectkind, Tesla quickly gave up on his Colorado experiments. After only a year, the lab and its massive coil were shut down and then disassembled after Tesla ran out of money -- and butterflies. 

For more alternating, but never direct tangents, do follow Cedric on Twitter.

Top Image: Dickenson V. Alley

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