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I came across this story while reading about Nikola Tesla ground-power scheme. Supposedly, he created a little oscillator that could be plugged into the ground, tuned to the right (resonant) frequency, and clamped on to an entire building to shake it down. Could this work? Tesla often exaggerated or lied about his inventions to bring in investors (and therefore became a "New Age Cult Hero"). Yet resonant oscillation can be really powerful -- as seen in the oft-mentioned Millenium Bridge debacle, or in the wine-glass-breaking-scream trick, or a person on a swing set (Side note: I knew someone who said that he once went the full circle!). However, it can only work if more energy is put in than is lost with each cycle. Would the energy lost from the oscillations of the structure be more than covered by Tesla's little vibrator?

Also, his idea to "break apart the Earth" with resonance couldn't work... could it?

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  • $\begingroup$ What does your intuition tell you ? Do you think that something you can fit in your hand (or a breadbox)can really take down a building ( nuclear devices excepted here, of course) ? Even if all the structural components had the same resonant frequency (which they don't), when connected together they are damped. $\endgroup$ – William Hird Jul 21 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ @WilliamHird The thing is, I haven't really trusted my intuition since it told me free energy was possible in fifth grade. But I think the shaking is possible because the building -- acording to Forbes -- was really just a half-finished steel skeleton with few moving parts or different materials, and no significant dampeners. Maybe if the earth-power was really strong, and the oscillator was quite long, it could work. According to the same article, Tesla shook his laboratory, but I think that was with a really big oscillator. $\endgroup$ – Palbitt Jul 21 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ Why does this particular Tesla Tale, fascinate you, Tesla had more important contributions to mankind than shaking buildings, he invented radio ( Marconi stole Tesla's patent ideas), AC motors and generators, Tesla coil, the list is phenomenal . $\endgroup$ – William Hird Jul 22 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ It's mainly just The Prestige. The movie had a short scene about Tesla's earth power, and I wanted to learn more, so I came across that article. But it is funny to read about his eccentricities, like how pretty much all of his inventions involved AC of some sort. This one in particular fascinated me because it seemed like a wild idea that could almost work, unlike his "death ray." $\endgroup$ – Palbitt Jul 22 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ You mentioned free energy, we could have free energy now , they are called thorium nuclear breeder reactors. They generate their own fuel and don't have the waste/meltdown problems that uranium reactors have. Why don't we have them now? Like in Tesla's time, the "Powers That Be" don't want us to have a limitless source of clean, cheap energy. They want us to remain fossil fuel dependent for as long as possible so they can milk us for everything we have. $\endgroup$ – William Hird Jul 22 at 1:46
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The answer is no. A little oscillator might generate a watt or two, but large buildings are not only well-damped but also mass-controlled with respect to their responses to being vibrated. Most of the power generated by the little oscillator will be reflected off the building's structure and whatever makes it in will be quickly dissipated.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah. But what about early 20th-century half-finished buildings? Still probably no. It's hard to see a little oscillator doing that. Thank you for the answer! $\endgroup$ – Palbitt Jul 31 at 15:44

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