this is the largest tesla coil in the world.

it stood 4 stories tall and packed enough power to kill us all instantaneously. if anything went awry, the generators could fling their metal parts into an innocent bystander at over 100mph. the 130,000 watt bolt of electricity could wander away from the nearby grounding elements and annihilate a person with a single touch. everyone in the audience looked at each other, trying not to appear as uncomfortable as the person next to them.

the control panel for the tesla coil stood as tall as a lecturer's podium and had all the touches of a true mad scientist. big red buttons labelled "crash" and a handle from a speedboat accelerator bedecked the face of the black, matte-finish instrument board. a reading light illuminated the 4"x4" video display set into the center of the terminal. the operator stood at the console with a walkie talkie.

the person on the other end of the walkie talkie was greg leyh, lightning artist. standing in the center of the metal sphere on top of the tesla coil with a bullhorn, he told us about the electrum project and lighting on demand. he explained that this particular tesla coil had been commissioned by an uber-rich art collector in new zealand who wanted to have lightning on his estate. we were all here to watch greg take some final tests before he packed the whole thing into some crates and sailed it over the equator.

he fussed around for a few more minutes inside the cage, chatting away through the bullhorn and making sure that everything was ready. once everything appeared to be in order, he then signalled to the operator to turn the monster on. a few switches were thrown, a button or two was pressed and the accelerator was then slowly nudged into the full-power position.

low, whirring sounds began to emit from the base of the coil as the generators kicked into speed. a few kids ran to the front of the crowd holding neon tubes up towards the sphere. the tubes glowed faintly as electricity scrambled through the atmosphere and the smell of ozone filled the air.


we all stood mesmerized as we watched huge, gigantic bolts of electricity fling themselves out from the surface of the sphere and immense fingers of purplish-blue reached out to the grounding lamppost off to the right. the column from the center of the coil blasted out hurricanes of air as generators spun themselves into a mach 1 frenzy. greg stood inside the sphere of the tesla coil with a metal probe, taking more measurements and logging the results. as i watched this behemoth of electricity and the man inside, i was only sure of one thing... this guy must be abso-fucking-lutely insane.

the lightning continued for about five minutes until the operator powered the generators back down. finally, the noise and the ozone and the light subsided to a point when everyone could snap out of their tesla-induced hypnosis. still alive inside the sphere, greg used his bullhorn to explain the concept of the faraday cage.

"faraday cages are named after michael faraday, a british physicist who came up with faraday's law of electromagnetic induction. the faraday cage can be thought of as a closed-circuit, like this cage that i'm standing in or the metal cage of your car. the time-rate of change of magnetic flux within a completely closed physical circuit has to equal zero. the shell of the sphere acts to distribute the electromagnetic force over the sphere, creating a physical force field." the geeks in the audience all nodded to each other and giggled, as if a dirty joke had just been told. everyone else continued to stare at the man in the cage.

"in other words," he continued, much to the relief of the majority of the audience, "the electricity flows over the sphere because the metal shell of the sphere makes a closed circuit. electricity, when given the option, will always take the path of least resistance, so to close the circuit, it'll travel over the surface of the sphere rather than through it. if i ever stick any part of my body outside of the cage while the coil is on, then i will be considered a part of that circuit. if i become part of the circuit, everything will start smelling funny."

"this," he explained, "is the reason why people in cars don't get hurt by bolts of lightning."

it was right then and there that i decided that this was why i needed to name my next car faraday.


future | retro

all words (c) filmfatale industries 2000