Oct 052007

*originally printed in Red Shtick Magazine – October, 2007 (pdf)

Wires suck. They tangle. People trip over them. Animals gnaw on them. Musicians lose them. Nerds collect them.

We need wires to connect things that need to be connected. How do we connect things without wires? We also use wireless to connect things that need to be connected. We have two options when it comes to connectivity: wires and wireless. Seems like there should be a third option, but that’s pretty much it. From there, we just have to work on making more things wireless.

Researchers at MIT discovered an effect that allows them to send electrical power across short distances without wires. They discovered it shortly after they realized it would be really popular to do so, even though it had been discovered a long time ago.

They are using magnetic induction with a twist. Magnetic induction is the same effect used in everyday electrical transformers as well as larger, cooler Transformers like Bumblebee and Starscream. The twist is their utilization of magnetically coupled resonators to transmit power farther and more efficiently. This effect is best known for allowing the MCP to transfer its power to Sark in an attempt to delete the security program Tron.

The benefits of this technology are obvious. The nightmare of wall-warts, adapters, splitters, converters, and connectors is finally over. Soon we will live in an inductive dream world of resonantly coupled bliss. These power systems have been dubbed WiTricity, and they are poised to rejuvenate the dying industry of overpriced consumer electronics.

There is some cause to be wary of this new technology. The hype surrounding WiTricity smacks of “free energy.” In the past, we have been taunted by madmen claiming discoveries of “free energy,” which makes about as much sense as free love. Don’t bank on it, baby. Nikola Tesla was the most infamous of these freeloading charlatans. Tesla was a contemporary of American patriot and pet electrocutioner Thomas Edison, who totally hated Tesla’s Serbo-Croatian guts.

Though Tesla invented the radio, everyone bought them from a guy named Marconi, pretty much because Tesla was annoying and weird. Tesla also invented some ridiculous thing called multiphase alternating current, which just sounds stupid. Tesla had a solution for wireless power, but his final solution was about as ominous as you would expect from a kooky, mustached villain.

In his later years, Nikola Tesla became a criminal psychopath. He created the infamous WardenclyffeTower, also known as Castle Grayskull. Included in Tesla’s life of ravings are notions of utilizing the resonant conduction of earth’s ionosphere to freely distribute the abundant source of electrostatic energy it contains. That’s some of the craziest nonsense I’ve ever read, and I just wrote it, so I know what I’m talking about.

Tesla used the WardenclyffeTower to demonstrate that his ion voodoo actually worked and that free distribution of abundant energy is feasible. Thomas Edison was smart enough to know that the only free distribution of energy should be through the electric chairs he invented, marketed, and enthusiastically demonstrated the effects of on God’s cutest, fuzziest creatures.

The first law of thermodynamics relates to the conservation of energy. From an economic standpoint, energy is conserved when not everyone can pay for it. Thermodyneconomics is a combined discipline that has reached the conclusion that free energy is complete B.S., because if you give something away for free, then nobody makes any money.

Violating the first law of thermodyneconomics is why Tesla died destitute and forgotten. Edison knew how to make money. Tesla only knew how to make trouble, and uniquely ingenious inventions. Tesla’s wireless electricity lacked the fundamental necessity that is the mother of modern invention: a method by which it can be utilized to make rich people richer, or at least not threaten the basis for their existing wealth.

WiTricity was developed by market-savvy engineers who know that accessibility should be inversely proportional to expense. Wirelessly powered devices cannot draw power from a source unless precisely tuned to do so. This engineered obstruction will allow companies like Macintosh to develop small, utopian communities in which only people who have registered iHearts and iLungs may live and breathe.

This new technology is headed in the right direction. We’re going to leave behind the world of expensive, proprietary cables and adapters and enter a new world of expensive, proprietary transmitters and receivers. With this new technology, we can power our world while knowing even less about where the power comes from or whose life it’s ruining to create it.

Innovation, ingenuity, and marketability are American moral values, and WiTricity proves that American nerds are still the best nerds in the world, especially foreign-born ones like the ones that invented WiTricity.