Hold onto your butts, science nerds. In the latest installment of web series SmarterEveryDay, engineer Destin Sandlin explores one of Nikola Tesla’s incredible inventions, which looks like it was ripped directly from a video game. To better understand the electric world of Tesla coils, Sandlin seeks out the ultimate Tesla expert — Cameron Prince.
To say Prince is the ultimate Nikola Tesla fan is a bit of an understatement. Prince has been enthralled with the engineer/inventor since he was a child. It all started with a picture of Tesla and one of his iconic coils, with tendrils of electricity buzzing all around him. Thanks to Sandlin, we can watch both men nerd out as Prince shows off his handheld (and homemade) Tesla coil gun in this glorious YouTube video.
Following his death, Tesla’s notoriety has skyrocketed. Tesla was a visionary of his time, much like Elon Musk is today. His patents are currently accessible to anyone with a computer and he is responsible for many of the technologies we rely on today, such as alternating current (AC), X-rays, lasers, electric motors, and much more.
Not only does Cameron run an impressive website dedicated to the Serbian-American inventor, he has also constructed homemade versions of several Tesla’s designs, including a massive, nine-foot Tesla coil (that could probably wipe out an entire city), as well as a handheld Tesla coil gun. That’s right, I said handheld Tesla coil gun. Complete with a water-cooled power pack, the contraption closely resemble the proton packs used by the Ghostbusters. (Slimer, beware).
“This is full on Ghostbuster stuff,” says Sandlin, who filmed Prince and his futuristic device for the latest episode of his web series, SmarterEveryday.
“Most people were throwing baseballs as kids, but not me,” Prince explained. “I had a box of light bulbs, wires, and batteries.” And now he has one of only a handful of Tesla coil guns in existence, which feature a built-in display and control panel, along with various settings that alter the size and range of the lightning bolts emitted by the device.
Despite their shocking appearance, the lightning bolts are not that dangerous. “The primary coil on a Tesla coil circuit [is] fatal, no questions asked,” Destin explained. “But on the secondary coil the output is in microamps, which is generally accepted to be safe but some people still say it’s dangerous.”
Sandlin warned viewers not to try any of this at home, while Prince showed off special shoes he had on to make sure he was grounded and would not be shocked by the excess electricity.
Tesla first designed the coil in the late 1800s as a way to wirelessly transfer bolts of electricity. You can see the modern-day device in the full video below.