Ever walk beneath a high-tension electric tower at night with a flourescent bulb? It lights up. The charge in the air is what does it. Tesla's system had over a million volts, versus the 480VAC that we use today.
Tesla set up his coils to broadcast the charge and it would light up any light bulbs in the area, He was safe as long as everything else was more grounded than he was.
His system for distributing power was to use the Earth's magnetism and natural resonance as a conduit. But, of course, how do you charge for providing power to everyone indiscriminately without wires? No way to profit from producing the energy...Its a lot like the new inductive charging system for cell phone batteries, no actual connection, the charge is broadcasted and all you have to do is lay the phone down in the vicinity.
Edison's plan over transmission lines allowed them to charge for the power. Edison even shocked an elephant to *death* to "prove" that Tesla's AC power system was inherently deadly. We know now that DC is actually more dangerous...and harder to deliver on transmission lines than AC.
*Actually, the AC power didn't kill the elephant, after 20 minutes, they had to use cyanide.http://muller.lbl.gov/teaching/Physics1 ... ution.html
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