Why tea? Why Tesla?

Secret Garden Tea Company in Kerrisdale, BC

Have you ever been to a afternoon tea service? If not, you should next time you have the opportunity. It’s very fun to be surrounded by the creative tea sandwiches, sweet scones and delectable tiny desserts all served on delicate china with exceptionally clean linens. It’s an environment that fosters quiet intimate conversations and other gentle, perhaps even lady-like, interactions. There is a tea room in Vancouver, BC that puts on a wonderful high tea service. My mother and I liked it so much we made it a tradition to go up to tea once a quarter throughout my undergraduate career. On these outings we would discuss a whole world of things from my summer plans, my day to day routine, to what exciting new things I was learning as I progressed through my physics degree. I found explaining these complicated concepts to describe the physics world in a setting of delicately painted china an intriguing juxtaposition. I was converting the nitty-gritty details of multi-variable calculus from my classroom to tangible, conclusion-focused explanations. I transitioned from the wild and enthusiastic gesturing of my professors to a gentle conversation held in a tea house. I did so to allow my mother to share in the awe of the new knowledge I had gained.

Nikola Tesla (1857-1943) American inventor. Photograph, 1915. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
Nikola Tesla 1915. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was an electrical engineer and physicist. His best known contribution to science was the development of the alternating current power supply, something that is still very relevant today. He was a very hard worker and dedicated to his work. He was never married and once claimed that his chastity was very helpful to his scientific abilities. However, through his showmanship, he has earned the reputation of “mad scientist” in popular culture. He would show off his electrical inventions at World Fairs, demonstrating the power of electricity, playing up the dramatic effect and creating a sense of wonder and astonishment about science as through it was magic. With his invention of the Tesla coil – a transformer that produces high-voltage electricity that is known for ionizing the air around it so that the air itself conducts electricity – how could he not?

Tesla and his original Tesla Coil
Tesla and his original Tesla Coil

Now, imagine Nikola Tesla sitting across from you at afternoon tea, explaining how his inventions work. Would there be flourishes and dramatic pauses? Wild gestures and enthusiastic emphasis? Probably. Yet, sitting there at tea, he wouldn’t show you the intricate math or the detailed diagrams. He would find a way to instill that sense of wonder and appreciation for science while maintaining a conversation fit for tea. Tangible, relatable, yet still intriguing.

That is my goal here. Communicate science in a way fit for tea, yet with the dramatic flare of Nikola Tesla. Granted, I may not be as successful as the “mad scientist” himself and the conversation may return to personal day to day topics from time to time. However,  as you follow the progress of this blog, I’d like you to imagine you are sitting down to Tea With Tesla.


8 thoughts on “Why tea? Why Tesla?

  1. What a fun concept for a science-y blog! My first big question for Tesla…. what kind of tea do you like? 🙂

  2. I love the marriage of science and creativity. The last outing my sisters Gloria, Eunice and I had before Gloria passed away was going to an old English estate called Beamish Hall. They served a wonderful High Tea. We laughed and at times tried to hold back tears, knowing this would be the last time we sisters would be together under pleasant circumstances. As English women we have had the opportunity many times to experience High Tea afternoons, but Beamish will live in our hearts forever. Thank you J’Neill for sharing this with us.

  3. I look forward to fascinating and approachable chats through this medium. There is so much to learn out there! Thank you.

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