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A Boy and His Tesla Coil

January 06, 2002|ANDREW VONTZ

So much for the art-science split. Angeleno Syd Klinge, 39, has always been an inveterate tinkerer. By the time he was 6, his father, an engineering professor, had entrusted him with the task of wiring the house he'd built for the family in Maine. As an adult, Klinge has pursued artistic endeavors, including acting, film editing and music, as well as electrical engineering and other scientific projects. Oh, and 15 years ago, he built a small Tesla coil.

Tesla is scientific live wire Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), the wildly creative Croatian inventor responsible for radio transmission technology and the induction motor. Tesla's coil is a transformer that resembles a coil-topped mushroom and emits a lightning storm of electrical arcs, accompanied by the roaring sizzle of electricity. The device proved impractical as the wireless generator Tesla dreamed of, but it still fascinates scientists--and artists.

At the 1998 installment of the tribal-campout-meets-art-festival known as Burning Man, Klinge marveled at the fireworks produced by a 16-foot-tall coil sculpture and knew he had to build his own. In 1999, he completed a 7-foot-tall, 5,500-watt unit generating 6-foot-long arcs. He has appeared with his creation at parties and festivals such as the Electric Daisy Carnival rave event. "I'm incredibly drawn to how magical and organic and primitive the arcs are," Klinge says.

Los Angeles Times Tuesday January 8, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong nationality--In "A Boy and His Tesla Coil" in the Magazine on Jan. 6, inventor Nikola Tesla was misidentified as Croatian. He was Serbian American.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 27, 2002 Home Edition Los Angeles Times Magazine Page 4 Times Magazine Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
In "A Boy and His Tesla Coil" (Metropolis, Jan. 6), inventor Nikola Tesla was misidentified as Croatian. He was Serbian American.

Currently he is creating a 12-foot, 35,000-watt piece with a projected cost of $10,000. The sculpture, christened "Cauac," after the Mayan god of lightning and storms, will feature electrical fire, organic fire and a reflecting pool. He's also collaborating with Tesla coil performance artist Austin Richards of Santa Barbara (a.k.a. "Dr. MegaVolt") on a two-story, 120,000-watt sculpture equipped with a ladder for people to ascend while the coil is firing. The pair hope that the work will draw researchers as well as audiences. "Although the result is simple, the science is some pretty inspired physics," Klinge says.

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