Of Mythical Monsters and Men

If snakes terrify you, this serpent will send chills up your spine. Every other reptile (Basilisk included) pales in comparison. Introducing the Hydra, a stuff of Greek legend. The progeny of Typhon and Echidna, it was fabled to guard the Greek underworld.

If you thought Ravana had a head too many get ready to be blown away.  Some say the Hydra had far too many heads for the painters to paint, however it is generally accepted that it possessed lesser than 10 heads. This of course was courtesy of the traits of its parents: Typhon had a 100 heads and Echidna was part serpent-part maiden. The deadly nature of the Hydra came from the fact that if one head was severed, two would grow in its place. Its trail was toxic and its breath could kill any being on the face of the Earth. It wasn’t long before the Hydra was proclaimed public nuisance number one, devouring cattle and man alike.

The Fabled Hydra

What added to the Hydra’s widespread popularity (along with its terrifying characteristics), is how it met its doom. Enter Hercules. The King of Tiryns, Eurystheus, sent him following incessant reports of the serpent’s wrath. Hercules followed the seven sure-shot steps to slay the beast-

  1. Get the monsters attention with flaming arrows.
  2. Behead the beast, multiple times.
  3. Upon realizing the genetic head spawning mechanism the beast possesses, summon your charioteer and seek his assistance.
  4. For every head you slash, assign your trusty sidekick to cauterize each open stump.
  5. Repeat the above until all but one head (it’s strongest) remain.
  6. It is time to improvise. Smash the final head with a club. Use excessive force.
  7. Just to make a statement, use your bare hands to tear the head off.

The beast of Lerna has been slain. Alternate versions to the story speak of a giant crab, sent by goddess Hera, that joins the fray. Needless to say, Hercules returned home to a pompous celebration. He dipped his arrows in Hydra blood, making them as deadly as can be.

It is often believed that the fabled Loch Ness monster of Scotland is simply a manifestation based on the legend of the Hydra. The Hydra still remains a popular mythological creature, even featuring in the Disney film Hercules. Bloody, heroic and chilling, the tale of the Hydra lives on.

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Curves: Here To Stay?

This year in the Consumer Electronic Show of Las Vegas, curves were aplenty. Although the concept of a curved digital display has long been on the drawing board and even tried and tested by many a top brand, it still seems to pack a punch. Both Samsung and LG came out with ‘curved TVs’ monster-like sizes and specifications. Is this just a marketing gimmick or is there more to the curved display?

The first type of flexible displays created was flexible e-paper.  In 1974 Xerox PARC designed the first bendable e-paper display. Considered an experimental initiative rather than anything else, it was never in their wildest dreams they’d expect phones and televisions to sport such technology.  The pioneers of the mobile industry, Nokia brought flexibility to mobile platform in 2008 with the Morph.

The Nokia Morph

The debate is on about the curved displays, especially for the televisions. They claim to ‘wrap around you” and you a holistic viewing experience. A screen with a curvature seems to provide a much better field of view as compared to their flat counterparts. What the manufacturers fail to mention is that curved panels are inefficient for sizes lesser than 42 inches. Neither household dimensions nor family wallets suit large screen TVs. So it’s very apparent that this range is aimed at those who have cash and want to flaunt it.

Samsung’s own

Also, curved displays distort the video to large extents and cut off the viewing angle at the fringes to the left and right. So when you’ve got the popcorn ready and are all jam-packed on the couch you can expect the guys on the extreme corners to have some technical difficulties. In fact worse than in flat screens.

The curved TVs are expected to be damp squibs in the market. Experts however believe that the mobile market can make better use of the technology. The future can only tell us what’s in store.

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The Dark Side Of The Moon: A Review


It’s been roughly 40 years since Pink Floyd conjured up the magic that is The Dark Side Of The Moon. The Legacy of the album that defined progressive rock lives on, with an estimated 50 million copies sold worldwide. This was the English Band’s eighth studio album released way back in 1973. The album ebbs and flows its way through its 43 minute running time and addresses the central concept of madness. Multi-track recording, technology alien to that time, was implemented in the entirety of the album resulting in an experience like no other. The iconic prism album art is one of the most recognised in the world.

The band, led by Roger Waters, embarked to create a concept album that dealt with the stress and pressure of modern living, partially inspired by the turmoil faced by ex-member Syd Barrett. With that binding notion in mind the album was designed for continuous play with fuzzy borders between songs. Sound effects are aplenty and scattered throughout the album and the unifying sound of the heartbeat reminds us of the human experience.

The album begins with ‘Speak To Me’ and ‘Breathe’ - soothing reminders of the blissful life. It is the symbolic ‘birth’ of the album and any innocence portrayed in the verses is soon to be shattered in ‘On The Run’. It’s an ode to the hectic regime of today, complete with the buzz of the airport and hysterical laughs. ‘Time’ is you growing up and oh-so-disillusioned. Gilmour’s resounding licks punctuate Waters’ lyrical serenade and climaxes with a tremolo-filed solo. However the pinnacle of the album is reached with ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’. Void of any lyrics, a simple piano riff is transformed into something of beauty by the wailing vocals of Clare Torry. Oozing of raw emotion, the song is an allegory for death. The most commercially successful track however, was ‘Money’ (Can’t even stand the irony).  Greed and consumerism are mocked with panache and the song is built on the sounds of clinking coins and cash registers.


“New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think I’ll buy me a football team.”

‘Brain Damage’ is a schizophrenic breakdown of staggering proportions. ‘Eclipse’ is the orchestral finale of the album with the final words “and everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.” This immediately fades into the soft thump of the human heart with which the album symbolically closes.

Musically the album speaks like no other, complete with saxophone, recorder and replete with doses of strat. The spoken parts of the album found their origin from unlikely sources. For example the intro to ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ were what the studio doorman had told them during recording-

 “I am not frightened of dying. Any time will do: I don’t mind. Why should I be frightened of dying? There’s no reason for it — you’ve got to go sometime”

Easily the most astounding album of the 70’s, it showcases Pink Floyd in their prime. Whether you’ve heard Pink Floyd or not, I definitely suggest you pick this up. Find a place to yourself, press play and you’ll find yourself lost. So, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

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The Legacy Of Sherlock Holmes


Sherlock Holmes is 127 years old. Only in his wildest dreams would Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have imagined his legacy to live on beyond his generation, let alone his century. Yet the English sleuth lives on, his avatar taking one form or another in cinema, television and literature. What is the reason behind such enduring popularity?

BBC’s Sherlock

That’s is quite elementary, my dear Watson. Firstly it’s the character’s compliance to any era. Sherlock Holmes’ charisma and character, along with his methods of deduction and logic are timeless. He could very well fit the 21st century just as easily as the Victorian era. A testament to that is obviously BBC’s television crime-drama series Sherlock. The series aspires to be a creative reproduction of Conan Doyle’s beloved detective, set in a turbulent 21st Century London. Benedict Cumberbatch pulls off his role as the ‘highly functioning sociopath’ in an age of texting and blogging.

Downey adds panache to Sherlock

Similarly, the Sherlock Holmes movie series, with Robert Downey Jr. playing the man, attracted many a youngster to the charming detective. Although considered a rather adrenaline fuelled, action-packed version of Sherlock, it still remains faithful to his roots. This is because Conan Doyle has time and again portrayed Sherlock to be an expert with ‘single stick’ fencing and an amateur boxer.

Quoting the producer of the movie, Lionel Wigram-

“A lot of the action that Conan Doyle refers to was actually made manifest in our film. Very often, Sherlock Holmes will say things like, ‘If I hadn’t been such an expert short [single] stick person, I would have died in that’ or he would refer to a fight off screen. We’re putting those fights on screen.”

Other popular adaptations of Sherlock Holmes include an avatar in Detective Comics, a comic book series from DC. Another famous portrayal is Jeremy Brett’s in the 1984 Sherlock Holmes TV Series. Sources indicate that there are over 25,000 Holmes-related productions and products in total.

Creative privileges see no limits as we see Batman share a moment with the Englishman.

The second reason behind his popularity is the story’s copyright protection, or lack thereof. In the UK, all of Conan Doyle’s copyrights expired in 1980, and the character is now in the public domain. In the USA, all works published before 1923 are free to be used by all, but the last 10 stories in The Case Book Of Sherlock Holmes remain protected. This implies that if you want to cook up a story on the Baker Street resident, no permission or royalty is required. Although the Doyle estate begs to differ. The fact remains that it isn’t rocket science, it’s the law (which is far more complicated, trust me).

The multitude of incarnations of Sherlock however does good to the man at the end of the day. After all, a good character evolves with times. To the teens of this generation Sherlock will be pictured not as a pipe-puffing genius, but a consulting detective on nicotine patches.

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5 Pivotal Moments of Modern Music

Etched in time are certain moments that struck a chord with the world. Certain moments that were set to change the face of the music industry forever. Chronologically speaking, here is a run-down of these milestones…

#1 The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show (1964)

Raucous crowds, swooning fan girls and 73 million viewers are just the tip of the iceberg when we talk about the prominence of this moment in musical history. It is often touted to be one of those ‘Where were you when…?’ moments similar to the moon landing. Shortly following the assassination of JFK, The Beatles landed in New York to begin what the world now refers to as the British Invasion. Riding high on the popularity of “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, the Beatles’ arrival in the United States is exactly what both the band and the crippled superpower needed. A whooping 60% of the TVs turned on were tuned to the show as the streets exploded to the whirlwind choruses of “She Loves You” and “I Saw Her Standing There”.

The Fab Four left no stone unturned

The music industry would never be the same again as the gates were symbolically thrown open for touring bands and musical and cultural exchange between nations peaked. Mop-tops became incredibly fashionable and music sales hit platinum all across the USA. The baby boomer generation picked up their instruments and the Rock and Roll scene of the 70’s and 80’s flourished.

#2 Woodstock (1969)

Overflowing crowds, overflowing passions.

Dubbed as the concert of a lifetime, it witnessed stellar performances from names such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Jefferson Airplane and Neil Young. Held in the outskirts of New York as “3 Days of Peace and Music”, Rolling Stone often refers to it as the moment that changed Rock and Roll history. Close to half a million people attended the concert and an additional 1.5 million people crowded the streets to soak in the atmosphere. In addition, the fence was cut the night before, thereby making the concert free. The 60’s had never seen a rock festival of such proportions and the musical revolution of the 70’s is what followed.

 #3 MTV airs the first music video (1981)

This lethal combination of audio and video only begin its broadcast in 1981 by MTV. And quite ironically, The Buggles’ hit tune “Video Killed The Radio Star” was first to ever be played. That iconic moment shaped the path of the music industry, allowing them to expand their audience and incorporating visual elements into their music. Unfortunately, music channels of today neither recognize nor appreciate talented musicians. Reality shows seem to be all these channels now have time for, thus alienating a generation that rocked their socks off to the TV set.

#4 Auto-tune (1997)

Never hit a wrong note again

After the dawn of the millennia, technology begin to get the better of musicians Andy Hildebrand, an engineer in Exxon, initially used this software to detect oil reserves in the ocean floor. However, he later realized it could be used to correct a singer’s notes and make him sound pitch perfect. It was first commercially used in Cher’s “Believe” and the success of the song carried over as the success of auto-tune. Hip-hop and pop thrived, as talent no longer seemed to bar artists from commercial success. Rappers such as T-Pain and Kanye West rely almost entirely on auto-tune, making one wonder where the beauty of music has gone. On the flipside one could say that as long as the listener enjoys the music, its one giant leap for musicians.

#5 iTunes & Digital Downloads (2001)

The years of the vinyl records were long gone. Cassettes were booted out and it was about time CDs were shown the door too. Enter the era of digital downloads. With Apple’s ingenious marketing ploy and its technological capabilities, listeners gobbled up 99¢ songs in the luxury of their own homes. The proliferation of pirated music was still at its peak amongst the Walkman generation. The introduction of legitimate means to acquire music over the Internet led to its insane popularity. The iTunes Music Store recorded 10 million digital download in its first few months of operation. Albums and bands spread like wildfire across the strata of the Internet.

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Queer and Queerer: Surrealism

This is the third and final part of a three part series that focusses on the oddities of art and literature. This third segment deals with an irrational form of art. Read on to know more…  

People love mystery, and that’s why they love paintings. The most popular works of art have been painstakingly analysed and discussed to come to a conclusion on what the artist was trying to express. But what if the art is so mind-numbingly illogical that all we can do is speculate? Welcome to the revolution that is surrealism.

Sigmund Freud implored artists to explore the unconscious state of mind.

Post World War I, artists across the world felt an upheaving sentiment against rationale and socio-political issues. Led by the French writer-poet Andre Breton, art took a turn for the irrational. Most of what surrealist art had become were based on the findings of Sigmund Freud. He was a reputed Austrian Neurologist who performed intensive psychoanalysis and dream-work to soldiers suffering from shell shock. His in-depth analysis on unconsciousness is where surrealists drew their inspiration.

In Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto of 1924 he defined it to be-

Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.

There is always the element of surprise when it comes to surrealism. In this world 2 and 2 does not add up to 4. Elements not generally found together could be combined in a single canvas to produce illogical and startling effects. On studying the works of stalwarts such as Salvador Dalí we see how far artists are willing to distance themselves from the rational world. Consider his most famous work of art, The Persistence Of Memory (1931).

The Persistence Of Memory

Critics first regarded the melting timepieces as a testament to the relativity of space and time brought out by Albert Einstein. However Dalí refuted this by saying the actual inspiration was the melting of Camembert Cheese in the hot afternoon sun. These artists constantly dangle a carrot of reason in front of you and snigger as you jump to catch it.

This is definitely not a pipe.

Another classic example is René Magritte’s- The Treachery of Images (1929). The cryptic sentence at the bottom translates to “This is not a pipe.”.  As absurd as it sounds what he intends to proclaim is that the painting is not a pipe, but rather an image of a pipe.

Over the years surrealism changed from the idea of liberation of thought to that of political change. The backdrop of the World War only intensified their voice with Surrealism soon becoming synonymous with communism.

One can summarise this unique manifestation of art by quoting Salvador Dalí- “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” 

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Queer and Queerer: Anything But Mainstream

This is the second part of a three part series that focusses on the oddities of art and literature. The second segment deals with obscure genres of music. Read on to know more… 

The wonderful thing about music is the plethora of genres one can choose from. Of course every person has his or her own preferences and tolerance levels. Your neighbour may not appreciate the Heavy Thrash Gothic Death Black Metal that you rock out to but neither do you like his smooth jazz fetish. It’s the subjectivity and diversity of music that makes it all the more delightful. All that said, there are some oddball genres that are anything but mainstream. Here’s a rundown of some that catch the eye-

Math Rock

You can take off your dancing shoes for this one because for the untrained ear this is utter chaos. It is a form of experimental rock consisting of wayward time signatures and rhythm. The typical song on the radio would have a 4/4 beat whereas math rock songs may have an 11/8 or 7/8.  Take the song Lateralus by the American band Tool as an example. The syllables in the verse are found to follow the Fibonacci sequence that is indeed an example of artistic brilliance.


(1) Black,

(1) then,

(2) white are,

(3) all I see,

(5) in my in·fan·cy,

(8) red and yel·low then came to be,

(5) rea·ching out to me,

(3) lets me see.   (…and so on)

Draw your wands for this one

Wizard Rock

 Muggles, put your earmuffs on and step aside for The Boy Who Rocked. That’s right, the Harry Potter phenomenon has spawned a legitimate genre of music for itself. Fuelled by social media, these indie bands derive all their lyrical content from the wizarding world. While some songs talk of Ginny’s fondness for Harry, others recall the atrocities of Severus Snape. Here’s the song Snape by The Remus Lupins- 



Chiptune music brings back fond memories of the Super Mario days. This 8-bit music style of the yesteryears has witnessed a stunning revival. The video game consoles of the 80’s and 90’s such the NES and the Gameboy utilised their onboard sound chip to generate their fuzzy retro tune. This style of music witnessed a revival from the 2000’s with certain chiptune bands going as far as releasing full length albums. Sub-genres such as Bitpop and Nintendocore have also joined the fray. For starters try out Skip Cloud’s-Houston We Have A Problem.


George Harrison On The Sitar

Raga Rock

A cross between the Sabhas of Madras and Lollapalooza, this genre is an absolute delight for the ear. The Indian classical music seeped into the British scene in the 1960’s where acts such as The Kinks and The Beatles were open to experimentation. The use of the Sitar and Tabla became prominent. Bands began to realise that Indo-Classical elements and jazz go together quite well.  The most famous of  the songs had to be The Beatles hit Norwegian WoodGuitarist George Harrison, inspired by the works of Pandit Ravi Shankar, composed the lead riff entirely with the Sitar.  


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Queer and Queerer: Jabberwocky

This is the first part of a three part series that focusses on the oddities of art and literature. The first segment deals with an extravagant genre of literature. Read on to know more…  

Hey, diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport.
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

You may have heard this 16th century nursery rhyme. For years literary experts and historians have attempted to fathom the meaning of this verse.  Numerous theories came up involving (and not restricted to) Queen Elizabeth I, the flight from Eygpt, Egyptian Hathor worship and even corruption in ancient Greece. But at the end of the day, most scholars conclude that the poem actually may have no particular meaning at all. Welcome to the world of literary nonsense.

Childish fantasies of a nonsense realm

Believe it or not, nonsense literature is in fact a legitimate genre of writing. This art stems from the human desire to make sense of everything, even in places where probably none exists. But don’t get me wrong, nonsense literature still possesses its own semantics, phonetics and contextual meaning (paradox?).  This can be clearly discerned upon reading classic nonsense stories such as Alice In Wonderland (1865). The author Charles Lutwidge a.k.a Lewis Carroll is regarded as the knight in shining armour of nonsense tales. Alice In Wonderland, is often wrongly regarded a children’s tale, due to maddening content. But over time, it had been re-categorised as a work of nonsense- that even adults can derive joy from. Matter of fact, Queen Elizabeth and Oscar Wilde were some of the first readers of the book.Indeed, the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter cross the boundaries of the rational realm but there is always an unnerving logic to the plot. Through a cycle of frustration and understanding, readers whizz through pages of Alice before it hits them that half of what they read is mere balderdash. At one point of the story the Hatter asks Alice the infamous riddle ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’. As you would expect a few lines later the Hatter admits that even he doesn’t have the slightest idea why. It’s anecdotes like these that entrance the reader.

Illustrators often have a hard time when it comes to nonsense lit.

But Lewis didn’t stop at that; he made nonsense literature a worldwide phenomenon with his follow up to AliceThrough The Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871).  In this, he goes a step ahead with the quintessential nonsense poem Jabberwocky. You can test the waters with the first stanza-

Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe.

At first glance I wonder, what in the world that man was smoking when he wrote this. At second glance…never mind.

Carroll here presents a tale in the form of verse, and the distinctive characteristic is the words of his own he added. The genius of it is that the placement and phonetics of the words are such that the layman may believe that they are simply out of his vocabulary. He also took the pains of annotating some of his creative privileges. For example with regards to ourgrabe he says ” ‘outgribing‘ is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle”. And thus is the tale of how the word Jabberwocky made its way into the Oxford Dictionary to mean nonsense.

At the end of the day nonsense literature is simply what you infer of it. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but once you do- you’re hooked. And therein grolls all its werpitude.

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Music: Changing The World, One Chord At A Time

A tune can be the most powerful cohesive force. Songs are not only a form of expression for individuals and groups but influence their audience to great extents (for better or worse). Songs have come and gone, but those that shaped society have resonated for a long time. Here I’m not referring to your cheap Internet memes and gimmicks that have become a hit in the 21st century, but societal anthems of the yesteryears.

A classic example of this case is the British Invasion. There was no time better for a cultural revolution than the 1960’s. World War II had just completed and telecommunication was expanding rapidly. You could say that fortune favoured The Beatles in this regard as they took the World by storm. The Fab Four left no part of the world untouched, carrying their bandwagon to the USA, USSR and even landing on the shores of India.

The Beatles

Back In The USSR

Some historians believe that rather than missiles and diplomacy, The Beatles eased the Cold War. Beatlemania, though frowned upon by the Soviet authorities found its way into the USSR.  They changed the way people looked, dressed and talked. Quoting Artemy Troitsky, a Russian Cultural Commentator: “The Beatles turned tens of millions of Soviet youngsters to another religion. They alienated a whole generation from their Communist motherland”

Another example worth mentioning is John Lennon’s own ‘Imagine’. Lennon’s ideas for a utopia were expressed in tune for the first time, inciting varied reactions from the world. It soon grew to be a unified call for peace and love in a world facing troubled times.

One of the most popular protest songs was however, Bob Dylans ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’. The lyrical content and rhetoric of the song struck a chord with the youth and oppressed of the generation. Although the song was written way back in 1963, the refrain of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ was found to be used by protesters even in the Iraqi War.

As aptly put by Victor Hugo- ‘Music expressed that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent’

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

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Tesla: Of Current Affairs and Pauperdom

Nikola Tesla is the little-known pioneer of the modern world. The Serbian-American single-handedly revolutionised the energy needs of the planet. However he is most remembered for his feud and subsequent fallout with Thomas Edison. Charting his life and his achievements, you would conclude that unsung is indeed this Serbs middle name.

Early days: the apprentice

In his school days, Tesla was often accused of cheating simply because he could produce answers in the blink of an eye. Amongst other things, he was known to perform complex integral calculus in his head. After going through engineering school, Tesla set forth to pursue what he loved: working with machines. His first major assignment was under the Continental Edison Company in France. Soon enough, he was relocated to New York and worked directly under Edison. Showing signs of outshining his boss from the start, he was asked to redesign Edison’s motor and generators. Story has it that Edison said- “There’s fifty thousand dollars in it for you—if you can do it”. And as you may have guessed, Tesla delivered. Edison however snubbed him of any such pay by remarking- “Tesla, you don’t understand our American Humour”.  Tesla, pride shattered, quit his $10/week job and was eventually forced to work as a ditch digger to make ends meet. Thus the seeds were planted for a Tesla-Edison feud of epic proportions.

Current wars: AC/DC

You see, Alternating Current and Direct Current had a very unsettling relationship.  Tesla, a die-hard proponent of AC believed that it was the solution to the energy requirements of large populations. AC changes direction of transmission in each cycle and is more practical to transmit large amounts of energy. Edison however, thought otherwise. He thought Tesla was ‘impractical’ and ridiculed the AC project. He often lied through his teeth about fatalities involving AC and publicly electrocuted stray animals to make his point. (You see, Edison could be considered an entrepreneur over a scientist due to his utter lack of scientific temper)


This is as close as it gets to harmony between them.

Edison went to such extremes that he even created the recipe for destruction: The electric chair.  Intended to be a showcase of ‘AC brutality’, the electric chair went on to take countless lives, courtesy of a man who staunchly opposed capital punishment.

Meanwhile, Tesla (Much more of a scientist than a businessman) sold his patents to a certain George Westinghouse. Westinghouse went on an all out, financially bloated, war with Edison. This left both parties almost penniless. A clear-cut triumph of AC could be established only after the Niagara Falls Generation Project, which ended up powering a large part of Eastern USA.

After years: A man in decline

Nikola TeslaTesla went on to do significant research on the X-ray and Radio, which shaped the further works of Roentgen and Marconi. However, Tesla died in debt, impoverished and alone in a New York City Hotel at the age of 86. He was known to have descended into insanity over the years and pigeons were his only company. It is indeed a shame that a man of such ingenuity and dedication had to live such a life. Recognition evaded him for most of his time; thereby finances failed him as well. But his legacy flows through the wires that light up our homes. He was the scientist that we needed but not the scientist that we deserved.

For more on Tesla: The inventions of Tesla    Tesla: Man Out Of Time

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