Saturday 23 October 2021


[As a child] the fountain of my enjoyment [was] our magnificent [cat] Macak... Now I must tell you of a strange and unforgettable experience which bore fruit in my later life. It happened that on the day of my exerience we had a cold drier than ever observed before. It was dusk of the evening and I felt impelled to stroke Macak's back. What I saw was a miracle which made me speechless from amazement. Macak's back was a sheet of light and my hand produced a shower of erupting sparks loud enough to be heard all over the place. My father was a very learned man, he had an answer for every question. 'Well', he finally remarked, 'this is nothing but electricity, the same thing you see on the trees in a storm'. My mother seemed charmed. 'Stop playing with this cat', she said, 'he might start a fire.' I was thinking abstractedly: Is nature a gigantic cat? If so, who strokes its back? It can only be God, I concluded. I cannot exaggerate the effect of this marvelous night on my childish imagination. Day after day I asked myself what is electricity and found no answer. Eighty years have gone by since and I still ask the same question, unable to answer it.

(Nikola Tesla, 'A Story of Youth Told by Age', 1939)

Illustration by Alexandre T Steinlen-Prowling Cat

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