Hold a fluorescent tube near a Tesla coil and it will light up in your hand. This is true of any tube or bulb with vacuum or rarefied gas. A more efficient way is to ground one end of the tube and put a length of wire as a sort of antenna on the other. Better yet, put a coil of wire that resonates with the secondary in series with the tube and ground and you have the optimal wireless power arrangement.

Tesla conducted many experiments with different arrangements like this, using on some occasions the widely available Edison filament incandescent, which lighted up more brilliantly than usual because of the effects of high frequencies on the bulbs rarefied interior. Inside his New York lab Tesla strung a wire connected to a Tesla coil around the perimeter of the room. Wherever he needed light he hung a gas tube in the vicinity of this high frequency conductor.

Tesla had a bold fantasy whereby he would use the principle of rarefied gas luminescence to light up the sky at night. High frequency electric energy would be transmitted, perhaps by an ionizing beam of ultraviolet radiation, into the upper atmosphere, where gases are at relatively low pressure, so that this layer would behave like a luminous tube. Sky lighting, he said, would reduce the need for street lighting, and facilitate the movement of ocean going vessels. The aurora borealis is an electrical phenomenon that works on this principle, the effects of cosmic eruptions such as those from the sun being the source of electric stimulation. I, for one, am grateful that this particular Tesla fantasy never materialized since it is difficult enough to see the stars with existing light pollution, and there might be undesirable biological impacts as well.

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