Steven D Marlow
8 min readNov 20, 2021

This Made Tesla Cry

YouTube recommended a video from a channel I intentionally don’t follow, but I was curious enough about the claim being made in the title to give it a look. What follows is a collection of the comments I left at different points in the video. There are close to 20 thousand comments now, but even at the time I understood that I was just leaving them for myself. What I didn’t know is that it would turn into a rant and eventually a few tweets where I was asking the creator of the video to block me. Yes, I know the tired expression “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.” But for a “science communicator” with a huge following, it’s very damaging to allow this kind of thing to go unchallenged.

Link to the video The Big Misconception About Electricity by Veritasium.

17k+ comments, but at 6 minutes in, I totally hate this person.

1) The set-up and electrical diagram at the start were of a DC circuit, in which a current would have to flow the full 2 light year path (if you want to call the wire an electromagnetic guide wire, that’s fine, because it doesn’t change what you were trying to say). AC operates in a different way, so the time required is in relation to the frequency (1/30th of a second unless full rectification was required to convert to DC, in which case 1/60th).

2) It’s not some secret that there is no “continuous” wire from power source to a person’s home. Capacitors and transformers are the most common components in electronics, and represent a “physical break” in the circuit, if one wanted to be so pedantic about it. *DC current will not flow across a capacitor and without changing in magnitude (ie, constant current), won’t transmit that same flow to the other side of a transformer (you just get an electromagnet).

3) Every appliance connects to the power grid via a transformer, which couples the power before using it, which is why there is no “sending that same heating energy back to the power source.” But at this point you get into capacitive and inductive loads, power factor corrections, etc.

4) To find the direction… you can’t use your left hand, which is kind of important. It’s known as the right hand rule for a reason (yes, you seem to be using your right hand in the video, but when you dumb these things down so much you’re not really helping anyone).

5) The battery has electrical potential, not a field. The energy is stored in the form of two materials and chemically permeable membrane. *you point out that if no charges are moving, there is no magnetic field, which explains how your transformer works. **would have been nice for you to explain why metal is a good conductor, with those free electrons jumping between atoms. ***AND THEN YOU MENTION THE RIGHT HAND RULE NOT MENTIONED EARLIER.

6)Hunt muddies the water, because you’ve been leading up to this idea that it’s not about electrons THRU the wire, but the electromagnetic field around the wires, which he says is the wrong way to look at it. “The energy going thru the field is quite fast” — this is completely out of context and explains nothing, but from the diagram, and this is really stupid if true, you and Hunt are saying the “electrical field” from the battery is being transmitted to the light bulb filaments? We have already gone over the need for an Alternating Current (hence AC) for magnetic fields to work. The induction of tiny magnetic fields in the wire are lost as heat and resistance (I’m going off course by now suggesting that the jumping of electrons between atoms represent the smallest unit of eddy current losses, which are normally only associated with induced currents in a metal from a changing magnetic field, but it’s at least a better topic).

*note: at this point in transferring the comments to this post, I see that I had already used 6 along with the 5 post, so the “six” that would go for this post is “seven” and seven will be eight, and so on.

7) Energy flux (FROM DC?) and “the fields that carry the energy.” Oh my. Given this amazing new theory of yours, I should be able to take a battery, connect a resistor across the terminals (to limit the current flow you don’t seem to believe in), and place an old filament bulb right next to it and see it still lights up. Because, it’s the field that carries the energy, right?

8) “They probably don’t move at all.” OK, I’ll make an effort to grasp this. Setting aside the whole conductive material and free electrons stuff, I can accept this posit that atoms can acts as self-contained coils, and that electromagnetic energy is coupled between them. This strikes me as a zero energy loss model (how is heat conducted if that energy is reabsorbed by adjacent atoms?). Hang on a second… That seems to describe graphene! Welcome to the rabbit hole.

9) What were the yellow lines for again? Oh, the “energy field.” The flaw seems be with thinking there are “red wires” in the form of an electric field that covers the entire circuit. It’s from this you create the energy field which is specific to the energy source, rather than just being a single representation at any point along the circuit. You base THAT on a charge on the surface of the conductor, and get THAT from “the motion of electrons.” EXPLAIN how you can debunk a long standing.. understanding of electricity while using that very understanding as the basis for proving it wrong!

10) OK, let me take one more crack at this. AC, alternating current, where electrons in a conductive material oscillate (jumping in one direction, then the other, specific to frequency). This is well established, and you don’t seem to object to the idea. To say these electrons don’t carry energy is basically wrong. They represent an alternating voltage potential. There is a changing flow of current. Combined, we call that power. HOOK A TRANSFORMER to the power line and you can adjust the power level (lower voltage, lower current potential for this electromagnetically coupled circuit). It seems you found the most complicated way to explain the simplest idea in electronics, with your talk of energy field lines extending from the power source nonsense. High voltage transmission lines have losses based on the current flow (resistance), which you downplay, and thru impedance, which is directly related to the changing magnetic field on the conductive material (resistance and impedance are the same concepts, one for current, the other for magnetic fields).

11) No, you can’t just swap AC and DC sources and say the same fundamental method of energy transfer is at play. They are not. You might as well do the next video on why gravity is like a magnet, because it would be equally wrong.

12) “Increased the capacitance of the line.” I’m going to have a stroke before this video ends. At no time did you show how a capacitor works differently for AC and DC, but it gets a brief mention at the very end as THE proof for why people should believe the rest of the video. “Large air gap for insulation…” because that’s another thing you never bothered to explain. I mean, you actually teach, right? Not one of those ‘stayed at a Holiday Inn’ kinda things.

13) JFC.. you really are saying that a DC battery can power a light bulb thru proximity alone (in this case a bulb sitting on a black box that converts the DC from the battery to AC to power the bulb which turns the AC back into DC to power an LED, but what the fuck ever at this point in the video).

14)”Now the bulb won’t receive the entire voltage of the battery immediately…” Oh, for real, Mr. Science. I can’t wait for you to explain why your energy field doesn’t actually carry all of the energy required (also wondering if the battery was just a prop because you had your hand right between the terminals, and there nothing like a little bite from a car battery to wake you up). Answer was: impedance of the line and impedance of the bulb. First, we call that resistance. Second, as I mentioned in 13 above, that bulb has a tiny circuit inside with lots of little components that were all absent from the diagram you used to explain energy flux transfer or whatever. The resistance of the wire has an impact on how long it takes the power to go from zero to the 12/14 volts DC from the battery. There is a non-zero time required for the conversion of DC to AC (via switching power supply? which is an even smaller circuit that creates square wave (switching DC voltage on and off in a pattern that approximates the sine wave of an AC source; with some “smoothing”) and then coupling that new, mini energy source into a circuit that rectifies the sine wave back into a series of square waves. Then whatever time the driver for the LEDs requires to do whatever it’s going to do, because it’s a smart light (could assume it has a microcontroller that is looking for a previously stored setting for color and brightness).

And that’s it. A few minor corrections to the text of #14 to address the numbering correction, but these were my thoughts, posted “live” as I was watching that video. Harsh? Unnecessarily vulgar? Am I way of base and obviously not as smart as someone with a YouTube channel?

I should address one thing that will come up as a result of this post, and that’s the idea of “civil discourse.” It’s something you might hear from an academic, or someone with a “following” that is a thousand times greater than yours. I’ll admit I tend to cross that line out of frustration, mostly as a swipe at the “popular for being popular” culture. I think it can be justified, at times, as a protest, which is what I think this is. This “outrage” is my picket sign, calling on those with gilded platforms to not abuse their power to sway the crowd, or mislead them (intentionally or not).

Veritasium, with a video that has been watched by over a million people in less than 24 hours, is actually doing harm by getting it wrong. I am calling him out for taking a simple idea and wrapping it in pseudoscience mumbo jumbo while failing to give actual examples that support his initial premise. *This is not me saying he was ultimately right; I’m saying the transfer of energy thru electromagnetic waves doesn’t work as described, but the principle has been understood and in use for 120 years. The video simply contains no examples of said usage, nor does it provide the basic description of the differences between two methods of power delivery.

Steven D Marlow

I'm applying for the mad scientist position. Have robot. Will travel.