CHARLOTTE – A musical Tesla coil donated to Discovery Place Science is electrifying audiences with its renditions of nearly two dozen well-known tunes, including the theme to the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
A form of induction coil used to produce high-frequency alternating electrical currents, the Tesla coil was originally created by Nikola Tesla in the late 1800s to provide wireless electricity to the world.
The Tesla coil was donated to Discovery Place last year by Richard Mathias and his wife, Mary Ellen, who have given similar equipment to museums across the country.
Following a few weeks of precise technical adjustments, the instrument now sits in the Discovery Theatre, where daily performances are taking place.
The coil converts 240 volts of electricity into one million volts to produce bolts of electricity shooting out of its “ears.” The bolts of electricity can arc up to 12 feet.
“Our Tesla coil happens to be musical, so the electricity translates the impulses of pre-programmed music files that we feed it to play music,” said Douglas Coler, manager of shows and floor programs. “It can play about 28 different songs, including everything from the ‘Ghostbusters’ theme song to the opening tune in ‘Game of Thrones.’”
Special programming built around the coil debuts this month.
“Tommy Thunder’s Heavy Metal Lightning Show,” written by P.J. Griffith, puts the Tesla coil at center stage as rock-star-turned-meteorologist Tommy Thunder and his straight-laced manager, Karen, explain (in song) electrical concepts, natural phenomena and Nikola Tesla’s legacy, while Tommy tries to relive his heavy metal glory days.
“This is a great demonstration of how electricity travels and what happens when it is converted like that,” Coler said. “The fact that it plays music is just an added bonus. It’s a million volts and several sweet tunes all in one show.”
Shows take place at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays and at 1 and 3 p.m. on weekends.