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Of all Nikola Tesla’s inventions, one he never actually built has has cast an outsized shadow on his legacy. Tesla described a “death ray” which could knock enemy airplanes from the sky.

Tesla didn’t think the death ray would be used to inflict violence, however. On the contrary, he imagined it as a tool of peace. Tesla thought that if every country in the world had a “Chinese Wall” it would eliminate the need for warfare.

This may sound far-fetched, but Tesla’s plan had at least one modern day admirer. President Ronald Reagan’s “Strategic Defense Initiative” was a theoretical missile defense system that could protect the nation from attack.

Although Tesla described laws of physics “no one has ever dreamed about” his death ray seems to have lived only in his imagination.

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