Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Ahhh! My hand!"

Earlier today (well, yesterday, now), the eldest kid and I made a nerd road trip up to the new digital-tv transmitter shack up in the hills.

All afternoon, I had been brooding about standing at the foot of the broadcast tower while it was radiating a few megawatts of radio energy into space.

So, come sunset, I went down to the basement and dug out a couple of 48" fluorescent bulbs, and threw them and the family into the car. We drove over to the nearest high-voltage power line, and we watched the fireflies while we waited for full dark, and then we played light sabers in the gloaming.

ADDENDUM: Here's a guy who did an artistic installation of hundreds of fluorescent tubes under his local power line:

Better pictures here:



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At 9:28 PM, Blogger Nahtanoj said...

Is this really true? Can you actually do this? Sounds like a good way to entertain the kids, and maybe demonstrate some principle (that is not widely known to the general public) . . . .

At 9:53 PM, Blogger "As You Know" Bob said...

Oh yes: it really works.

The trick is, you need a HIGH-voltage power line: the big, tall, inter-urban towers. The electric field under it is energetic enough to make the phospors glow.

My local line runs from Niagara Falls to New York City - it's either 230,000 or 345,000 volts.
(The exact information has gotten hard to find in the post-9/11 world.)

At 12:02 AM, Blogger "As You Know" Bob said...

Hey! I'm famous!

Brad DeLong picked up this post.


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