Recently I borrowed The Prestige from Netflix. While I wasn’t crazy about the movie (B), one of the side characters was Nikola Tesla. I knew he was an important guy in the history of electricity, but his story really is interesting (not as interesting as the movie would have you believe). He is famous for Tesla coils which create huge lightning bolts in science fiction movies. On a practical side he was a proponent of AC electricity for home use despite Thomas Edison having everyone convinced that DC was the way to go. There is a monument to Tesla at Niagara Falls since his work turned their otherwise useless waterfall into a money-making electricity machine (see a NOVA episode dedicated to him).

Anyway, there were some really neat Tesla coils in the movie and it reminded me that I was interested in getting one of those plasma lamps. Since I had recently won a $25 gift certificate for using transit to get to work, I thought that the time had come. So the lamp is pictured below:


I was pretty excited to get the lamp and very relieved that it wasn’t broken. In reading up on plasma lamps I learned that if you hold a fluorescent bulb next to the lamp that the lamp’s energy will cause it to fluoresce. I wondered if it would work with a compact fluorescent and it turns out that it does (though not evenly):


Other than that, it really doesn’t do that much. I was surprised that it uses a 12V DC adapter for power.

3 thoughts on “Plasma

  1. When I got this lamp it seemed kind of small. I thought that I had ordered a 7-inch ball and this wasn’t that big. I didn’t think of it anymore until I was writing this entry. I went back and the item was called “7-inch plasma globe” on Amazon. The actual size was 5 inches. I wrote to the seller (not Amazon) and asked if they had sent the wrong size or if it was false advertising. They apologized for having the wrong information and said they would give me a full refund without my having to send it back. Free plasma!

  2. You are welcome to borrow Empires of Light by Jill Jones. I enjoyed this book a lot. It is about the drivers of the electrical industry and is meant to show a parallel to the growth of the internet. What I learned is that Westinghouse is the real hero because he was so industrious. (He built the first generators at Niagra. Tesla just consulted.) Edison is a master (but bumbling) tinkerer and Tesla is a foppish genius who manages to burn down his entire lab.

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