Free Energy Could Change The Lighting Industry – Overunity and Perpetual Motion Explained

Can you imagine a world where it cost nothing to have electricity?  Tesla did, and he died penniless and alone.  Why did the world allow that to happen?


Have you ever heard of Free Energy?  Have you ever even considered something as ever-present as power being free?  If we even had the concept of that word, we would never need to have the discussion about why tungsten and halogen must go, being replaced by LED and CFL.  It just wouldn’t matter.

It’s a concept that does not consider the profit margins of the Big Energy producers –  oil, coal, and natural gas, but it could completely change our world.  The idea of free energy could also completely change the stakes of the petro-dollar game we play every time we put on a show somewhere that has lighting – can you picture every device you put out there on a show having a locally placed free energy source that powers it instead of running multicables everywhere to provide electricity?  My imagination gives me pictures of little hard drive sized power generators that can be unloaded from a roadcase, added to a truss, and energized without the need for feeder cable, mults, long patch cables, and the like.  We are already as an industry getting behind the idea of wireless DMX and transmitting a DMX network across the airwaves.  Look up LumenRadio‘s work, it will blow your mind – and I mean really blow your mind.

Maybe more importantly…  can you imagine our world without the need to fight over energy?  Look at every war that has taken place over the last 100 years – every single one can been tied to fighting over resources, even if the tie that binds is hidden and disguised as policy.   Our world needs something to give, to break loose – and I think that free energy is the thing that can change our world.  What would the world do if there was no need for the hundreds of defense contractor companies that get worldwide money defending the one thing that we always see the need to blow people up over?  Can you imagine such a world where we could spend more money on something as comparatively mundane as Entertainment Lighting in order to give the world the kinds of mind-blowing productions that we could with the kinds of technologies used in warfare?

Obviously I’m just postulating.  But also postulating are the ideas behind free energy and devices that would potentially (get it?) be able to make some free energy.  I cannot let go of the thought of a color scroller sized power distribution unit that can power several fixtures, or dimmers, or anything that can save money on power by being free.  In my lifetime, I want to make this happen.

I love to spread ideas around our industry like free energy, because we work and live in a very creative industry absolutely full of people who can make stuff like this happen.  We are the industry that has invented wireless data, innovative power and signal distribution systems like the Series 400 stuff from PRG, we’ve improved the jacketing and conductive materials inside of our power distribution systems to work with the power that we get from the power companies, and we’ve invented devices to clean that power up and make it steady, stable, and usable for some of the sensitive equipment we use for our work.  I do worry that some of the people in our business are too centered around how much money that can be made from their technologies that they alienate the entire industry to a small knit group of providers that can afford the costs to harness such things like free energy.  Hopefully some of the more productive generators of free energy will put some free instructions and information out on the web for all of us to try, build, and improve upon for the good of all humans on Earth.

Readers, there are some terms that need to be researched on your part in order to understand some of the intricate details of terms like perpetual motion, zero-point energy, and overunity.  These aren’t difficult concepts and you don’t have to have a PhD in Physics and Electromagnetism to understand these terms.  Let’s start easy:

What is PERPETUAL MOTION, and how does it relate to our world of Light?

This, good people of Earth, is perpetual motion:

When talking about things that make electricity and energy, we have to look at what exactly happens to make energy.  It’s a simple thing – we use some form of simple fuel (like coal, gas, or oil) to turn a magnet inside of a closed-loop of copper wire, or a conductor.  As the magnet spins (albeit very fast), an electromagnetic field is produced from the spinning magnet’s kinetic energy into electricity.  Or, just as useful and still used today, some kind of closed loop of wire spinning between the poles of two magnets.  We can thank Mr. Faraday for this, but everyone has postulated on it in some form or another.

Perpetual motion is, on a whole, the idea of having some kind of electrical energy creation device that will spin on its own, requiring no energy to keep its spin and continuation of power generation.  Remember the Law of Conservation of Energy from high school?  It states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change from one form to another.  Because of this law of physics, called the 1st law of thermodynamics, the idea of a system of perpetual motion is completely irrelevant, or at least that is what science is debating right now, and has been for decades.  What we’re talking about here is being able to create energy – which goes against the principle of the Law of Conservation of Energy – and to create that energy without having any input to that creation cycle.  This means perpetual motion, or something moving forever on its own, is to generate electricity from the electromagnetic field from which it is derived without adding any energy to get energy.  If that isn’t clear enough, imagine your local power utility being able to use no coal, gas, or oil to make electricity but still being able to charge you whatever they want to use their power.

Let me say that one different way:  If you can figure out how to create a machine that creates energy without using any energy, you can power whatever you want, for free, forever.  Forever in petro-dollar terms is a long time, folks.  Can you imagine being able to live through the winter with all of the heat and electricity you want without the huge bills?  If the power companies patent this technology before its able to be utilized on a free, worldwide scale, we’ll at least have a lower or nonexistent use of oil, coal, and gas for power, but we’ll be paying them for pretty much nothing.  Also, we’ll be paying them forever.

Look at it another way, more directed towards the Entertainment Industry – can you imagine being able to power your show and have no bill?  The last show I designed had a combined wattage of 240,000W, which if we put to costs comes out somewhere in the neighborhood of 960kWh for 4 hours of power, or if you assume a commercial rate of $0.10 per kWh comes to about $100 bucks per 4 hours of the show, if it all were blasting at full at once, of course.  But if we take that 100 bucks a night and multiply by a week’s worth of shows, we’ve got $700 bucks for the week – and $2800 for the month.  See the costs adding up?

Now what if you could save that $2800 bucks for a month of electricity for shows and put it back into the production by having free sources of electricity?  This is why perpetual motion is important, and should be to you, especially if you’re in Light.  If we can solve the issues of a perpetually generating device, we could make them as large or as small as we need for any application.  In Entertainment, this would literally redefine our game.

What is OVERUNITY, and how does it relate to our world of Light?

Overunity is a very interesting concept that is often confused for being something that it is not:  Overunity is NOT a measurement of the efficiency of a system that generates power, it is simply the coefficient of performance (COP) that is derived from how much energy the person operating that specific generator.  The efficiency of a system like a power generator takes into consideration all of the energy put into that system to make it run, like electricity from the grid, environmental energy like wind or water.  A windmill, for example, doesn’t matter how efficient the system is, because there is plenty of energy to be transferred (you know, the wind?) to make the system run.  When we’re talking about overunity with respect to free power, we’re talking about the amount of energy needed to get it moving and keep it moving.

Efficiency is the ability for a system or something that makes power to do so based on the energy you put into it; the Coefficient of Performance is how effectively the energy used in the goal of what the system is doing, in this case, making electricity.  The Coefficient of Performance is how well the system uses the energy you put into it!  So if your system can be started up with no input from you, the COP is obviously greater than 1 – if you have a small battery of something of the sort that you use to energize the system, but the system then can lose the battery and run on its own, you have a device producing more energy you’re putting in, or overunity.  For example – with no conductors, no power sources, and no trickery, the person in this video below flings two magnets at each other while the magnetic fields around them propel them into a cyclic motion.  Watch this:

Is it a perfect explanation?  No, but without going into the depths of thermodynamics, it’ll have to do for now.  More on this subject later, I have a huge amount of interest in this topic – enough to make me want to redo some Calculus classes I should have paid a bit more attention in when I was younger…

Interested in reading DA Kelly’s Manual of Free Energy Devices and Systems?  You definitely should, since it’s free!



Pay As You Go Solar in South Kenya

I saw an interesting article this weekend from CNN World’s website.  A company called Eight19 has created a pay-as-you-go solar technology called IndiGo that is being deployed right now in Kenya.  Check this out, this is Simon Bransfield Garth, the CEO of Eight19.  I knew I would like this company as soon as I realized what “Eight19″ meant – it’s the time that a ray of light from the sun reaches Earth.  Here’s Simon:

Here now is a quick video of a man named Samuel talking about the benefits of his Pay-As-You-Go Solar installation:

This is some pretty cool stuff.  The solar technology that Eight19 prides themselves on is a low-manufacturing-cost solar cell printed on a plastic film.  The reason that they can have products that are so low cost is that the printing method benefits from being able to use the high-speed roll printing technology that exists in the solar printing industry.  From the Eight19 website on the benefits of printed solar technology:

So, when the customer purchases the IndiGo package for installation, they get an Eight19 solar panel that connects into the IndiGo device.  The gist of the system is this:  without the customer “topping up” their IndiGo device via their cell phone, the device doesn’t charge the battery inside the device.  From the IndiGo website:

IndiGo is an affordable solar lighting and battery charging system that brings low cost energy to off-grid communities. With IndiGo, users put credit on their solar cell, just as they would on a mobile phone. Power from the cell then charges the  battery in the IndiGo box, making electricity available for lighting or charging other devices, such as mobile phones. The top-up codes are sent securely to owners’ mobile phones as text messages. Without the codes, the system does not generate electricity.  The IndiGo 2.5W solar home lighting and charging system includes: A solar panel and IndiGo box with a charge controller and battery; an LED lamp; an adapter lead for most popular mobile phones; connecting cables; and two, one-day top-up cards.

For most Americans who haven’t been overseas or in Canada, with pre-paid cell phones, you buy minutes on what’s commonly called a Top-Up card.  No different than the ones in the USA, they’re based on minutes, all that.

So the idea here is that people in South Kenya will not have to use kerosene lamps inside their places at night to do what they have to do needing illumination.  This is a tremendous thing; one of the biggest increases of our technological development has been increasing the CRI of the light we use to do things like read and develop.  With this implementation, the people in South Kenya will be getting  some seriously higher CRI than kerosene-powered sources.  This cannot be a bad thing, right?  Hell no.  People that live in kenya are no different than people who go to Yale.  They have the same potential as all of the rest of us, especially when given the opportunity to grow with the rest of the world.  No matter where you grow up, as long as you are given the opportunity to develop, you will succeed, especially if you apply yourself.

Something that I found interesting was found in the comments of the excellent CleanTechnica article on the IndiGo system.  A user named Bob_Wallace (THE Bob Wallace? Or the Shareware guy? I kid, I have no idea) posted some email exchanges he had with Simon from Eight19.  The bolded markings are things I’d like you to pay close attention to in the paragraph:

“The cost and payoff time varies a little by country as you would expect (for example there are variations in transport costs, distribution costs and local taxes between locations). In Kenya the weekly fee is 100KSH (approx $1.10) for our “duo” product with 2 lights and phone charging.

After a period of time, the product is deemed to be paid up and the customer has the option to buy the product out for a small fee or upgrade to a larger system. Again, this period varies a little between country but is normally between 18 and 24 months.

Our initial estimates suggest that typical users save in excess of $2/week with the kerosene and phone charging costs they save, with some users saving much more than this.”

In reply to a question about how upgrades work…

“People return the old system and get a new one (with the exception of the lights/wiring unless it needs replacement, as it is pointless to take down old one only to put the same thing back). We then refurbish and reintroduce the old systems. The weekly fee for the new larger systems takes into account the fact that we have recovered some value from the old system so they pay less than if we had to cover the full cost of the new system.”

Rough math says that Eight19 is able to get people in ownership of a basic lighting/phone charging system for somewhere just above $100US.

($1.10 x 52 weeks x 2 years = $114.40)

After two years they should have free power for a few years. The battery will need to be replaced after a few years and the LEDs after several. The panel should last a lifetime or more.

This is something to check out – basically a person using the IndiGo system uses it for about two years before they’ve paid it off, at the tune of about $114.40 USD.  The figure is for their “duo” product with two lights and a phone charger that has several charger tips for different phones.  After two years they have a few years of free solar electricity conversion.  Now granted it’s only at about two watts, but it’s free where before they’d have to pay to get kerosene to charge their stuff and see in the dark.  I think this is a pretty cool idea, as does the organization SolarAid, who has partnered with Eight19 to do this project in South Kenya.  From the SolarAid press release on the subject:

Thanks to the work of SolarAid and other players in the sector over the last few years, solar lights and phone chargers have been available for some time across Africa, but the initial cost is beyond the reach of many potential customers. By offering solar power as a service, without high purchase costs, these customers can now access clean electricity for less than their current spend on kerosene. But more than this, the availability of affordable electricity stimulates social and economic development too.

I think this is a pretty cool thing that’s happening.  When you think of the costs though, I think you should just remember that the Kenyans aren’t paying in USD.  One Kenyan Shilling (KES) is worth about 1.2 pennies USD.  Consider that when you consider the cost.  For example, right now a watt of solar if you just buy the photovoltaic panel is between $2.19 USD/W (for a 60W panel) up to $5.44 USD/W (for a 130W panel).  With the rest of the gear you’ll have to buy (cables, batteries, control), you’re looking at about $8.00 USD per watt of generated electricity.  I mean, come on though – after about the first six months, collecting solar using a device and a PV panel rather than taking it from a grid situation is going to pay for itself.  The sun is free, kids.  When some company or some government starts saying hey dummies!  we’re going to charge you for solar power by making you pay us for collecting it, then I am going to freak out and be really loud about it to the world, and then the world needs to kick some corporate or government tail.  Right now, no matter where you are, you’re paying for the devices that help you collect and store electricity, not for the solar energy itself  A lot of people make cracks online about how “solar should be free,” and they are totally right.  There is nothing that stops you from inventing your own solar collecting system for your own usage; money perhaps, but as long as we’re Capitalists, money will always be an issue.  Eight19 is a company, and they’re doing what a company does, and their particular skill is making and selling solar power collecting systems.  The power companies have done the same thing essentially, you’re just paying for them to make the power, and using their lines for them to get it to you.  In the US, we pay for this power from them by the kilowatt-hour, at an average of $0.118 per 1000W/h.

What do you think?  Do the costs add up?  The prices in Kenya are about comparable to American prices according to Numbeo, if not maybe a bit cheaper overall on average.

Thanks to USEIA, IndiGo Off-the-Grid, The Times, Triple Pundit, and Numbeo!

Remembering Chernobyl, 25 Radiation-FIlled Years Later

As many of you know, today is the 25th anniversary of the nightmare scenario that occurred on April 26, 1986 in Pripyat, Ukraine.  The Chernobyl nuclear power plant performed an experiment that day that somehow caused massive catastrophic failure of critical systems which then caused a catastrophic explosion of the reactor and reactor complex.  Highly radioactive fallout then traveled all over Europe, Russia, Belarus, and other places in that region of the continent.

Look at that image below.  That must have been one unbelievably crazy explosion – I remember designing a play in undergraduate school called Wormwood, about the experience of the firefighters (who were called “Liquidators”) at Chernobyl (which means Wormwood, funny enough), fighting this crazy nuclear fire.  I think back on that point in my design career wondering if even knowing what I know now about design now if I could have ever made that fireman’s monologue creepier.  What a nightmare.

A nightmare.  Sound anything like what’s happening at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant damaged by the earthquake and tsunami a few short months ago?  Perhaps not on the same scale, and let me say that it’s not on the same scale YET, but the fallout and problems of Chernobyl are evident in the disaster that’s taking place at the Fukushima plant.  It really, truly is a nightmare.  Children of children who were exposed to radiation from Chernobyl are experiencing terrible symptoms and mutations, cancer and leukemia.  Thyroid cancers.  Bowel cancers.  Blood cancers.  Babies from people exposed to the radioactive fallout are born mutated, changed, with a short future.

This little guy is a victim of a nuclear power accident:

I find that I can’t look at that little guy without wondering to myself if his little life is really worth electricity for the rest of us from the damage of nuclear power.  You have to understand something – I am not completely against the use of nuclear power in total – there are many uses for it, from medical to science and engineering, and on a smaller scale, generating electricity and light.  The use of sustainable energy sources needs to have a larger slice of the energy grid worldwide so that we can depend less on nuclear power and more on sustainable technologies like solar, wind, wave, and geothermal systems.  Look at Japan right now – Fukushima 1 (dai-ichi means Number One) has been classified as some rating on a scale that we’ve made up to show the severity of nuclear disasters.  The Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster has been given a seven on this scale, which is called the INES Scale, or International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.

There have only been two accidents worthy of being a seven on this INES scale – Chernobyl, and now Fukushima Dai-ichi.

This scale is a bit daunting.  The PDF of the INES rating scale is here, and it’s a PDF link.  I’ve grabbed some screenshots from it, but I recommend reading through it, as it isn’t a long read.

If you look at a “Major Accident” level event, or Level 7, you’ll notice the following:

Major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.

Then, if you look at what some of the studies done by the UN have said about the grounds around Chernobyl, in Pripyat, and in the surrounding areas, you wouldn’t believe your eyes.  The radioactive products of the Chernobyl explosion were Iodine-131Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 – Strontium and Cesium have half lives that are around 29 years. That’s 29 years for the radiation to decrease by half.  Think of a large area of land that is pretty much uninhabitable – lots and lots of very negative things have come of Chernobyl:

  • Closed lake contamination in fish and other sea food for several decades at a minimum
  • Forest Food contamination (mushrooms, animals, nuts, berries, grains) for decades
  • Agricultural products (crops, cattle, grazing animals) contaminated for decades
  • Surface and ground water contamination
  • Once livable land rendered useless

Over 350,000 people were evacuated and resettled due to Chernobyl – and if you’ve looked at the map around Pripyat, the area wasn’t as populated as the area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi area is populated.  Have you placed Japan next to Russia?  There just isn’t a lot of land mass there to spare!  Can Japan afford to have a space that large unoccupied for that long?  There are 130 million people in Japan – where are a quarter to a half of those people going to go if the land is deemed uninhabitable?


I would be remiss if I did not admit that there are some serious issues to overcome with nuclear power generation, and even more remiss if I were to ignore the fact that right now it would take a pretty towering investment both in money and in land mass in order to switch Japan completely over to sustainable tech for its power generation.  The thing about nuclear is that it is pretty cheap up front, and in a very small dedicated space you can generate a lot of power, and 24/7 power, too – at some point, solar will stop charging for the day and you then rely on batteries, wind relies on – well – wind, and wave and tidal relies on the tides.  Geothermal power seems to be a very good opponent to nuclear; there is a whole lot of heat waiting for the taking for myriad uses under the ground – it could replace the need to generate heat with nuclear materials.

What’s the answer here?  Well, my answer is that I have no f***ing idea.  I know that we have a problem.  You know that we have a problem.  What are we going to do about it?  We need to be looking at energy storage technology, distribution technology, lighting technology, electrical technology, and somehow developing a way to tech around our energy problems.

Don’t you love how completely generalized that last statement was?  I know, but I also know that I wish in my heart that I could just sh** kilowatts for the world to have, too.

Some interesting links:

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s daily update page for the Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant Disaster

the Chernobyl Disaster

the UN’s Chernobyl page

the UN’s Assessment of the Chernobyl disaster

IAEA’s FAQ on Chernobyl


How It’s Made – Residential Load Centers (or Electrical Panels for the, uh, Normal Person)

Another installment for this week of the How It’s Made videos from the web that deal with lighting and electricity – electrical panels!  I’m sorry, I mean residential load centers.  *Ahem*

Yes, residential load centers.

Um – uh – yeah.

Cool video, check it:

Sunday Solar News

I was digging around in the hundreds of tabs I have open in Google Chrome (yes, hundreds), and I have so many tabs open right now on solar news and products that I figured a list would suffice.  After all, those hundreds of open tabs aren’t doing $#!& sitting on my machine, right?

America, there is so much news on solar tech right now.  I urge you to seek it out.

A DIY Solar-Powered Walkway Weekend Project

MIT and the Indian Government in Talks for A High-Power Solar Battery System

Stored Solar Energy and Georgia’s Suniva, Inc – Grid-Stored Solar Energy

VASIMR Plasma Rocket for A Lunar Tug

A Solar-Powered Herb Dryer

Huge Parking Lot Solar Array Powers NJ Grid with 1 Million+ Annual kWh

A Solar-Powered DIY Bottle Boat

21st Century Solar Tech Meets 15th Century Architecture

Ventamatic Ltd CX2121 Power Automatic Gable Vent Shutter

High School Students to Make an Old Tractor Run Clean on Solar Power

A Solar-Powered Eco Freezer

Solar and Wind Power Feel the Hear from Low Natural Gas Prices

First Solar Begins Operation of the Largest Thin-Film PV Plant in California’s Guide to Christmas Lights, Part 4: Christmas Light Power and Safety


Part Four:
Christmas Lights Power and Safety

So now that you have learned about the history of christmas lights, learned about different christmas lamp types and different form factors, there’s two things that we’ve not considered: power (electricity) and control of the christmas light display.

These two things are usually taken for granted, which is understandable to a point – you plug them into an outlet, and they either turn on or blink, right?  Well, I guess. I, however, am an overachieving geeky nerd that enjoys making a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to the simplest technological tasks.

Did I just use “mountain out of a molehill?” Oh yeah, you better believe it.

This guide will deal with providing power to your christmas light display. However, there is the need for a small disclaimer regarding this topic, since it is potentially deadly and/or property damaging. So, that being said – if you electrocute yourself when you’re hanging your christmas lights, it’s not my fault regardless of whether you read this guide or not. Caveat Emptor, it ain’t my fault if you blow your house up, all that stuff.

Okay, now that the BS legal part of this is over, there are a couple of really, really important things you should heed warning to when you’re preparing to load-in your christmas lights:

  • Electricity can and will travel through you to get to its home, which is the ground. It won’t be good for you.
  • If you discover a loose wire when you’re hanging all of your christmas lights, do not touch the bare wires. Also, refrain from licking them or rubbing them on your neck. All of these are bad ideas.
  • Don’t use staples to hang your lights unless you have a guide for whatever stapler that you’re using that specifically shields the cable from the staples. Stapling into a strand of christmas lights will most likely short them out, creating a dangerous situation and more than likely a pain in your derriere.
  • An easy one to remember: water and christmas lights equals non-fun. There are outdoor rated christmas lights; if you’re putting them outdoors, make sure they have the UL rating and make sure they’re listed as water-proof lighting.
  • Last but not least, when you’re putting up christmas lghts, unless you live somewhere that has 60+ degree temperatures outside, it’s probably gonna be cold out. Hypothermia sucks, my friends. Bundle up, and make sure to take enough breaks when you’re out there christmas lighting your place up!

So, for those of you who do not know the ways to power your christmas lights or really anything about electricity at all, it’s pretty simple when you tear it down to the basic components – the christmas lights plug in to some place either in or around your house that is hooked up to the house’s power, and voila – the christmas lights turn on, you and your family go “wow,” and you go back inside to have some cocoa.

In a sense, that’s the bare bones sense of it. However, there are so many more things to consider – what happens when your lights burn out, for example?  What happens if you plug too many christmas light strands together? These things are all items that you’ll be better for when you learn the answers.  As far as wiring, there are typically two different ways that you’ll find your lights wired – series circuits and parallel circuits. Look at this diagram of a series christmas light circuit:


Series circuits are really easy to spot – they’re the strands that all go out when one lamp in the string is either blown or not seated properly in its base. The reason that this happens is that the connections into each christmas lamp are in a series – get it?  Electricity must pass through each lamp in order for the next to get energized. They’re all dependent on each other for the flow of electrons. In a series circuit of christmas lights, each lamp’s filament is the circuit bridge – so when one lamp goes out, all of the lamps might as well have gone out because there is no way for electricity to get across the one broken filament to power the rest of the lamps. See the issue?

In modern christmas light strands, something called a shunt is added to each lamp to overcome the failure of the lamp’s filament for the rest of the lamps. If the filament fails, instead of losing the entire strand of lamps, the shunt keeps the electricity flowing through the dead lamp below the broken filament. I have no idea how I did it, but I got a close-up of a shunt in a mini-size christmas lamp. Keep in mind this lamp is about the size of a pencil eraser:


Pretty neat, huh?

You might also notice that some strands of christmas lights come with two or three really tiny fuses, like these:


You’ll also probably notice that the fuses go into the female end of the strand, like here:


These fuses are typically 3 amps on a 50-light strand. This is going to become important in the next guide post.

The other way that christmas lights are typically wired is called parallel wiring. Parallel wiring beats the problem of having all lamps out when one lamp goes out by making a common electrical point for all lamps. Check out this diagram:


You all probably know about parallel circuits, so I assume this is a moot point – but as you can see from the diagram, the electricity would flow even if one of the lamps were to go out. Since there is a continuous connection across ALL lamps on the hot and the common lines, there is no way that one lamp would make all of them go out.

Another excellent thing about parallel circuits is the amount of lamps you can put in the chain. Unlike series circuits which require the voltage of all lamps in the string to add up to your total supplied voltage, parallel strings only require that the actual wire handle the amount of electricity (current) going through. In a series set of 50, for example, all of the lamps must be 2.5 volts so that the total voltage across all lamps adds up to 120 volts.

Wait a minute, you might ask yourself – 50 x 2.5 doesn’t equal 120! 48 x 2.5 equals 120. You are right to question that equation – 50 is more of a round number than 48, and adding the two extra lamps in the series lowers the brightness so imperceptibly that we can’t tell the difference. Also, 50 is more than 48, and you’re inclined to buy two more lamps. That’s our nature!

Let’s just quickly recap:

  • keep warm when you’re out there hanging those christmas lights!
  • don’t lick exposed christmas light wire
  • electricity will kill you dead, so pay attention
  • water and electricity like each other as much as Dick Cheney and the ACLU

Next up on – Part Five: Christmas Light Math!

Stay tuned!

Kate Lancaster and the Vulcan Pulse Laser


Just to probe the depths of my inner nerd (like even bigger than the nerds in Revenge of the Nerds, part ONE), I found this great video today through Physics World – Kate Lancaster, a physicist at the Vulcan laser at the the Central Laser Facility in the UK, did an interview with a Physics World.  I’ve embedded it below.

To give you an idea of how unfathomably powerful the Vulcan laser is one zetawatt per centimeter, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 watts.  I had to look that up – I had no idea how many zeroes a zeta had!  It’s 1X10^21 watts per centimeter.  That is unbefreakinglievably powerful.  My mind cannot comprehend it – in the video, the narrator/interviewer says that the Vulcan laser is as powerful as all of the sunlight on Earth, condensed into the size of the tip of a human hair.

Check out the video – it is only for the super-geeks among us – but it’s a quick little awesome interview about the Vulcan laser and what goes on there.  I just wish they included the name of the interviewer!  What a thing to leave out!

Happy Birthday, George Westinghouse!

George Westinghouse’s birthday was actually yesterday – so like a best friend that had to work on the birthday of another best friend, I send a HAPPY BIRTHDAY wish to George Westinghouse, the father of alternating current and a pioneer of electrical systems as we know most of them in the United States!

Hey George Westinghouse – Happy Birthday, man!  (October 6, 1846–March 12, 1914)


That is a crazy mustache, brother!

George Westinghouse was a man with many, many inventions, patents, and other great stuff that contributed to the way we see electricity.  Some great for society, a few that were not so great for life, period.  George had his hands in everything from steam engine work to train brakes to electricity generators to power distribution.  In the great “War of Currents,” George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison punched it out for many years over a great number of projects – but it is Westinghouse’s method of alternating current we used in the end.

Westinghouse had a TON of companies – at one point in 1904 he had nine manufacturing companies across the world with 50,000 workers and a net of around $120 million.  One thing that isn’t highly published about Westinghouse is that while he was a shrewd dude when it came to business, he established lots of worker-oriented practices in his businesses, like a form of retirement pension, working hour limits, higher salaries, workplace safety, and training courses.

Some of George Westinghouse’s achievments:

  • alternating current, which really irked Thomas Edison
  • air brake systems for locomotives, which was a really good thing, as train operators were doing brakes by hand, and per car
  • the electric chair (unfortunately, and in a “whose is bigger” competition with Edison)
  • the Generator
  • power distribution to Buffalo, NY via hydroelectric power from Niagra Falls
  • taking care of workers in his factories
  • the first alternating current locomotive, which spawned subways and that type of public transit

Happy Belated Birthday, Georgie!  We’re sorry you’re dead, but we all have to go sometime, and you made a positive mark on our way of living!

Here’s a clip from the movie about George Westinghouse’s life and achievements, Westinghouse:

Some images of George Westinghouse’s work –

A rotor for a Westinghouse Turbine:


An early diagram of Westinghouse’s system for alternating current:


One of the Westinghouse Generators in place at the Chat Falls Power Station:


Thanks Wikipedia and About!

Series 400 Makes U2’s 360 Tour Work

I just got an email from Kirsten at PRG about their Series 400 data and power distro system, which is being used on the massive mondoginormous U2 360° Tour.  Check it out!

prg u2 series 400

PRG’s Series 400 System Powers U2’s 360° Tour

New Windsor, NY—July 20, 2009—The unprecedented scale of U2’s 360° Tour required a power and data network that would handle long distances; be quick and efficient to install; provide high network speed; and be rock-solid. Systems Crew Chief Craig Hancock worked with Show Director/Designer Willie Williams from the early design phase of the production to engineer a network that would satisfy all of these requirements.

The backbone of Hancock’s network design is the PRG Series 400™ Power and Data Distribution System. Describing his approach to laying out the system, Hancock said, “I started working on the lighting system and layout of the power and data network about seven months ago with Willie and Jeremy Lloyd and Nick Evans of Mark Fisher’s Studio Fisher. I then worked with PRG, especially Chris Conti, to get where we are now. I knew what I wanted and how I wanted it and Chris made it into reality with Series 400.”

“The networking system for the U2 360° tour is daunting when you first look at it, but it is actually fairly simple, just on a very large scale,” noted Conti, PRG’s S400 Product Manager. “There is an S400 trunk cable run to the FOH control position, providing the power for the consoles as well as running the DMX from the consoles to the S400 system. Then fiber optic cable distributes the data around the system, a total of eight 350’ runs.” There are a total of 24 universes of DMX with custom dimmer carts at the bottom of each leg of the structure. There are a total of four carts up on the catwalk in the roof structure that handle the power and data for the lights in the roof as well as in the pylon (the central vertical element of the set). DMX is sent from the top of the pylon out to the seven satellite lighting positions that are in the seats around the top of the stadium.

Hancock, who had previously used the S400 system on Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet tour, knew the abilities of the system. “The great thing about having the PRG Node Plusses and the S400 Fiber Switches is that they all work in line with the Series 400 system; it allows so much flexibility. I can use external equipment like dimmer racks and other gear with no headaches at all.” Cue reaction time was also critical to Williams and Hancock. “With the sheer scale of the structure and having the satellite lighting positions around the stadium, we were very concerned about the network speed and the reaction time. The Series 400 system moves Art-Net around which allowed us to have no delays in cue reaction time,” Hancock said.

The final piece of the system was the inclusion of City Theatrical’s SHoW DMX wireless DMX explained Hancock, “When Chris came onboard in March it was invaluable because he brought in the SHoW DMX. I think that the wireless DMX solved a big issue and has worked well. I didn’t really see how we were going to run cabling through the crowd every night.” For Hancock the final network system has overall ease of use and is reliable. It is what he wanted, a power and data network that is the backbone of the lighting system for Williams’ sophisticated design.

For more information on PRG, please visit

u2 360 prg