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How to Make the Electric Pickle Experiment

electric_pickle

A long-desired experiment in many Intro-to-Lighting lectures, the famed Electric Pickle Experiment is something that many older lighting teachers have shown to their classes over the years.  Ever seen this done?

Also, this:

And one more, for posterity — what’s hilarious at the end of this video is the comment “I wonder what other fruits will glow?” followed by the hot dog…

The Electric Pickle is an interesting experiment that literally burns out the idea of a non-ohmic resistor.  Think light emitting diode — dependent on voltage in order to work.  What happens in the Electric Pickle Experiment is that once a voltage (120V) is placed across the pickle, there are Sodium anodes (Na+, electron expelling) and Chloride cathodes (Cl-, electron grabbing) that are excited to outside orbital levels of the atom.  Just like a sodium vapor lamp, once the electric field charges the pickle, sodium atoms let go of an electron, causing a photon to be released once the haul tail back to lower energy levels in the atom.  The result?  Pickle light!

HERE’S A BOLD TYPE WARNING:  120V to GROUND CAN KILL YOU DEADER THAN WHITNEY HOUSTON.  IT’S SERIOUS.  YOU PERFORM THESE STEPS AT YOUR OWN RISK, NONE OF THIS IS MY FAULT IF YOU SCREW UP.  YOUR ERRORS IN THIS EXPERIMENT CAN CAUSE YOU DEATH OR SERIOUS BODILY HARM, AND EVEN HARM OR DEATH TO THOSE AROUND YOU.

SAFETY STUFF FIRST:

  • The most salty pickles are the ones that work the beat for this experiment.
  • MAKE SURE that you’re working with some kind of circuit-breaking device in line, like a 15A power strip or a custom-built breaker system in line for this experiment.
  • KEEP THE STUDENTS and OTHER OBSERVERS AWAY FROM THE EQUIPMENT!!!!!!!!!  If possible, get some kind of a blast shield or Plexiglas panel between the pickle and the observers.
  • Get some air to the place you’ll be doing the Electric Pickle Experiment, this thing stinks like none other, seriously.
  • REFRAIN from EATING THE COOKED PICKLE!  It tastes like roasted refried shit!

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • SALTY PICKLES
  • two (2) large nails
  • some kind of circuit breaking device in line with your “pickle circuit”
  • a length (let’s say 3 feet for posterity) of 12 gauge, INSULATED 2-conductor lamp cable or a white insulated and black insulated 12 gauge lead
  • obviously, a male Edison plug (which is a redundant statement, five extra credit points for WHY)
  • a glass container that is JUST larger than the pickles you’re using
  • two 20A alligator clamps WITH RUBBER SAFETY SHIELDS on them

HOW TO:

  1. install your lamp cable or single lead runs into the Edison plug
  2. install the alligator clamps to the other ends of the lamp cable or single leads — ONE CLAMP PER LEAD!
  3. insert a nail into either side of the pickle
  4. place the pickle onto the glass jar, allowing the nails to rest on the glass jar, suspending the pickle
    NOTE:  MAKE SURE THE NAILS AREN’T TOUCHING INSIDE THE PICKLE, but that they are SOLIDLY MOUNTED in the pickle
  5. plug your circuit breaking device into the power source with the DEVICE IN THE OFF POSITION
  6. attach the alligator clamps to the nails, one per nail, to complete the circuit once the pickle is plugged in
  7. MAKE SURE NO ONE IS TOUCHING ANY OF THE EQUIPMENT!!!
  8. CHECK AGAIN to MAKE SURE NO ONE IS IN ANY KIND OF CONTACT WITH THE EQUIPMENT!
  9. Have someone standing by at the light switch in the room
  10. Plug in the pickle in to the power, then switch the breaker ON
  11. shut off the room lights, observe the pickle light!
  12. AS SOON AS THE PICKLE STOPS GLOWING, KILL THE POWER TO THE PICKLE!

Lots of care and caution need to go into this experiment.  Why?  Because I said so, and because this is putting 120V, 15-20A through a PICKLE.  It’s DANGEROUS!

Items of Note:

  • You can use a dimmer or rheostat to achieve this experiment successfully, too — just make sure you kill the power when the pickle quits doing its light bulb trick.
  • Make SURE you have some air to your room, this is a stinky experiment!
  • Once you have done the experiment, make sure that you either remove the “pickle probe” from student pervue for safety.  You never know, even in University settings.  Hide that thing.
  • DON’T EAT THE PICKLE!
  • If the pickle weren’t already green, you’d be seeing light in the 588-590nm wavelength range.  Crazy, huh?

Now BE CAREFUL!

PickleOLED

BONUS NERDERY:  Here’s Vladimir Bulovic to tell the world about how OLEDs and the glowing pickle have SO many things in common!

Thanks to PopSci and S3 for the pickle-images!

20 Really Awesome Facts about Solar Power

labcoat-jimonlight

I love discovering new facts about pretty much anything.  Any day I can learn something is an awesome day.  Any day I can learn something new about light, it’s an even better day!

Here’s 20 Really Awesome Facts about Solar Power!

  1. The first working, practical, usable solar cell was created by Bell Laboratories in 1954.  It only produced 1 Watt of energy for $250/Watt.  Now that’s Cost INeffective!
  2. Photovoltaic (PV) cells made from the silicon in 1 ton of sand can produce as much electricity as burning 500,000 tons of coal in a power plant.  Why are we burning coal again?
  3. Light that comes from the Sun takes approximately 8 minutes and 20 seconds to hit the Earth.  How’s that for light speed?  Wacka wacka!
  4. In the state of California, if we covered every available commercial and industrial roof with solar power panels, ALL of California’s electricity demand could be generated during the daytime, forever.
  5. A few hundred years ago while traveling to Africa, a scientist named John Herschel created a cooker using the Sun to cook food, inventing the first Solar Cooker.
  6. The first traceable use of the Sun as a tool was back in 700 BC, when people learned how to concentrate the Sun’s rays with the use of a magnifying glass of sorts.  As a kid I always felt terrible about the thought of burning ants, which is probably why I never joined the Military!
  7. In 1981, a man named Paul Macready produced the first solar powered plane — Paul’s plane used more than 1600 solar cells mounted on its wings.  Paul Macready flew from France to England.
  8. 2012 was an unbelievable year for massive solar collection plants.  The largest solar energy plant is the Golmud Solar Park in China, with an installed capacity of 200 megawatts.  Arguably, this is surpassed by India’s Gujarat Solar Park, a collection of solar farms scattered around the Gujarat region with a combined installed capacity of 605 megawatts.
  9. There are two types of Solar Panels for use in commercial and residential applications — Photovoltaic panels and Solar Thermal panels.  PV panels work by converting the Sun’s rays to electricity, and Solar Thermal panels work by absorbing the Sun’s heat energy to warm up water by circulating the water through it.
  10. Solar collection on its own is a carbon neutral, pollution-free method of collecting and generating energy.  The only carbon creating part of solar power is the manufacture of Solar Panels and the accessories that go into building a solar panel system.
  11. In one hour, the Sun provides more energy to Earth than the whole world uses all year.  Approximately 120,000 terawatts (TW) hit the Earth’s surface each day.  Over the course of a year, the world only uses 15 TW of energy.
  12. The diameter of our Sun is 1,392,000 kilometers across while Earth is just 12,756 kilometers across.  Earth is 109 times smaller than our Sun, and our Sun can hold over a million Earths (that is if we didn’t become like the bits at the bottom of the pan of bacon before we got all of the one million in there).
  13. In only 20 days, the Sun could match the power of all of the world’s resource stockpiles of oil, coal, and natural gas.  Why are we ruining our world with crap energy sources again?
  14. Regardless of the completely negative and destructive effects of continuous usage of oil, coal, and natural gas in the world’s countries, human civilization is very slow to adopt Solar Power to replace even one of the non-renewable energy sources.  As of September 2012, only 0.05% of the world’s power comes from Solar sources.  Doesn’t that disgust you?
  15. Of all the Solar energy that strikes Earth, only 50% is absorbed by Earth while 30% of it is reflected back into space.
  16. To date, the most efficiency that solar power manufacturers can reach is barely 47.12%.  So for all of the sunlight that burns down onto a solar panel, at best there will only be around 40% converted.  This is also a best-case scenario, and the actual percentage is considerably lower based on many factors.  Typically, efficacy of Solar panel technology is around 15%.
  17. Production of 1 kilowatt of solar energy is equivalent to burning 170 pounds of coal which releases 300 pounds of carbon dioxide.  This is comparable to preventing 15 gallons of gas from ever being used!
  18. If you cover 10,000 square miles of land in the Southwest United States, it would generate enough power to meet the energy needs of the entire country!  To silence the anti-Solar power whiners on the Internet, the US has strip-mined at least that amount for coal.  No wonder the environment is slipping.
  19. As of October 2012, Germany is using Solar power with the most fervor, followed by China.
  20. The real kicker — all current fossil fuels are just stored versions of Solar energy!

Have a great day, everyone!

solar power tower

Thanks to Going Green, All Purpose Guru, Wikipedia on John Herschel, Solar Gadgets, USDoE, Explore Green Tech, St. Gobain Solar, Green Building, Renewable Power News, and International Energy Association!

The JimOnLight Guide to Christmas Lights, Parts 1 to 5

It’s that time of year again, albeit maybe a little early…  there are lots of Canadians who are already rocking the Christmas lights, and by rocking I do mean there are lots of strands of LED Christmas lights all over the place in Toronto.

This is why it’s ABOUT TIME to publish the JimOnLight Guide to Christmas Lights again, by popular demand!!!

Part One:  CHRISTMAS LIGHTING HISTORY

Part One is geared towards sharing where Christmas Lighting got its start, including going WAY back to talk a bit about what actually happens in the sky around Christmas time (or Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Flying Spaghetti Monster time, or whatever flavor of religion you pick for the Holidays)and how we’ve been dealing with it for a few thousand years.

Part Two:  MODERN LAMP TYPES AND SIZES

Part Two takes some of the most basic information about Christmas lighting – the light sources– and breaks them down for the reader to make it easy to understand and identify different kinds of Christmas Lights.  You know, for that moment when you have to pull the ball of lights out of the box in the garage and actually NOT burn your house down.

Part Three:  FORM FACTORS of CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

Rain lights, curtain strands, cascades, and all kinds of other terms that mean something about the different arrays that Christmas lighting come in – Part Three of the JimOnLight.com’s Guide to Christmas Lighting is all about telling those arrays apart so you can get back inside and drink some Wassail!

Part Four:  CHRISTMAS LIGHT POWER AND SAFETY

This is an important one – Part Four talks about how NOT to get yourself dead while doing all of that Christmas light installation!

Part Five:  CHRISTMAS LIGHTING MATH

…not last, not least, and definitely not the end of the series, but perhaps one of my favorites!  A quick overview of some of the basic and important electrical equations that can help you make a little more sense out of the task of hanging Holiday Illumination!

Ok world, let’s be safe and sound out there, and I would say let’s not be tacky, but we all know that it will never ever happen at Christmas time!

Ludwig Von Drake Teaches About Light and Color – The Spectrum Song

Right off the bat, I have to say thanks to Dean Palmer Jr. on Twitter for tweeting this today – that was the most awesome start to my day in months!

Below is a video that you have to watch – it’s Ludwig Von Drake, the Disney duck who knew something about everything.  I also found another video of Ludwig talking about Color, so I posted that below, too.  Have a great morning, I know I will now!

Materials Testing Under Different Light Sources

Now that I am back home and not in Sweden, I have been combing through some of the work that I did in my first few months at KTH.  I took a lot of photographs of pretty much everything I could take photos of when I was in Sweden, and I got some interesting shots of a variety of things, including project work.

One of the first projects we did in groups was the Materials Testing project.  It was a very simple project with a goal more along the lines of working in groups that really much else – each group was to pick three “materials” out of a bin of random stuff in the lighting lab and take pictures of it under three of the different light sources in the lab’s light box.  The box was a shelf of chambers, each with a different light source in it – halogens, fluorescents, incandescents, oh my (et al):

lightbox

As a group, we analyzed each material under the sources we chose – an opal (frosted) incandescent (around 3,000 Kelvin), a Philips Activiva fluorescent source (at around 17,000 Kelvin, I think), and high-pressure sodium lamp (around 2400 Kelvin).  What our group wanted to do over other groups was to give the images we took representational names as opposed to descriptive modifiers with no artistic or intrinsic value.

I’ve listed the nine images below – I’ve also grouped them into material type, as it’s interesting to see the same material under three different sources in contrast.

First material:  an ellipsoidal reflector
Light sources, in order:  incandescent, HPS, Activiva
The image names we invented were based on the group’s collective emotional response to each material and light source.

“Loud Halo”
loud_halo_web

“Martian Effect”
martian_effect_web

“Deep Blue Eye”
deep_blue_eye_web

Second material:  a piece of gold and silver reflective material
Light sources, in order:  incandescent, HPS, Activiva

“True Fracture”
True_fracture_web

“Super Sodium”
supersodium_web

“Regal Death”
regal_death_web

Third material:  a wash reflector, stippled
Light sources, in order:  incandescent, HPS, Activiva

“White Desert”
White desert_web

“Golden Waffles”
golden_waffles_web

“Moon Waves”
moon_waves_web

I’m Going to Sweden for a Year!

I got some of the greatest news this week.  Back in December of 2008 I applied to Sweden’s KTH School for their Master’s of Architectural Lighting Design degree – I want another Master’s in another Lighting field.  I just found out this week that I’ve been accepted, and starting in mid-August I will be writing JimOnLight.com while studying in Sweden for a year!  The design shows, trade shows in neighboring countries, and an international perspective on light.  Jim, in Sweden, studying and blogging about light.

I am excited, nervous, and I have the coolest wife ever.

If you have any knowledge of living or studying in Sweden and wouldn’t mind pointing me in the right direction, please contact me – I would love some pointers.  There is an overwhelming amount of info to digest – housing is apparently quite the journey.  I’d love to live close to campus, preferably in campus housing.  Anything I find, I’ll post about, as I want to document the process as a whole – this is an exciting new venture!  Please post in the comments or contact me – I would love your pointers about living and studying in Sweden!

The Diode

Collin Cunningham brings us another very freaking awesome video – this time, we learn a bit about the diode.  It’s an electronic valve that spends its time regulatin’ and rectifyin’ and just being awesome.  Check it out!