Yes, that old adage about lamps versus light bulbs.  To be fair, they do kinda look like a bulb of some sort, like a rose bulb.  So, in essence, it’s almost complimentary, because people want them to be like flowers.  “Light bulb.”

That doesn’t excuse your ignorance, though.  

Lamps are things that produce light; you can argue that the fixture is a lamp.  That’s acceptable.  Bulb, on the other hand, refers to the glass envelope surrounding the filament in a lamp.




So, there you have it.  Even if you do a search on the internet, no one really gives a shit what we call it.  Did you know that?  Seriously.  Nobody but us cares, and the argument is so old that even Hipsters don’t give a shit anymore.


Just to make this post worth something more than a chuckle, I actually found a bit of text on a government website ( about the invention of the “light bulb” and some of its idiosyncrasies:

Long before Thomas Edison patented — first in 1879 and then a year later in 1880 — and began commercializing his incandescent light bulb, British inventors were demonstrating that electric light was possible with the arc lamp. In 1835, the first constant electric light was demonstrated, and for the next 40 years, scientists around the world worked on the incandescent lamp, tinkering with the filament (the part of the bulb that produces light when heated by an electrical current) and the bulb’s atmosphere (whether air is vacuumed out of the bulb or it is filled with an inert gas to prevent the filament from oxidizing and burning out). These early bulbs had extremely short lifespans, were too expensive to produce or used too much energy.

When Edison and his researchers at Menlo Park came onto the lighting scene, they focused on improving the filament — first testing carbon, then platinum, before finally returning to a carbon filament. By October 1879, Edison’s team had produced a light bulb with a carbonized filament of uncoated cotton thread that could last for 14.5 hours. They continued to experiment with the filament until settling on one made from bamboo that gave Edison’s lamps a lifetime of up to 1,200 hours — this filament became the standard for the Edison bulb for the next 10 years. Edison also made other improvements to the light bulb, including creating a better vacuum pump to fully remove the air from the bulb and developing the Edison screw (what is now the standard socket fittings for light bulbs).

(Historical footnote: One can’t talk about the history of the light bulb without mentioning William Sawyer and Albon Man, who received a U.S. patent for the incandescent lamp, and Joseph Swan, who patented his light bulb in England. There was debate on whether Edison’s light bulb patents infringed on these other inventors’ patents. Eventually Edison’s U.S. lighting company merged with the Thomson-Houston Electric Company — the company making incandescent bulbs under the Sawyer-Man patent — to form General Electric, and Edison’s English lighting company merged with Joseph Swan’s company to form Ediswan in England.)

What makes Edison’s contribution to electric lighting so extraordinary is that he didn’t stop with improving the bulb — he developed a whole suite of inventions that made the use of light bulbs practical. Edison modeled his lighting technology on the existing gas lighting system. In 1882 with the Holborn Viaduct in London, he demonstrated that electricity could be distributed from a centrally located generator through a series of wires and tubes (also called conduits). Simultaneously, he focused on improving the generation of electricity, developing the first commercial power utility called the Pearl Street Station in lower Manhattan. And to track how much electricity each customer was using, Edison developed the first electric meter.

While Edison was working on the whole lighting system, other inventors were continuing to make small advances, improving the filament manufacturing process and the efficiency of the bulb. The next big change in the incandescent bulb came with the invention of the tungsten filament by European inventors in 1904. These new tungsten filament bulbs lasted longer and had a brighter light compared to the carbon filament bulbs. In 1913, Irving Langmuir figured out that placing an inert gas like nitrogen inside the bulb doubled its efficiency. Scientists continued to make improvements over the next 40 years that reduced the cost and increased the efficiency of the incandescent bulb. But by the 1950s, researchers still had only figured out how to convert about 10 percent of the energy the incandescent bulb used into light and began to focus their energy on other lighting solutions.

Have a great Friday!

The Daily Lamp: Mike Thompson’s BLOOD LAMP – Would You BLEED for Light?


Today’s Daily Lamp is a bit off-norm, if you will — artist Mike Thompson has posed a simple question:

Will you bleed for illumination?  

Blood Lamp from miket on Vimeo.

From Mike Thompson’s page on the Blood Lamp:

What if power came at a cost to the individual?

The average American consumes 3383kwh of energy per year. That’s equivalent to leaving the light on in 4 rooms for a whole year. The simple flick of a switch allows us to power appliances and gadgets 24/7 without a thought to where it comes from and the cost to the environment.

For the lamp to work one breaks the top off, dissolves the powder, and uses their own blood to power a simple light. By creating a lamp that can only be used once, the user must consider when light is needed the most, forcing them to rethink how wasteful they are with energy, and how precious it is.

Mike raises a great point — one my parents instilled in me at an early age — shut the lights off when you’re not in a room!

Mike’s lamp is a fairly simple design, but definitely ingenius.  The design is basically a sealed glass envelope that includes an amount of Luminol powder that, when dissolved and mixed with human blood, creates a bioluminescent light source.  Now is it bright enough to provide any real usable illumination?  Probably not.  But regardless, this isn’t Mike’s point.  The point is to help you make better choices as to when you really need light.

Step one, the unbroken envelope:


Step two, remove the stopper with the Luminol powder:


Step three, bust the top off of the envelope so that there are lots of nice little jaggeties for you to bleed from:


Step four, cut yourself on the glass envelope and bleed into the Luminol:

Blood_Lamp4Game, set, match.  The Blood Lamp.


Happy Birthday, Edison’s Light Bulb!

Hey, is that a personified version of Thomas Edison’s commercialized incandescent lamp?  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Edison’s commercialized tungsten incandescent lamp!

Technically, Edison’s patent was filed the following January 27 of 1880, but today in 1879 Edison got 13 hours and 32 minutes out of his lamp’s tests and experiments.  Regardless of Edison’s politics and behavior, you have to give it to him that he put the drive into inventing something that has revolutionized our lives.  One of my favorite quotes ever is Edison’s quote about his development of the incandescent lamp.  When a reporter asked Edison about the failures in experimentation in the process of inventing the lamp, he said “No!  I didn’t fail.  I found 1000 ways to not invent an incandescent light bulb.

It’s rumored that Edison’s incandescent lamp cost about $852,000 in today’s market to develop – about $40,000 in the late 1870’s.

I also found this great list of important relevant dates (years) in the timeline of the incandescent lamp!

1850:  Joseph W. Swan began working on a light bulb using carbonized paper filaments
1860:  Swan obtained a UK patent covering a partial vacuum, carbon filament incandescent lamp
1877:  Edward Weston forms Weston Dynamo Machine Company, in Newark, New Jersey.
1878:  Thomas Edison founded the Edison Electric Light Company
1878:  Hiram Maxim founded the United States Electric Lighting Company
1878:  205,144 William Sawyer and Albon Man 6/18 for Improvements in Electric Lamps
1878:  Swan receives a UK patent for an improved incandescent lamp in a vacuum tube
1879:  Swan began installing light bulbs in homes and landmarks in England.
1880:  223,898 Thomas Edison 1/27 for Electric Lamp and Manufacturing Process
1880:  230,309 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Process of Manufacturing Carbon Conductors
1880:  230,310 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Electrical Lamp
1880:  230,953 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Electrical Lamp
1880:  233,445 Joseph Swan 10/19 for Electric Lamp
1880:  234,345 Joseph Swan 11/9 for Electric Lamp
1880:  Weston Dynamo Machine Company renamed Weston Electric Lighting Company
1880:  Elihu Thomson and Edwin Houston form American Electric Company
1880:  Charles F. Brush forms the Brush Electric Company
1881:  Joseph W. Swan founded the Swan Electric Light Company
1881:  237,198 Hiram Maxim 2/1 for Electrical Lamp assigned to U.S. Electric Lighting Company
1881:  238,868 Thomas Edison 3/15 for Manufacture of Carbons for Incandescent Lamps
1881:  247,097 Joseph Nichols and Lewis Latimer 9/13 for Electric Lamp
1881:  251, 540 Thomas Edison 12/27 for Bamboo Carbons Filament for Incandescent Lamps
1882:  252,386 Lewis Latimer 1/17 for Process of Manufacturing Carbons assigned to U.S. E. L. Co.
1882:  Edison’s UK operation merged with Swan to form the Edison & Swan United Co. or “Edi-swan”
1882:  Joesph Swan sold his United States patent rights to the Brush Electric Company
1883:  American Electric Company renamed Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1884:  Sawyer & Man Electric Co formed by Albon Man a year after William Edward Sawyer death
1886:  George Westinghouse formed the Westinghouse Electric Company
1886:  The National Carbon Co. was founded by the then Brush Electric Co. executive W. H. Lawrence
1888:  United States Electric Lighting Co. was purchased by Westinghouse Electric Company
1886:  Sawyer & Man Electric Co. was purchased by Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1889:  Brush Electric Company merged into the Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1889:  Edison Electric Light Company consolidated and renamed Edison General Electric Company.
1890:  Edison, Thomson-Houston, and Westinghouse, the “Big 3” of the American lighting industry.
1892:  Edison Electric Light Co. and Thomson-Houston Electric Co. created General Electric Co.

Ah, the lamp.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Edison’s commercialized incandescent lamp!  Isn’t it funny that I’m flying out to Las Vegas for LDI today of all days?

Thanks Wired, Distributed Energy, Idea Finder, and Wikipedia!

Happy Birthday, Francis Robbins Upton!

Francis Robbins Upton!  Happy Birthday, dude!

That guy is straight out of Deadwood!

Yes, I like to also recognize obscure yet related industry people on – they are the people behind the people.  The people that were doing the thing that we all strive to do now – carve the path.

Francis Robbins Upton was a mathematician, physicist, and an employee of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory facility back in the 1870’s.  Francis was the general manager and partner of an Edison project called Edison Lamp Works.  The guy was an intelligent scientist, and worked on the watt-hour meter, the electric light, engineering dynamos, and apparently lots of interesting arguments/spats with Edison himself.  From an article about Francis Upton at the School of Mathematics and Statistics at St. Andrews University:

Edison liked and respected Upton, for the latter had acquired a brilliantly profound store of knowledge. And under Edison’s guidance he soon gained the necessary experience to make theory and practice meet. It was always edifying to listen to their arguments, and often a group of us would gather round and drink in every word that was spoken. Reasoning and sparrings between Edison and Upton often led to new experiments …

A totally random bit of information on Francis Robbins Upton is that he was the guy who invented the electric fire alarm/detector.  That’s a big deal, right?  Well sure!  However, this fact often goes overlooked because of some dumb ass at the US Patent Office in the late 1800’s who misspelled the title of Upton’s fire alarm.  Officially, the patent for his device was called the “Portable Electric Tire Alarm.”  Lame.  Sorry that people suck, Francis!

Francis also developed something called “Nature’s Farter.”  Yeah, you read that right.  Upton invented a device that had something to vibrating a circular tube and producing a constant fart sound.  I think this is hilarious – a guy with Upton’s mathematics prowess having a sense of humor!  The United States Government, however, had no sense of humor.  Francis Upton actually got arrested for his invention, because the government found it “rude.”  Lame again.

Happy Birthday, Francis!

Thanks, Wikipedia and GAP!

Happy Birthday, Joesph Swan!

Hey, who’s that?  That’s Joseph Swan!  Happy Birthday, Joesph Swan!
(It was actually on Halloween, but he’s dead and I wanted everyone to know about him!)


Joseph Swan (Halloween 1828 – May 27, 1914) was one of Edison’s competitors for who really invented the light bulb first.  Joseph Swan is an English inventor and worked in the UK – Ol’ Joe here worked a lot in the chemistry of manufacturing in his life, but also had an idea for an electric lamp at the same time as Tommy Edison.  Lots of legal brew-ha-ha took place between the two men until a joint company was formed – the Edison and Swan United Electric Light Company, LTD – affectionately referred to as “EdiSwan.”  There are many indications that Swan actually invented and developed the light bulb like two decades before Edison, and got a patent for his device a full year before Edison.

Joseph’s original device design had flaws, and didn’t stay lit for very long.  His filament had a very low resistance (carbonized paper), and it got set aside for fifteen years or so.  Joe came back to it later in life and solved it.

From his beard, you’d think that he did some gold prospecting in Deadwood between the time when he started the lamp and when he came back to it.  OH BURN!  Yeah!  Anyone?  Anyone?  [high five]


Here’s a picture of the Swan lamp (left) next to the Edison lamp:


One of the coolest things that Joey Swan invented was a process for pushing nitro-cellulose through a really tiny hole, creating conducting fibers.  When Edison got wind of this, he wanted to keep his carbonized bamboo filaments, and he did keep his own process until Edison Light was bought by General Electric.  GE started using Swan’s cellulose filaments at that point.

So, Joe’s achievments include, but are not limited to:

  • the cellulose filament
  • inventing a method for drying wet photographic plates
  • bromide paper for photography
  • apparently beating Edison to the light bulb
  • having a huge beard
  • developing a vacuum tube with Edison

Happy Belated Birthday, Joseph Swan!


Thanks, Wikipedia!

Turn A Bottle of Water into A 50W Light Bulb

Check out this video – some village ingenuity goes a long way when you’re faced with power outages!  Alfredo Moser, the inventor, lives in Brazil and dealt with trying to work in the blackouts in 2002.  He took a 2-liter bottle, two capfuls of bleach, and a 35mm film canister and made a light source that puts out light metered at around the intensity of a 50W light bulb!  Alfredo’s invention has been allowing his neighbors to light their homes during the day with the sun and no electricity.

Thanks, WiseBread!

Stained Glass Light Bulb – “Lamp,” to the Professional

When I flew home on Christmas Day, among the gifts my wonderful wife had bought me, this little gem was in my stocking – a “stained glass” medium screw base lamp from GE that casts a great bunch of color on the shade and adjoining wall in my office.  It’s 25 watts, one of the few incandescent lamps in my house (sometimes you just have to have tungsten!) and adds a great feel to my office at night.

Check it out on Amazon – the Stained Glass Lamp from GE!  It’s around five bucks.

Some pictures of my office, with the lamp in the fixture on my bookshelves: