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October 1, 2004

Other ways of making light
Posted by Teresa at 06:50 AM *

So we’ve moved into the new place, and it’s great, we’re really happy; but we needed more light than the ceiling fixtures provide. I have to mention, though, that the ceiling fixture in Patrick’s room is spectacular. It’s a crystal chandelier that can’t date from later than the Teens, and is shaped like Tovrea Castle turned upside-down.

The main object, which hangs from chains, is a broad brass ring or band, very ornate, bearing four Art Nouveau female heads that look like Glinda of Oz, each with a little brass tassel hanging under it. Alternating with the heads around this band are four dim little lightbulbs that look like ping-pong balls. Hanging down from the band are five successively smaller tiers of closely-spaced drop crystals. I added a faceted crystal sphere as a finial bit at the bottom. The whole thing is very pretty and more than a bit daft. Still, we needed more light.

This is why I’ve been getting into cheap lamps. One of the things that got me going was this site. I can’t tell what’s going on there, but it has something like four hundred different lamps on display, many of which are recognizably made from repurposed objects. When you look at so many, you see the form underneath: a lamp is just an electrical fixture, plus one or more bulbs, plus some kind of light-modifying shade. When you think about it that way…

Onward. If you’re serious about seizing control of the means of production, The Lamp Shop has, like, everything.

A mildly surprising number of people have made lamps out of AOL CDs. Other waster CDs can be used, but AOL is the obvious choice. (I’d be able to link to Jim Watters’ CD lamp design if he hadn’t exceeded his bandwith for this month, tsk.) Most designs call for drilling holes in the CDs and threading them onto rigid support rods two by two, each pair turned shiny-sides-out, separated from the next pair by washers or other spacers. Then you put a fluorescent tube up the middle. That 400+ lamp design site gets into the CD thing as well: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Since I know the subject must come up, dear hearts, I give you the Glowing Pickle Instructions; also The Pickle as Will and Idea; also the highly scientific Characterization of Organic Illumination Systems. If you’re a serious geek, with a garage full of equipment and spare parts (hello, Jordin), you can apparently make a very bright lamp indeed out of a pickle jar, though the recipe includes bits like “The lamp was powered using a small variac (variable auto transformer) and a step down transformer,” and “If you decide to try this, wear goggles in case the pickle jar implodes.”

For my money, though, paper’s the most fun to play with. You can do just about anything with paper lamps.

I know shoji lamps are a cliche, but they’re also diverse, cheap, adaptable, easily replaced, and they make a beautiful light. We’ve got a 42” shoji globe hanging over our bed, and it’s like having a tame gas giant around.

Paper stars are fun too. You can decorate your own, or you can just wait until the invisible hand of the market comes up with an adequate selection of wildly proliferating patterns and colors.

The high end of paper lamps is way cool, though not at all cheap. The two big guys are Stephen White, who invented the techniques they both use, and William Leslie, his very talented student.

I’m not sure those things are lamps, though. Call them illuminated art objects. They look like they’re going to hatch something strange.

(Diana Harrison does some cool weird stuff too, but hers look like they’ll at worst set seed.)

Comments on Other ways of making light:
#1 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 09:23 AM:

It's obvious (so apologies in advance if you're ignoring the obvious), but IKEA has some decent, inexpensive knockoffs of high-end paper lamps.

They won't last forever, but at $7-20, they get the job done in the near-term.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 09:27 AM:

I love IKEA. I'm still kicking myself for not getting a couple of their Enklav lamps last time I was there.

#3 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 09:53 AM:

That is cool! Chambered nautilus o' light!

But whyfor kick yourself? Do you want me to scoot over to the College Park store (nearby, easy to get to) and get a couple to mail to you? I'm just about due for an IKEA staples run (tea lights, napkins, and random other small objects).

#4 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 10:32 AM:

I've found that icicle-style christmas lights, hung up over the bed, are perfect for late-night reading -- diffuse, but sufficiently bright.

If you have a canopy-style bedframe, you can make an entire star field (-:

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 10:33 AM:

Yes please thank you. Check your email.

#6 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 11:20 AM:

Just for the record, Glowing Pickles, at least those made with Kosher dills, stink like you wouldn't believe.

Yes, I know this from personal experience.

#7 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 12:08 PM:

These would be wonderful if I had a horizontal space in my apartment where I could place them.

#8 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 12:20 PM:

Re: the icicle lights comment, I was particularly fond of a friend's bathroom, which used a string of dark blue Christmas lights as a night light. I wouldn't suggest reading under them, but they did save on barked shins without waking me up as completely as the overhead light would.

#9 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 01:27 PM:

Somewhat related ...
Thanks to my husband, our lightbulbs are almost all compact fluorescent lightbulbs. To conserve energy. The energy conscious part of me is pleased, the artistic part of me is unsastisfied, and the skin-cancer-phobic part of me wonders if I should use sunblock inddors.

#10 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 01:35 PM:

Whine. I want an IKEA in visiting distance ... (looks like the closest is in Chicago). Love that Nautilus lamp!

#11 ::: Maureen Kincaid Speller ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 03:25 PM:

its like having a tame gas giant around

This is such a beautiful image ... and it reminded me of the paper lampshade Paul K. used to have hanging in the dining room of our old house, which I loved for the warm glow of light it gave out.

#12 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 03:44 PM:

Oh, ah. There's something about fall, with the drawing dark and the approach of Halloween that makes lamps and lanterns extra-wonderful to contemplate. You remind me that I have a blue paper star I bought in London, before they where everywhere, that I really ought to pick a spot for and hang in our bedroom. And the three strings of little-bitty shoji lanterns that ought to go out on the patio. I recently bought a copy of Magic Lanterns because I was totally seduced by visions of making my own paper bluebell lantern, and maybe the giant moon one... At any event, it gives me lots of food for thought to make up something really special for next year's annual Green Lake lantern floating in memory of Hiroshima.

#13 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 04:10 PM:

I have compact fluorescents almost everywhere, but they mostly have shades over them, so it's not obvious what they are until you look under the shade.

I have a capiz shell lamp hanging from a chain next to my bed. We bought it in the Phillipines when I was seven and it's one of the things I liberated from the house after my father married my stepmother. I rewired the cord so there's a rotary switch right at night-stand height, so I can turn it on and off from the bed. The monofilament that connects the shells is getting pretty degraded and I've been wondering if I should try to write down how the weaving goes.

#14 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 05:46 PM:

Nice paper lamp site.

I'd almost forgot about those things. My parents went through a . . . um . . . wannabeatnik phase in the early 60s, and I just remember the tail end of it, when we had paper lamps and sling chairs in the house.

#15 ::: Kathy Jackson ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 07:10 PM:

Wonderful links!

We had a capiz shell lamp in entry stairwell of the house my folks sold four years ago. Since they bought the house to go with the lamp, they left it hanging in the stairwell.

It was a kind of boxy thing, but quite lovely in its way. And the light was soft. I have moments when I miss it.

#16 ::: sundre ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 10:34 PM:

when i was at university and sharing a smallish dorm room with someone, i had a set of christmas lights strung over my bed. plugging it in when i came in after an all-nighter at the library gave enough light for me to find my pajamas, without waking my roommate.

i have a fondness for the multicolored xmas strings. not as, er, classy(?) looking. but a comforting glow, eerily reminiscent of certain star trek scenes.

#17 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 10:59 PM:

In early Christmases, I loved bubble tree lights. They're still available, though they're probably unsuitable as bedroom mood lighting unless you're Dr. No.

Excuse me. I must ask my komodo dragons how they feel about this.

#18 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 11:12 PM:

Suggestions: try a compact fluorescent inside a paper shade, which allows a very brighter paper lamp. Use a high-quality "bulb" (aren't those the things you put in the ground?) for good color--I've been very pleased with Panasonic. There is also, probably, a lot to be said for linear fluorescent lamps with decent looking fabric shades.

#19 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 11:41 PM:

A friend of mine made me an Electric Pickle rig for my birthday some years ago. Sadly, when I showed him Penn & Teller's comments about Jacob's Pickle he told me he was now out of the electric food business.

Oh, and while a pickle casts a green light, I've been told that a pickeled onion gives you a nice white glow...

#20 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 12:49 AM:
Weve got a 42 shoji globe hanging over our bed, and its like having a tame gas giant around.

Which raises the obvious (to me, anyway)question, has anyone made paper lamps that look like our more popular gas giants? Saturn might be tricky, but a nice Jupiter or Uranus should be doable.

#21 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:00 AM:

... and my childish side leaves me wondering what you'd do with lamps of a pickle and Uranus...

#22 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:03 AM:

xeger, my childish side is laughing his ass off at that joke.

#23 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:21 AM:

I love the string lights. I put them up in the TV room and I feel like I own my own theater.

Practically anything can be made into a lampshade or lamp as long as you can do a little wiring and are careful about heat exchange.

For a real lighting trick or treat check out www dot lynnsparadisecafe dot com. At the Kentucky State Fair each year this restaurant has an ugly lamp contest. (see top right picture after clicking the 'fun' icon)

Of course if you really value your eyes get yourselves a Bell & Howell Sunlight Lamp for reading and doing close work. It is expensive but gives better light for much less electricity.

Congratulations on your new place!

#24 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:54 AM:

Hi, yourself! And as a matter of fact, I did that exact, er, experiment myself, quite a while back -- set up a tungsten-foil source in a vacuum chamber to do some heat exchanger tests. Except mine was the heavy-duty version: a 3000-watt source with a square inch of emitting surface; the variac-equivalent was about 500 lbs of HP power supply. A bit overkill for household lighting, unless you habitually wear *really* dark mirrorshades...

#25 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:55 AM:

We were just talking about the astounding ugliness of many lamps over on papersky's journal. Those paper lamps are spiffy, but I bet they aren't very bright. I was going to tell you that Restoration Hardware is having a big sale on lighting, some of it rather nice looking, but that seems anti-climactic somehow. And I want a dill pickle.

MKK

#26 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:56 AM:

A film producer in Beverly Hills, to whom I'm related, once bought at auction a huge antique wrought iron wagon wheel. He figured that if he had light bulbs at the ends of the hollow spokes, with wires threaded througfh said spokes, it would make a great lamp for his capacious fireplaced wall.

So I found myself having him take me in the limo to a hardware store, where I bought a soldering iron, wire, bulbs, sockets, dimmer switch, lots of wire, solder, and electrical tape. The universe is not held together with duct tape by the way, but electrical tape which comes in three colors for the gluons. But I digress. The lamp was magnificient, if I say so myself.

Another time, back in Brooklyn Heights, I made a lamp for someone, where the stand was a humongous ten kilowatt vacuum tube of some sort from the radar stuff at an Army/Navy store. I suggested caution, as there was mercury visible inside, blobbing around. I heard that a cat knocked it over, and they needed what we now call HazMat to clean up.

About that same time, I made a transparent lampshade (oxymorons, anyone?) from a something like 720 plastic cups, in a luminous homage to Bucky Fuller (and have you seen him on that new First Class stamp?). To hold it together, I had to buy about a dozen tubes of plastic cement. Eyeing my freaky long hair, the owner refused, figuring that I was going to sniff the stuff. I got my little brother, dedicated model airplane builder, to vouch for my responsible use of plastic cement.

All in the name of Making Light.

Have Photons, Will Travel.

#27 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 03:16 AM:

My capiz shell lamp is a quite oblate sphere. It gives plenty of light to read in bed. The shells are cut in about a dozen different shapes, depending on what latitude they are on the lamp.

#28 ::: Christina ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 04:12 AM:

A nearby store had a Le Klint lamp (or knock-off) marked way down. I would be a cooler person if I owned that lamp, but there's nowhere in my house that it would not look out of place; my decor tends more to nerd comfort than to modern style.

I don't much care for fluorescent lights, but I adore my odor-neutralizing Fresh2 fluorescent bulbs, which I bought after reading the review on Cool Tools. I know it sounds like a scam, but they work great in my basement; if I leave the light on for 20 minutes or so, I can't smell the litterbox at all. (It only works when the light is on, alas.) They work great on Mystery Corgi Aroma, too.

#29 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 02:13 PM:

mayakda (re fluorescents): skin-cancer-phobic part of me wonders if I should use sunblock inddors.

I don't \know/ the exact spectrum distribution, but I'd be surprised if fluorescents were a \significant/ UV hazard considering that just 15% of their output is visible light. (15% sounds bad until you look at incandescents, which do 7%.) Almost all of the rest should be heat.

#30 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 03:28 PM:

Two very different lamps that delight me: the egglamp (see also their bird feeders) and Rejuvenation's Ackermansionish bat. We've actually seen the bat in use, at the Hells' Kitchen restaurant in Minneapolis, where on Easter Sunday the goth wait staff wears their jammies. Heck of a place, damn good food.


#31 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 03:34 PM:

Argh. Correct url for the egglamps. Picky, picky, picky.

#32 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 04:56 PM:

Let there be more (and more interesting) Light, yes. Having had problems with sound for more than fifty years, I've been especially fond of light -- natural more than artificial, but not much more -- though if pressed I'd have to admit that what I actually do is just stick an inexpensive power-saver bulb in any reasonably-convenient fixture and Make Do.

If you have a surplus unused vertical surface (a wall on a floor not strong enough to support bookshelves, and you haven't gotten around to matting & framing those pieces of ArtWork you've acquired over the years), you might consider a large, shadow-box-style frame, deep enough to hold a string or two of the tiny clear (or possibly colored) Christmas-tree lights and a few small mirrors (mobile ones, if the movement of light doesn't make you nervous, possibly weight-driven with a small crank on the side). Cover with shoji-paper (if plain white seems too austere, use the kind with embedded leaves or butterflies, or laid-texture designs -- or a combination of these with Modrianesque dividing strips) or transluscent cloth (sheeting, white or colored or dye-decorated by an artist) or strips of _yukata_ cloth (perhaps a multi-colored design suitable for a girl or very young woman, rather than the plain indigo-and-white proper for a man or older woman).

The inclusion of a Richard Tatge Light-Show Machine (slide-projector aimed at a revolving disk covered with small pieces of mirror) presents some difficulties, but might be an option. So, perhaps, would be an apparatus such as Thomas G. Digby once created in a gutted TV-set, controlling light intensity and colors by a sound-feed from his record-player. Maybe it's time to return to the '60s. Ah! to have studio space, and time enough for Creative Puttering.

In the interest of completeness, I'll mention my own Great Idea -- an LCD-filled lamp connected to a system involving a small storage battery and a tiny generator hooked up to the exercise-wheel in a cage of pet hamsters, mice, or rats. This could, at least, be considered ecology-friendly.

#33 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 05:22 PM:

mayakda (re fluorescents): skin-cancer-phobic part of me wonders if I should use sunblock inddors.

CHip: I don't \know/ the exact spectrum distribution, but I'd be surprised if fluorescents were a \significant/ UV hazard considering that just 15% of their output is visible light. (15% sounds bad until you look at incandescents, which do 7%.) Almost all of the rest should be heat.

And whatever the spectrum, all normal indoor lighting has low power compared to solar radiation.

Almost all of the rest should be heat.

I wince when people say that, because all of it is heat once something absorbs it. Also, all of it is light before it's absorbed. (Taking 'light' to include all frequencies.) Infrared seems to get singled out as "heat radiation" by science writers even though visible light can also be perceived as heat. [/pickiperson]

Now you get to make fun of me for saying "ATM machine."

#34 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 05:26 PM:

Don Fitch:

Nice to see the inimitable Thomas G. Digby cited. Strange but powerful mind. Engaging personality. Amazingly weird and delightful poetry.

My late mother-in-law considered him one her favorite American poets, thanks to such gems as "Time Gum." Tom Digby achieved Stapeldonishness in a poem contrasting beings in the first sub- picosecond after the Big Bang, world weary, sure that they are the last forms of life; and beings quintillions of years from now, exuberent, thinking themselves the very first lifeforms.

#35 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 12:18 AM:

As a turtle keeper, I can confirm that unless you are using UV-rated fluorescent bulbs (usually sold in pet stores), you don't need to worry about sunscreen. A standard fluorescent bulb doesn't put out enough UV to protect captive reptiles from vitamin D deficiencies.

#36 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 04:23 AM:

Speaking of luminaire designs, here are some very cool ones. (Except for the brass one--Master Aalto, how could you?) I'm especially fond of this one.

#37 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 06:24 PM:

Steven hates big round paper lanterns with a passion now and is rebelling (due to the diffficulty of changing bulbs given our 11 foot ceilings), so I guess we're going to have to get some proper lampshades.

We lost the lighting ring on the ground floor of the house for a while a year ago; after a couple of hours of dark panic we drove to IKEA and spent about 50 on standard lamps and clip-on shelf lamps; enough to restore lighting so effectively that it took a considerable force of will to get round to sorting the original problem out.

#38 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 09:23 AM:

Andy: if the light is UV or high-visible it doesn't necessarily wind up as heat until long after it's absorbed; if I recall my thermodynamics correctly (I was a chemist a \long/ time ago), the free energy is what's changed by an absorption that disrupts a molecular bond. Disruption is what UV does; if all it did was raise the temperature a hair it wouldn't matter. And if you don't think the same thing happens with visible light, get two green- or clear-glass bottles of beer out of a carton, keep one as a control, and leave the other in a sunny window for a day or two before opening -- \outdoors/ if there's anyone else living in your building.

I expect somebody has beaten this somewhere, but the most excessive use of string lights I've seen was the Boston-for-Orlando-in-'01 bidding party I built at Bucconeer (1998 Worldcon). I think a number of participants here saw the result of hanging half a mile (no, that's not figurative) of string lights to cover the ceiling of a 40'x50' room; it wasn't photo-quality lighting, but there was more than enough light for a sociable party with the room fixtures turned off.

#39 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 10:13 AM:

CHip: Mech E's tend to think of absorption as instantaneous, and chemists probably don't. I'm guessing that photons messing with bonds must be a very fast process-- femtoseconds?--on a photon-by-photon basis. (Confirm?) The view presented to engineers is that while the photon is flitting about, it is a photon. Some very small time after hitting an insulated surface, the surface is warmer, and we don't talk about what happens in between. We leave that to chemists. (For your beer experiment: This is another interdisciplinary misunderstanding. Mech E's have an unstated assumption that there are no chemical changes happening unless someone tells us that there are. Then we run and hide. Exceptions: nanotech and biology, but that's newfangled stuff.)

#40 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 10:19 AM:

The description of the chandelier put me in mind of Chandler. In one of the 'cannibalized' stories, he has Marlowe wake up in a delirium, being drugged in a private sanatorium, and he talks about the light globe on the ceiling having beads around it, and the beads were heads. Alive heads, and each one has a little personality, and then he has to run and be sick. It's a pretty convincing paragraph or two of hell.

Speaking of light, the house I grew up in had been owned by a wiring instructor at CSU when it was in town. They moved it out to where we lived in it, and cut a hole in a hallway for basement steps. Some rooms never seemed to get the wiring reconnected, but it was the one place that came close to having enough outlets for us. There were switches -- often multiple switches -- by every door, and a light could be turned on or off from several locations. There were switches that activated outdoor outlets, and even the smallest closet had a light in it.

#41 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 11:07 AM:

Andy & CHip: Thanks. I can save the sunblock for outdoors then, since my husband put up uv-blocking film on the windows.
(I really am sun-phobic. I had a case of basal cell cancer last year, and I'm rarely in the sun and always use the latest & greatest sunblock when I am. I guess I'm just in the "more susceptible" group.)

Marilee & Kathy: I used to take capiz thingies for granted in Manila. I guess I do miss it a little. I ought to look around for a capiz lamp.

#42 ::: Richard Parker ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 07:47 PM:

Mayakda,

I don't believe the tiny UV exposure contribution of a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) is a health concern. As a rough estimate, the UV irradiance at 30cm of a CFL bulb is perhaps 2.0 uW/cm^2 UV-A and 0.1 uW/cm^2 UV-B. As a yardstick, I think a couple of relative comparisons might be helpful. First, fluorescent lighting emits much smaller amounts of UV light than halogen lighting which in turn emits about 1/3 of the UV of sunlight. Second, if you light a room to standard office illumination levels using exposed CFL bulbs your UV exposure during an eight hour work day would be equivalent to perhaps a minute of mid-day exposure on a clear summer day.

In general, transparent plastics and glass block significant amounts of UV radiation and UV "degrades" quickly upon each "bounce" off of many visible-light reflective surfaces due to absorption. Thus, many lighting fixtures and techniques (enclosed luminaires, indirect lighting, etc.) will further reduce or eliminate the small amount of UV emitted from CFL lamps.

I guess I should also point out that while it is best to consider all UV exposure potentially harmful in extended doses, the total elimination of UV exposure might also be a concern since the human body requires small amounts of UV-A radiation to manufacture vitamin D along with the resulting absorption of calcium.

#43 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 08:26 PM:

Richard, that's why I get skim milk with Vitamin D in it. My skin has become so fragile that I can't expose it to sun often, plus, I'm the oldest person in my family who *hasn't* had skin cancer (lots of the younger ones have had it -- farmers on one side, sailors on the other).

#44 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 10:18 PM:

Andy Perrin and CHip:

Except from the point of view of the photon. To a photon, the 8 minutes or so it takes to leave the photosphere of the sun and fly through space until it impacts your skin (or retina) is, as Saint Albert Einstein says, zero time, as the trip is at the speed of light. From the point of view of Theophysics, the principle of Contagion applies, and Action at a Distance, and your skin (or retina) is now entangled with the sun. Or something. ** waves wand and rolls eyes **

#45 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 01:49 AM:

"I don't believe the tiny UV exposure contribution of a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) is a health concern."

Except for some "daylight" fluorescents,. They seem to be relabelled Gro-lites; be careful of them. Some display-case lamps used with art are also available in UV-filtered versions, so sometimes UV emissions are a problem.

#46 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 05:26 AM:

Except for some "daylight" fluorescents,. They seem to be relabelled Gro-lites; be careful of them.

I believe they're supposed to be clearly labeled.

I've had a lot of trouble finding those. I keep hoping for a less expensive alternative to the UVA-UVB reptile lights I have to buy for Gamera.

Regardless, Richard is right about the UV blocking ability of glass and plastic. It's why reptile keepers have to use lamps; too little gets through windows and tank sides to do the animals any good.

#47 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 10:50 AM:

Andy: I can't verify the timing (but it would certainly be small): the issue is that if making the bond released energy, breaking it will absorb energy -- so the temperature may not change. And "run and hide" is an appropriate reaction to that beer experiment; the one time I was present for it I could smell the beer from several feet away seconds after it was uncapped -- no foaming, just lots of thiols.

Richard: what is it about halogens that ups the UV? The torchiere bulbs I've seen are like the theater lamps that were starting to come in ~30 years ago (when I was last seriously active); they're still incandescents, just with a much smaller envelope. (The "quartz" envelope might let through more UV than standard glass -- I remember using quartz cells for to hold liquid speciments for UV-absorption analysis -- but how much UV does a tungsten filament at ~3000K generate?) Aside from the appalling color, is there something different about halogen headlights?
For other people annoyed by the actinic glare, a side note: per Boston Globe, halogen headlights are so expensive that they're worth stealing; prying out the lights does damage that can take several days and $1000 or more to fix.

#48 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 12:08 PM:

The issue is that if making the bond released energy, breaking it will absorb energy -- so the temperature may not change.

True, just not the situation I had in mind. Many surfaces don't chemically react when light shines on them. Engineering radiation analysis is geared toward determining the temperature of all the surfaces and any participating media (e.g. air, beer), to stop them doing something perverse. The starting assumption (unless one knows otherwise) is that there aren't any reactions happening, because otherwise the problem gets too hard to solve at all. Even if there is a reaction, if the energy required to drive the reaction is much smaller than the amount that goes into warming up the beer (say), then you could ignore the reaction as a first approximation. You might get away with that when the beer is first placed in the sun but hasn't sat there long, since the reaction would be slower in cold beer. Then you could use that approximation to predict when the beer will be hot enough for the reaction to be important, and ask a friend to observe the beer while you go do something in a safer part of the room.

#49 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 12:46 PM:

JvP: From the point of view of Theophysics, the principle of Contagion applies, and Action at a Distance, and your skin (or retina) is now entangled with the sun. Or something. ** waves wand and rolls eyes **

Actually, your skin, retina, bones, kidneys, pancreas etc. are already entangled with the sun, since it is the source of the energy you use to live. Unless you've been eating tube worms and such. Principle of Common Origins.

And, of course, you're also bound to the earth, since it's where all that food grows (or it eats things that grow there etc). And the sea, since it produces the majority (? buttloads anyway) of the free oxygen in the atmosphere. Not to mention being the ur-source of all life.

And you're bound to all that life, since we're all ultimately related.

The only bonds you have a choice about are the moon and the stars. I personally choose to bind myself quite heavily to both, as both celestial objects of great beauty, and as spiritual symbols. You can also choose how strongly you feel these various bonds.

And you can choose how much of this energy gets reconverted into light (I'm speaking metaphorically now). It's well known that the placement of a bushel basket over a light source will greatly decrease its output in lumens, and cause its heat production to be much more concentrated. I.e. not only does it keep your light from shining out into the world, it makes you damn cranky.

I speak from experience.

#50 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 01:09 PM:

cHip professes:

For other people annoyed by the actinic glare, a side note: per Boston Globe, halogen headlights are so expensive that they're worth stealing; prying out the lights does damage that can take several days and $1000 or more to fix.

The difference in light quality as a driver is phenomenal. The halogens provide better illumination and safer nighttime driving IMNSHO, it would be much more valuable to put effort into getting everybody to aim their headlights correctly, than effort into stealing headlights. I still find SUVs with their lights aimed directly into my car, rather than at the road dangerously irresponsible.

#51 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 02:22 PM:

Hey, it's an example of convergent evolution or something -- I made a lamp almost exactly like that AOL lamp! Mine rests on a base made out of an old round thermostat cover, and uses a skinny fluourescent bulb from one of those lights you attach to the bottom of a shelf. Pretty cool, but not too stable, and more of a mood light than a useful light.

#52 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 07:47 PM:

JeanOG, the Lowe's flyer on Sunday had "daylight" compact fluorescent bulbs on sale.

#53 ::: Richard Parker ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 09:46 PM:

CHip asked:

What is it about halogens that ups the UV? The torchiere bulbs I've seen are like the theater lamps that were starting to come in ~30 years ago (when I was last seriously active); they're still incandescents, just with a much smaller envelope. (The "quartz" envelope might let through more UV than standard glass -- I remember using quartz cells for to hold liquid speciments for UV-absorption analysis -- but how much UV does a tungsten filament at ~3000K generate?)
You are correct, most of the difference is due to the use of fused quartz (also called silica) for the light-transmitting envelope. For comparison, a standard incandescent lamp emits about 1/2 to 1/3 the UV of an unshielded halogen lamp. While the higher color temperature of halogen lamps (2800K - 3400K) compared to 2700K for standard incandescent lamps contributes somewhat, most of the difference can be accounted for by fused quartz's transparency to ultraviolet light. Fused quartz is used to withstand the higher operating pressures and temperatures common in halogen bulbs. Almost all of the modern halogen lighting fixtures that I've seen incorporate a glass shield that brings the UV emissions down to a negligible level and prevents exposure to broken glass in case a halogen bulb shatters.

Aside from the appalling color, is there something different about halogen headlights?
Halogen technology only generates about 10% more lumens per watt then comparable incandescent lamps, so technically they are not much brighter. However, in the case of directional sources such as PAR lamps, halogens have a much higher center beam candlepower (CBCP). This is largely due to more precise beam control than non-halogen lamps. Also, halogen does have about twice the lamp life.
#54 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 11:29 PM:

"halogen headlights"

There are actually two technologies that go by "halogen"--a hot-running incandescent lamp that generates a bit more UV than regular incandescents, and the headlight technology, which is called a metal-halide lamp. MH lamps are a kind of super-fluorescent. Their luminous efficacy (the more useful measure than efficiency) is much higher than any incandescent lamp, and they put out lots of UV.

#55 ::: Richard Parker ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 12:25 AM:

Thanks Randolph, I wasn't aware that high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps were mistakenly referred to as halogen lamps in the automobile headlight market.

For those who haven't heard of them, HID lamps are a class of highly efficient lamp, of which the two most common types are metal halide and high pressure sodium. While their color rendition is typically not as good as incandescent or even fluorescent lighting, they are highly efficient, have a long service life, and can be much brighter than fluorescent lamps.
You can commonly find metal halide lamps used to illuminate big warehouse-type stores and the high pressure sodium lamps are frequently used in street lighting (you can recognize them by their distinctive yellow-orange color). Also, as Randolph mentioned, HID lamps are indeed significant sources of UV radiation - all HID bulb/fixtures combinations I am aware of include either a UV absorbing envelope as part of the bulb or a UV filter as a component of the fixture.

#56 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 02:29 AM:

It surprises me how many places HID lamps are popping up. They're the expensive, long-lasting lamps in LCD video projectors. And CatEye makes an HID bike light! Really quite a technical achievement--the power supply fits in a water bottle.

#57 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 02:44 AM:

Hmmm, an HID light on a bicycle is a great idea, but $500 is a lot of scratch for a bicycle headlamp.

I hate HID's on cars - too many are misaligned and they seem to zap my night vision for longer than standard halogens. I wonder if that's a spectrum thing or a brightness thing.

#58 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 03:06 AM:

Larry, I don't think anyone knows yet. Two possibilities which come to mind: (1) a small intense light sources is more of a glare problem than a large, less intense source, though both give the same total light; (2) the spectrum of the HID lamp may stimulate more pupil contraction than the spectrum of a comparable incandescent. One very cool recent bit of research: it is now believed that mammalian eyes have a third set of visual receptors which are involved in controlling pupil size, sleep/wake cycles, and so on.

By the way, some very cool decorative luminaires in the photos of this NYMOMA design exhibit.

#59 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 09:03 AM:

The living room of our apartment is strung with chains of christmas lights, blue and red, and we have two star lamps, one paper, one mettle with glass beads. It's quite lovely to sit there and eat dinner or just drink a glss of wine in the diffuse glow.

#60 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 10:38 PM:

We ARE somewhat in the same boat here, as the ground floor of our house as 12' ceilings, the second floor is only slightly shorter.... and there were not very many electrical outlets available. It's a 1912 house after all.

We are gradually putting in light where we need it, on a slow basis.

An expensive visit from an electrician allowed us to install window A/C units (the most cost-effective/non-house destroying concept), and HE had to make a second visit because he looked at our magnificent NEW circuit box (220 circuit breaker, installed before we moved in) and didn't open the second cover to see how it was wired. The idiots who had wired it had put ALL the household circuits into the first four 30-amp breakers... sigh for stupidity. It's all distributed now, and the freezer in the basement has it's own breaker....

#61 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2004, 06:00 AM:

We had to use candles tonight. A very few minutes after the 2nd Presidential candidates' Debates (closer to a tie than the 1st?), the lights of our part of Altadena browned, and blacked out. Lots of people all getting up from their TVs and turning on the lights at once? That killed several hours of work on my PC and on my son's PC. In my case, I'd been running "The Alpertron" (an Elliptic Curve Method factorization program in Java) for over 10 days, and it is gone. Don't feel like runnintg it again, either, as it slowed down the other more important things to do on my PC, like this blog....

#62 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2004, 06:01 AM:

We had to use candles tonight. A very few minutes after the 2nd Presidential candidates' Debates (closer to a tie than the 1st?), the lights of our part of Altadena browned, and blacked out. Lots of people all getting up from their TVs and turning on the lights at once? That killed several hours of work on my PC and on my son's PC. In my case, I'd been running "The Alpertron" (an Elliptic Curve Method factorization program in Java) for over 10 days, and it is gone. Don't feel like running it again, either, as it slowed down the other more important things to do on my PC, like this blog....

#63 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2004, 04:05 PM:

JvP - That's why it's a good idea for programs like that to dump state-files every so often, so that you can restart from the last file rather than the beginning.

Also, things like that don't have to slow down your computer. I'm sure you know about "nice" in Unix/Linux machines (and probably in OS/X as well), but you may not know you can do the same in Windows -- you can set the priority of processes deep in the task manager (specifically, by right-clicking on the process in the process list -- not the application list), and if you give your process a "below normal" priority, it only uses the CPU's free time -- not time it would otherwise be using for "normal" things like the browser.

#64 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2004, 04:57 PM:

Brooks Moses:

Unfortunately, I had two copies of the Alpertron open, one background, and one which I was just using to check some smaller factorizations. When the system crashed, the state vector of the little one saved, but not the big one.

You enlighten me! I hate Windows so much, I've aftively avoided learning it, and thus depend on my 15-year-old son, a college Junior Computer Science Major. And I really should have a Unix or Linux box of some sort. Thank you again for useful suggestions!

#65 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2004, 06:37 PM:

Okay.. by "the alpertron", I'm assuming you mean the applet-based method at Dario Alpern's page?

Oooook.

First mistake-- not downloading the source code and having your son show you how to run it freestanding.

Second mistake-- not bribing your son with some arbitrary reward for taking the provided Java source, and reimplementing it in some other language.

#66 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2004, 01:50 AM:

With regards to my previous post-- My classes end for the quarter before thanksgiving. After we have the lasagna, and my wife goes off to work, I'll finish debugging the python version, with statefile dumps, of the elliptic curve factorizer.

It's partially working now, but I have a class project to finish.

#67 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2004, 10:02 AM:

"When the system crashed, the state vector of the little one saved, but not the big one."

ooooh! That so reminds me of one of the 'features' of our former Unix editing system (which did have good things too - to me, vi is still superior for text editing than most windows-style editors). It was always the really big, important & difficult things that got trashed, and the tiny inconsequential ones faithfully retrieved - there may be some part of Sod's Law involved.

[Err ... just ran into your spam-reducing step. Good idea, if awkward. Sending as many positive thoughts as I can muster/spare for you. That stuff is awful.]

#68 ::: Maria ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2006, 09:51 PM:

I designed a lamp consisting of a sheet metal shell and a holder for a large laser transparency. I back the transparency with a sheet of white polypropylene and sandwich the transparency between the opaque sheet and a clear sheet of polycarbonate. In this way the transparency show excellent color, and the light bulb is diffuse enough to look similar to a stained glass window effect. In addition, the polycarbonate layer protects the transparency from moisture and UV light. I started making these lamps as gifts for family and friends and they became so popular that I am know selling them just above my cost.

The name of my business is Luvulamps.com or http://www.LuvULamps.com

#69 ::: P J Evans finds possible comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2006, 10:05 PM:

lamps?

#70 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2006, 10:30 PM:

Um. Maybe. It would've been an allowable comment when the thread was young.

#71 ::: Joanne ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2006, 11:50 AM:

Hi Teresa, I saw one! Its a lampshade--disguised as a lamp -or- a lamp disgused as a lampshade. I saw a news someone moving into town, and they had a lamp that was its own lampshade? The lampshade was actually a large photo transparency thingy, which was actually the lamp? Hard to explain. I think it sounded something like luvalamp luvulamp?

#72 ::: nancy ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2006, 02:28 AM:

Yes, its spelled LUVULAMPS at luvulamps.com We sell them.

#73 ::: Serge sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2010, 12:32 PM:

been quite a while since I came across an article with good ideas that i didnt know about

You should go out more often.

#74 ::: Jun ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 07:13 PM:

Those were some really interesting ways to make light; I didn't know some of them would actually work. This was so interesting, thanks for sharing.

[link removed --jdm]

#75 ::: Stefan Jones suspects spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 07:14 PM:

Link to something about roofing in the link.

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