Burning Man 1998 - Tube Zap

Tube Zap

Irene and I were out wandering the city when we heard an extraordinary sound reaching across the playa. An intermittent sort of whining, buzzing, arcing noise, with the end of each round giving way to massed cheers. We homed in on the source and were greeted by what is even now one of the most amazing performances I've seen at Burning Man.

This was the mother of all Tesla Coils. It stood something like 30' tall. A barricade cord held the audience just at the edge of the space the coil's plasma streamers reached out to. I set up my camera on its heavy metal tripod right at the front, half expecting a ground-hungry discharge to leap for it.

Here, the Coil doesn't just light up a fluorescent tube - it more or less incinerates it. The multiple parallel lines of each streamer are produced by the means of energizing the coil. An interruptor sends a pulse of electrical energy through it, with each interrupt producing one of the lines. The sound of the interruptor was the buzzing we heard.

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This image copyright © 1998 John H. DuBois III
This gallery created on Wednesday, November 24, 2004 • 1 of 97 images displayed