Steampunk Plasma bell jar sculpture by Lisa Snellings

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David K. writes:

Lisa Snellings, who has done amazing artwork for years (including pieces for Neil Gaiman that have inspired a number of his short stories) has a great work of art on eBay right now, that is a Victorian steampunk scene with a plasma ball, done in the Victorian style complete with framing bell jar. Well worth checking out!It is indeed. $750 at the moment but for once seemingly worth the price. But if that’s still too much for you grousers, you can buy similar real working vacuum bell jars for around $120, or ornamental ones for $45. Brain and plasma not included.

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12 Responses to Steampunk Plasma bell jar sculpture by Lisa Snellings

  1. Bill Beaty says:

    > alchemists could manage some of the
    > gas mixtures and glass coatings and so
    > on, never mind the drive electronics

    It’s Victorian, 1892, needing only an induction coil. Any standard lightbulb will serve. And if using Argon, no enclosure is needed:

    Plasma globe wo/glass or vacuum
    http://amasci.com/tesla/heli1.html

    > MIT hosted an exhibit — I wish I
    > could remember

    In the 1980s the Exploratorium in SF had an exhibit called “Argon Candle;” a glass chamber with a button-operated hv power supply and vacuum pump. Artist Bill Parker modified the idea as art pieces with glowing plasma streamers in long tubes, naming them “AM lightning” and “Quiet Lightning.” Soon he built a spherical version (still at the MOS in Boston, along with “Quiet Lightning.”) These were driven by RF power amps at tens to hundreds watts. He developed better gas mixtures and tiny portable “solid state Tesla coil” power supplies, and exhibited at MIT in ?1988?.

    A quick look at Nikola Tesla’s patents (http://www.tesla.hu/tesla/tesla.htm#Articles) shows that Tesla had an identical device, and in 1892 described it as part of his Royal Society lecture: a large glass globe at low pressure, with a small glass globe in the center, with internal metal coating or powder in the small one, connected to a high-freq HV supply (Tesla Coil.) He described the plasma streamers, but it appears that he intended it as fluorescent lamp with a phosphor coating inside the larger globe.

  2. Luc says:

    @Takuan, eeek, you’re making my spine tingle…

  3. Jake von Slatt says:

    @Takuan – Dude!

  4. Luc says:

    My wife was studying goldsmithing. When we visited a museum, it turned out she was using basically the same tools as they were using in the middle ages.

  5. technogeek says:

    Nice, though I don’t like it quite $750’s worth by comparison to my other art purchasing opportunities … But that’s the nature of art; it’s worth whatever it’s worth to the person who loves it most.

    Thanks for the reminder that bell jars can be ordered. I have some small fragiles and I will have cats, which can be a risky combaintion. Display cabinets are one solution; display domes are another.

  6. TJ S says:

    Somebody needs to attach this to the top of a roomba. Now.

  7. Takuan says:

    cool assembly, but what would be cooler is hand blowing the sphere and pumping it out with a muscle powered vacuum pump and using hand wound coils for the power transformers.

  8. TJ S says:

    Feeling a little picky today, Takuan? :p

  9. dculberson says:

    It would be even cooler if the brain was a real positronic unit, both charged and inspired by the static generated by the plasma ball being in close proximity.

    But you take what you can get.

  10. Takuan says:

    actually, a totally hand built plasma sphere would be both cool and totally worth the obscene price tag.

  11. Takuan says:

    seriously. It reverberates on many levels to make things with hand tools that could have been blacksmith forged and second generation alchemist made. That’s part of the appeal of steampunk; it reassures us that We Own This Shit. None of this castrating “no user servicable parts inside” bullshit. We gotta keep control. Read Glasshouse the other day. The only way to contain Curious Yellow was to hand-build from iron-age scratch the essential tech. It’s like knowing how to grow your own food. Ultimately not negotiable.

  12. technogeek says:

    #6: Back when plasma art was still largely experimental and just barely becoming commercialized, MIT hosted an exhibit — I wish I could remember the artist’s name — showing something on the order of 20 large plasma sculptures with varying shapes (custom glassblowing), antenna configurations, gas mixtures and pulse patterns. So if you really want one, Takuan, you can probably still find someone who’ll make you one.

    Actually, traditional glass work all by itself is a pretty darned neat craft. I’ve purchased a few small items as gifts, and seen plenty I wouldn’t mind owning. Having that ancient art interacting with arts based on relatively recent physics is a nice balance.

    #7: I’m not sure second generation alchemists could manage some of the gas mixtures and glass coatings and so on, never mind the drive electronics. But in general, I agree with you; there’s nothing like hands-on to turn “it’s just magic” into “I may not understand it all, but I *could* understand it all… and my opinions on what needs improving may be as insightful as those of the experts, even if I don’t know how to make those improvements.”

    For much the same reason, I’m a firm believer that everyone should spend some time working under the supervision of a carpenter (Habitat for Humanity is a great opportunity) to learn the most basic woodworking/framing/wallboarding/painting skills, should know at least enough electronics to safely rewire a lamp or replace a switch (extra credit if you can replace a two-way switch without messing it up, and explain why it matters), be able to do enough basic plumbing to repair troublesome fixtures (extra credit if you can sweat copper pipe, though these days being able to properly assemble PVC is just as important)… If you know the basics of wood construction, electricity, and plumbing you’ve got a darned good starting point for understanding anything else at the macroscopic level, and taking a semi-reasonable guess at the micro.

    “Knowledge _is_ power.”
    “What can you do with power?”
    “Acquire more knowledge.”

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