Good Question: “But Really, Can You Stand In Front Of The Microwave?”

We all, working in our studios all day (and certain nights of course), may use a microwave oven to heat up a noodle soup or some sweet potatoes. While some of my caring friends insist I should not, I enjoy the convenience. But is it really save!?

After reading “But Really, Can You Stand In Front Of The Microwave?” I can pass the all-clear on microwave ovens on to you. That is: If you ensure the oven is truly intact and clean at the door so no radiation may reach you!

This quote from the article got the artist in me: “people tend to be more worried about man-made types of radiation rather than cosmic radiation from space or radon from the soil”. :)

Electrical Discharge on Photographic Film

"The word electricity is thought to derive from the ancient Greek elektron, meaning “amber.” When subject to friction, materials such as amber and fur produce an effect that we now know as static electricity. Related phenomena were studied in the eighteenth century, most notably by Benjamin Franklin. To test his theory that lightning is electricity, in 1752 Franklin flew a kite in a thunderstorm. He conducted the experiment at great danger to himself; in fact, other researchers were electrocuted while conducting similar experiments. He not only proved his hypothesis, but also that electricity has positive and negative charges. In 1831, Michael Faraday’s formulation of the law of electromagnetic induction led to the invention of electric generators and transformers, which dramatically changed the quality of human life. Far less well-known is that Faraday’s colleague, William Fox Talbot, was the father of calotype photography. Fox Talbot’s momentous discovery of the photosensitive properties of silver alloys led to the development of positive-negative photographic imaging. The idea of observing the effects of electrical discharges on photographic dry plates reflects my desire to re-create the major discoveries of these scientific pioneers in the darkroom and verify them with my own eyes."
Horshi Sugimoto

The following two images are contemporary artworks (2008) by Hiroshi Sugimoto, using static electricity and photographic film.



Already in 1897 Thomas Burton Kinraide, a Boston electrician and the inventor of a high-frequency x-ray coil, "made images with his x-ray apparatus that were both scientifically didactic and aesthetically beautiful. He placed glass plate negatives in the path of the spark gap between the two poles of his coil, recording the different phases of electrical discharges. The positive phase of the discharge created a branching and fern-like design that Kinraide called “filiciform,” while the negative phase showed a soft feathery appearance that he called 'plumous'.” 



Glass plate negative of electrical discharges by Thomas Burton Kinraide

Via Linda Matney Gallery 

Scientific Engravings from 1850

Engravings on science by John Philipps Emslie. 
The pictures illustrate the equipment and phenomena of several physical disciplines.

Via the Wellcome Collection.

Plasma in a Magnetic Field

Is Fire a Plasma? What is Plasma?

"Generally speaking, by the time a gas is hot enough to be seen, it’s a plasma.
The big difference between regular gas and plasma is that in a plasma a fair fraction of the atoms are ionized.  That is, the gas is so hot, and the atoms are slamming around so hard, that some of the electrons are given enough energy to (temporarily) escape their host atoms.  The most important effect of this is that a plasma gains some electrical properties that a non-ionized gas doesn’t have; it becomes conductive and it responds to electrical and magnetic fields.  In fact, this is a great test for whether or not something is a plasma.
Even small and relatively cool fires, like candle flames, respond strongly to electric fields and are even pretty conductive."

This video demonstrates this pretty good:

"A candle flame in an electric field between two dissimilarly charged plates will be oriented sideways because a flame is a partially ionized plasma. It therefore responds more strongly to the electric force between the plates than to the thermal convective forces in a gravity field."

Via and veritasium.



Caught Lightning

Light Catalyst, 2002,
a wonderful artwork by Carlo Bernardini.
Please have a look at his other work!

Electricity from Magnetism

"On the 29th August 1831 Michael Faraday achieved one of his greatest successes, discovering how to make electricity from magnetism.

Faraday’s first ‘Electromagnetic Induction Ring' is made from 2 sections of wire insulated with cotton and then coiled around opposite sides of an iron ring. When Faraday passed an electric current through one coil he induced an electric current in the other coil, which flowed for a very brief period of time and caused the needle on a galvanometer to move.

He wrote in his scientific notebook:

 Aug 29th 1831 

1. Expts on the production of Electricity from Magnetism, etc. etc.

2. Have had an iron ring made (soft iron), iron round and 7/8 inches thick and ring 6 inches in external diameter. Wound many coils of copper wire round one half, the coils being separated by twine and calico – there were 3 lengths of wire each about 24 feet long and they could be connected as one length or used as separate lengths. By trial with a trough each was insulated from the other. Will call this side of the ring A. On the other side but separated by an interval was wound wire in two pieces together amounting to about 60 feet in length, the direction being as with the former coils; this side call B.

3. Charged a battery of 10 pr. plates 4 inches square. Made the coil on B side one coil and connected its extremities by a copper wire passing to a distance and just over a magnetic needle (3 feet from iron ring). Then connected the ends of one of the pieces on A side with battery; immediately a sensible effect on needle. It oscillated and settled at last in original position. On breaking connection of A side with Battery again a disturbance of the needle.

4. Made all the wires on A side one coil and sent current from battery through the whole. Effect on needle much stronger than before.

5. The effect on the needle then but a very small part of that which the wire communicating directly with the battery could produce.

 From this experiment Faraday would go on to develop the first ever generator a few months later.

Faraday’s Ring and scientific notebook can be found within the museum and archival collections of the Ri."

Via Royal Institution


Coin Battery

Coin Battery, 2010
"Portland, Maine-based photographer Caleb Charland frequently merges art and science with his photographic experiments involving electricity, fire, and magnetism. One of his ongoing projects involves a series of alternative power sources created using fruit, coins, and even vinegar to power the lights in his long exposure photographs."