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A YEAR AGO: "LIGHTNING STRIKES"

Updated: May 27

Exactly a year ago, we had our world premiere of “Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm” at the Boston Museum of Science “When Science and Art Collide: Lightning Strikes” event. The Electrum sculpture’s engineer Greg Leyh ofLightning on Demandflew in from San Francisco for the event, and the MOS resident tesla coil expert, Daniel Davis, gave us all a show to remember in the Theater of Electricity after the screening. The complete event Photo Gallery.

L: "Neon" Ed McAllister. R: Daniel Davis, MOS and Greg Leyh, Lightning on Demand


The weeks leading up to the event were busy with networking, social media, and my first attempts at blogging. Friends connected me to local artist “Neon" Ed who generously donated a bunch of scrap neon for our Theater of Electricity demonstrations. Bert Hickman contributed several of his Captured Lightning works to the MOS for the event. On November 6th, Ethan Gilsdorf’s article about our event came out in the Boston Globe and we also made June Wulff’s Picks-of-the-week list. When Greg arrived that evening, I brought him straight to the MOS where he and Daniel Davis immediately launched into intense conversation about voltages and potentials, followed by a VIP tour of the Theater of Electricity.

Daniel Davis and Greg Leyh talk shop inside the twin spheres of the Van de Graaf generator


The next day Greg and I got to check out Harvard’s Wyss Institute with Eric Wehner, Greg’s former cohort at Survival Research Labs. We saw some incredible biomorphic work and lots of fun and very expensive toys including insect cameras and James Weaver’s electron microscopes. We then visited plasma artist Wayne Strattman’s South End Studio. Over lunch at Flour Bakery (of course!) Greg shared some funny stories about his current job at Google and his interactions with a guy there named Larry. At Google, Greg figures out how to get the juice into the buildings full of servers that run the internet - all of our video sharing, social media, etc. Can’t think of a better guy for that job!


Photo Credit: Ken Kinna


The big event: The MOS Cahners theater was packed. Several of our production team were in the house, including Eric Masunaga of Modulus Studios and Composer P. Andrew Willis, not to mention local steampunks who turned out to show their support of the turn-of-the-century technology. Lisa Monrose, who heads up Special Events and Adult Programs at the MOS, introduced the evening. I thanked everyone for coming, and the curtain went up. The film looked and sounded great. Following the screening, Greg gave a presentation about his Lightning Foundry project which involves building twin tesla coils - the tallest physically possible - on land that he has purchased in New Mexico. Then Daniel Davis moderated a panel discussion.

Photo Credit: Ken Kinna


The event moved to the Theater of Electricity, where Daniel gave us all a spectacular show. Fun volunteers allowed their hair to stand on end, and of course no one will forget the magnetic charge experiment that nearly devolved into a catfight. I finally worked up the courage to go inside a Faraday cage and get zapped by lightning, making up for the missed opportunity nearly 15 years ago when I had the chance to go inside the Electrum sculpture and didn’t. Winners of the Steampunk fashion contest got their turns inside the Faraday cage and I’m pretty sure I spotted Dave Strickler and Steve Hollinger in there as well. It was an awesome night, definitely one of last year’s highlights. 


Photo Credit L-R: Murray Robinson, Ken Kinna


A lot has happened in the year since. The ASKlabs network keeps growing and we are developing ambitious new independent documentary film projects that we hope will impact public engagement with cutting-edge science. You can find out more here in our Spring/Summer 2013 Newsletter.


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