This week’s Digital Savant column is a bit of a departure from talk of smart phones, social media etiquette or video games. Last week, I visited one of 3M’s very large Austin sites, the one with its Innovation Center and many research labs. (The other is for manufacturing.)
While there I learned a lot about the company and got to see a lightning simulator and a very cold room. You can read all about it in the column, available on MyStatesman and in Tuesday’s print edition of the American-Statesman. Here’s an excerpt:
It takes about 30 seconds to charge up the impulse generator each time to today’s testing voltage of 300 KV, connected to an electrical termination that looks like a jutting needle attached to a gas station hose. Inside the control room, behind the grounded door and safely shielded windows, we watch. The “ding, dong!” of a doorbell sounds to warn when the moment is here. And then: “pop!” A flash, gone in just a moment. The air has been burned, or rather ionized. Flashover has occurred, creating a plasma spark. It’s a modest spectacle, really just a bright dot of light in the air, but the loud report, like the bang of a small gun, tells you all you need to know about its power.
Five times we cycle through. Buzz. Ding-dong! Pop! And a flash.
And then it’s over and the lab is safe for entry again. It’s just a large space where mankind has miraculously triumphed over lightning without death or injury.
Read the rest here.