Plasma and Ozone

Yesterday, on my way home, partly inspired by reading more about Felix Hess, I bought a plasma globe. I have wanted one since childhood. Now that I am a bona-fide mad scientist, it is almost obligatory that I own one. It also brings closure on two pieces of personal history; an unstarted project and an unsolved mystery.

When I was 12 or 13 I considered making one of my own. I had an old TV and a spare glass globe. I knew that it was ‘simply a case of putting the electron gun in the ball with the right mix of gases.. (or something.) Thankfully I was a lazy and impractical child or I might have killed myself poking around the back of the TV. Nonetheless, it always nagged at me that I never got round to it. No need now.

The mystery is more recent. I used to claim I loved the smell of wet bricks. People looked at me strangely when I said this. I used to live in the Match Factory, originally a wonderful old red brick factory from the evil old days of Queen Victoria, little match girls, phossy jaw and the beginnings of the labour movement and more recently a post-Tatcher yuppie fortress. When walking home in wet weather, there would always be a wonderful seemingly coming from some other red-brick outbuildings. It was primarily the one housing the electricity sub-station, so I guess I knew the smell must have been electrical but in my mind it was ‘wet bricks’.

Now, thanks to my new plasma globe, I realise it was in fact ozone. Reading about how the things work, it seems that the high-voltage capacitance effects such as you get when you put your fingers on it produce ozone. That has the same smell as those wet bricks. So I now have a space age machine and have the power to instantly produce that ‘wonderful’ smell literally at my fingertips. Although now I know it is the smell of poisonous gas ozone, I can’t seem enjoy it as much as I used to.

About caspar

Caspar is just one monkey among billions. Battering his keyboard without expectations even of peanuts, let alone of aping the Immortal Bard. By day he is an infantologist at Birkbeck Babylab, by night he runs
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