Active Statics: How got into the Van de Graaff generator business.
In the beginning, Active Statics had been an obscure idea. For months, this odd pattern of electrical impulses and neural connections began reinforcing itself…so much so that it could not stay obscured by the other voltage surges, cellular associations and chemical processes of the mind.
As the idea’s prominence multiplied, it manifested itself through various social interactions. Everyone receiving this information in the form of sound waves generated by my vocal cords or LCD pixels thought “this is insane or crazy or stupid or a pipe dream” (You get the idea.) This led me to believe it had some validity and quite frankly encouraged me.
Only in my twenties and with some unique business experience did I realize this could become commercially viable…Since early childhood I have been interested in electrostatic machines, high voltage devices and general science. I credit my parents for encouragement. They value knowledge, learning, discussion and most of all questioning.
At the age of 4 or 5 on one of these cultural/knowledge/discovery excursions, we visited the Museum of Science (MOS) in Boston, which quickly became my favorite place because it was possible to see from a child’s perspective how and why the world worked. Many thanks to the MOS team for developing these programs. The Van de Graaff generator, an original, still operating designed by Robert J. Van de Graaff himself especially sparked my interest.
The MOS Boston’s Van de Graaff generator, one of the world’s largest and most notable, produces electrical discharges over 10 feet in length @ upwards of 1 million volts. ANY person fortunate enough to see this piece of historical machinery operate live and in person cannot help to smile and become fascinated by having lightning on demand, indoors.
As a young child, the 2 story machine Prof. Van de Graaff himself built seemed to be magical. After a few more years of increased neural connections and development, I had a rough understanding of the operation and began to read voraciously regarding the subject of electrostatic generators.
As a teen, the realization that females belonging to my cohort (not trying to alienate anyone reading this) or my friends for that matter were not interested led me to become a closeted electrostatics fan in the name of teenage social preservation.
Fifteen years later, after starting my business, a childhood dream came true when I received a personal tour of the “Inspire Machine”. Mike Alexander, a 40 year veteran of the museum graciously gave me a world-class tour of the mega Van de Graaff, inside and out.
The following week Dan Davis, a former lightning researcher, fellow High Voltage enthusiast and Van de Graaff guru, spent almost three hours speaking with me about this machine! I can imagine how busy he must be. Again, many thanks to the museum staff and especially Mike and Dan for spending time with me.
From a childhood fascination to finally dealing in these machines has been an interesting and fun journey. Active Statics even markets an original interpretation of the Van de Graaff generator.
In the next few posts, I’d like to explain how Prof. Van de Graaff’s generator actually works and the nuances of the machine that inspired my career.