Idea for Safety Lighting for Cables

Looking at a blinking yellow warning light, I got to thinking about how to mark any heavy cabling to secure the Temple during the event. In day, there is less concern as simply adding some ribbon would work. At night I thought to have a LED projection along the length of the cable. Then I figured side-emitting fiber-optic cords would be nice, lit green for optimal visibility. This led me to spiral the fiber-optics, and it would kind of look like a vine climbing, perhaps like an electronic morning glory.

On the technical side, I figured 1 watt of LED light would be plenty, but I'd like to have a redundant pair on each cable. This would mean about 10 watt-hours each per night which could be recharged by a 2W solar cell. But for the sake of using 10 watt-hours for, say, 8 nights, that's just 80 watt-hours. Quality alkaline D-cell batteries are typically 10 amp-hours at 1.5V or about 15 watt-hours each, so it would take a minimum of 6 batteries to hit that mark. A simple resistor circuit could drop a series-parallel pack wired for 4.5 volts to the necessary 3.5 volts at 280mA[1. Estimated from Luxeon Star-III specification sheet, rated for 700mA @ 3.5V = 2.5W]. The current would draw symmetrically (theoretically) from each chain of 4.5V, so the runtime on the battery would be a total of 10AH / 0.14A = 71 hours. (The discrepancy from 90 hours is because it's 280mA at 4.5V which is more like 1.3W. What will happen, though, is the light will get slightly dimmer and the battery last longer. The resistor is fixed at 1V / 280mA = 3.6Ω, so when the battery has dropped to 4V, the resistor drop is only 0.5V, and so the current is 0.5V / 3.6Ω = 140mA.)

I guess that got way too technical too fast. Oh well.

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Making a Projector from a Camera

One thought I had about lighting the Temple at night was to use projected images of trees. The idea was to use found, made, and donated images of single trees in various seasonal states, projecting multiple examples at once onto the Temple. It would create the illusion of real trees even more than colored lights. I initially dismissed the idea of getting slide projectors running, but I figured I could repurpose 35mm cameras, reversing the design and shining images through the lenses.

I picked one up at a thrift store for a few dollars and took it all apart. It was a basic viewfinder camera, fully automatic with a zoom. The lens was integral with the body and was all motorized. I figured out how it basically worked, then was able to adjust both the focus and zoom. (Side note: although it seems to have infinite adjustment, there are only a fixed number of zoom levels, since the motor that does the zoom also does the focus: moving a small amount adjusts the focus, but going some fixed number of turns changes to the next zoom level.) I glued and taped mechanisms so the shutter stayed open and the aperture was as wide open as possible.

I had a 10W LED I had wired up for a different project so I thought I'd give it a shot. With the camera back open, I taped an old slide where the film would have gone. It seemed so poetic and perfect that a camera—one that would have taken the pictures I intended to use—would act as a projector. I was able to project and image, but it was too dark to use—even despite using such a high-brightness LED.

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Motivations and Thoughts

I decided I needed to figure out my motivations. I wanted to see it happen, for one: I wanted to see it on the Playa at Burning Man, and see how people added their messages, and how the leaves formed, and how the lighting would transition through seasons at night, and how it would burn.

I also wanted to be able to feign humility about it, to put a positive spin on it: I'm adept at being not noticed, or at least not approached. So I want to be able to be near people who want to shower compliments and gratitude, but to do so with anonymity. It's kind of a funny motivation, but it's ultimately about trying to control having power: having the power to decide whether I accept comments like that. It's like I want some of the benefits of fame, but I want to avoid its pitfalls. I fully believe that power over other people is corruption: not that power corrupts, but that it is corruption itself. It definitely gets me into trouble because what I do, and why people are impressed with me are inexorably linked to why they like me. Wish as I might, there is no such thing as being liked for "who you are" separate from "what you do".

So I also find it frustrating to receive compliments for things I've done. If you want to see it firsthand, you can approach me after this and try it. I'll be polite but start falling down the existential rabbit hole: what am I? what have I done? everything is derivative, so what do I add? if all this that I have made is not just me, but a series of events and tremendous help from others, so what part is me?

I figure I will meet some very kind and well-meaning sadists today.

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