What does one do when it’s 80 degrees at 11:00 at night and there’s no hope of sleeping due to the heat and humidity? You do a science experiment, of course!

Earl and I live near where many of the main power lines for the entire state come together. From here, large towers carrying lots and lots of volts can be seen headed off in all directions. In fact,some of the only UHF (Ultra High Voltage) lines in the United States, clocking in at 765kV, are a couple of miles down the road from our home as they march off to Massena, which borders the province of Quebec, connecting the Empire State (and the eastern seaboard) to HydroQuebec.

Tonight I decided to park the car under one of the towers and jump out to see if I could get a fluorescent tube to light up like the urban legend says. I didn’t expect the tube to light up to it’s full potential, and it didn’t, since I stood to the left of the lines when I filmed this. I had a creepy feeling about standing directly under the lines, as I could hear them sizzling a little bit from the humidity and dampness in the air.

This video is very dark because the use of any light would have negated the effect of the tube. I hope you can make out what I saw, which was a fluorescent tube lighting up in my hands. When held vertically and pointed at one of the lines, it glowed blue. When held horizontally, it glowed red. I don’t know the cause of the color change. Adjacent to the 765kV towers is a set of two lower voltage lines, I believe they’re 345kV each. The 765kV lines are three lines, one for each phase of electricity, and each “strand” is a bundle of four wires. The 345kV lines, two sets of a group of three are single strands. There’s another set of 765kV lines on nearly identical towers nearby that head off to Oswego and they’re accompanied by one set of 345kV lines that are one group of three strands made up of two wires. Anyways, perhaps the color change is due to the fact that I was standing between the 765kV and the 345kV lines. In addition, I was standing about 1/3 of the way between the 765kV towers. I didn’t want to stand directly beneath the lowest point where the wires sagged as they’re only 30 feet about the ground and since I’m 5′ 10″ and holding an 8′ bulb, I would have been running around waving a metal object 14 feet in the air, nearly halfway to the sagging lines.

I have to give lots of credit to Ben Franklin and his kite and key setup.

Again, the video is very dark. I might do this again to see if I can improve the lighting somehow, and the next time drag Earl along with me to run the camera.