A Safe Jacob's Ladder?


The quintessential mad scientist's lab always has a few standard items - beakers filled with some poisonous-looking liquid, a dangerous looking bunch of exposed wires, and maybe a table with some sinister looking straps for revitalizing the dead - you know, the usual. One of the items you commonly see is known as a Jacob's Ladder. While you might not know them by name, you surely will recognize them - it looks something like this:

Standard Jacob's Ladder, right? Wrong! That is a Jacob's Ladder created by Paul over at DigitalMisery. Actually, it's not a Jacob's Ladder at all - it just appears to be. Confused? Me too. Let's examine this further.

Paul knew he wanted to be a mad scientist for Halloween. Rather than just wear a white lab coat (like this one!) and call it a day, Paul wanted to make sure he had all the props to make his costume believable. In true geek fashion, he knew a Jacob's Ladder would add just the right amount of street-cred to his costume. But Jacob's Ladders are a tad bit dangerous - while visually awesome, that arc of electricity packs a powerful punch and an unsuspecting child trying to touch it could lead to some nasty results.

So Paul did what any self-respecting electronics tinkerer would do - he thought outside the box. Using the SparkFun EL Sequencer and some EL wire (plus other gadgets), Paul built a "Jacob's Ladder" that looks the part, but won't be sending anyone to the hospital. Paul does a great job of documenting his build - check out his website for more info. Great work, Paul!


Comments 9 comments

  • As someone who was given the spectacularly inappropriate gift of a 12000v Neon Sign power transformer as a middle school child… I have a very deep respect for the Jacob’s ladder, And I built a ton and a half of them. (I also made plasma orbs out of old industrial light bulbs and lit a bunch of candles… needless to say I shocked the hell out of myself on more than one occasion, usually through something long and supposedly insulating that I was ignorantly poking arcs with… I spent most of my early high school years trying to built a plasma weapon in my basement, hahaha. I think my credentials as a mad engineer are all there.
    All of that being said, this thing rocks my socks, what a great way to keep kids from going to the hospital. Would it be any fun to play with as an adult? Nah, not knowing its just a glorified flashlight… but it Definitely has the same effect, well done sir.

  • All the mad scientists are really mad engineers. So you’re really a mad scientist? So what’s your mad hypothesis? Where’s your mad control group?
    Scientists get way too much credit for being mad…

    • Mad scientists create crazy particle physics (silly string theory).
      Great project! I always feel EXTREMELY uncreative reading this site. I might have to make this for my next costume. I might just make it a bit cheaper by replacing each EL strand with 2 LED’s and some sort of light piping between (clear tube, or cool cutout of an arc).

  • A Facob’s Ladder!
    +1 for the use of Lego
    Well done,
    - Dean

  • I like the lego box. Where did you purchase the Electroluminescent wire?

  • I watched the video before I read the rest of the article, and apart from thinking the sparks at the top looked oddly uniform, I was completely fooled!

  • Or, you could have a real ladder and encase the rods in a glass or plastic tube like most people do. Faked plasma by EL wire just doesn’t tickle my fancy like real plasma.
    Also, Props for all my fellow mad scientists (or engineers I guess)! This is my mad scientist LED Lab Coat:
    http://www.billporter.info/led-lab-coat-3-0/
    And this is an awesome mad scientist weapon:
    http://www.arduino.cc/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1288424668
    Anyone else feel like taking over the world?

  • The preferred term is “ethically-undaunted science worker.”


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