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The Boston Globe


Art and science collide in ‘Lightning Dreams’

“It’s an amazing machine,” says businessman and art collector Alan Gibbs, on the telephone from a Detroit hotel room. “The power flows out of it like a river of water. . . . It pours out. When you’re watching it, you’re just absolutely gripped by it. There’s no other work of art that’s more fascinating.”

For centuries, humankind has dreamed of harnessing the terrifying, destructive, and beautiful power of lightning. Since the 19th century, devices like the Tesla coil, which produces high-voltage, alternating-current electricity, have replicated its effects. But in the early 1990s, Gibbs began a quest to forge one Tesla coil to rule them all. In other words, to create artificial lightning on the scale of what Zeus might chuck.

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