New facts about health lamps are being discovered in a Cleveland, Ohio, laboratory by scientists armed with the largest spectroscope in the world. Behind the construction of this giant instrument lies a story that shows the lengths to which experimenters must go in obtaining the tools with which to work. When General Electric engineers set out to design an instrument technically known as a “double monochromator,” with which the intensity of any particular wave length of light could be measured with great precision, their plans called for prisms of crystalline quartz with faces four times as large as those commonly used. Quartz was needed because it transmits ultra-violet rays with undiminished strength. When an order was placed with a German optical firm for two triangular prisms, four inches high and six inches along the edges of the base, it was discovered that no single piece of crystalline quartz large enough to make such a prism was known to exist! A world-wide search followed. Finally, in Brazil, the needed crystals were found. Two gems of the optician’s art were produced—a pair of prisms equalling in value a fair-sized house or a costly automobile. Mounted in the instrument, they enabled light from a lamp to be taken apart so that the desired color, or wave length, could be measured. Tests with the spectroscope will show how much ultra-violet light is needed to tan the skin.

  1. Rick Auricchio says: May 25, 20077:40 pm

    Is THAT what those are? There’s a whole bunch of them in my garage. They were there when I moved in…

  2. jayessell says: May 26, 20079:22 am

    I don’t know if I would have used the word “ransacked”.

    “Arrr, we come for ye quartz!”


  3. Stannous says: May 26, 20077:17 pm

    I think I’ll use that excuse the next time someone asks why my house is a mess: “Uh, those damn prism hunters ransacked my place!”

  4. NikFromNYC says: January 15, 200812:28 pm

    What’s the modern equivalent? I have the Edmund Scientific Optical Instrument catalog in my file drawer. Hmm….most are just glass. Only one line is “fused silica” (= synthetic quartz), and their maximum size is under an inch, for $200. So I still can’t quickly mail order these things. Kind of astonishing, since I’ve seen plenty of HUGE pendant jewelry quartz crystals in these last few “New Age” crystal worshipping decades.

    Don’t forget: “Crystals are powerful elements that interact with human moods. The energy they release is thought to synchronize with a person’s emotional vibrations. Guena creates a pair of prisms in lucid white quartz. A gentle gemstone believed to attract balance and harmony, white quartz is believed to act as a stimulant, equilibrator, activator and deactivator of energies. It cleanses the aura, relieving stress. The pendulum is suspended from a brass chain.”

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