Introduction: Build a Mad Scientist Light

Picture of Build a Mad Scientist Light

The Mad Scientist Light is a simple lamp with four Edison Bulbs wired in parallel. This is my updated take on the original instructable, and honestly, the design does not deviate very much from it. That said, feel free to change it up and make it your own.

With the Mad Scientist Light, we are not actually seeing electricity, but a visualization of electrical power. The Mad Scientist light visualizes electricity by heating a filament of wire inside of a gas vacuum and exciting photons that, in turn, create light. Basically, it is a lamp. But it is a very cool looking lamp!

Yes, talking about a lamp as a device to visualize electrical power perhaps makes it sound a little more romantic than it actually is. The neat thing about this particular lamp is that it uses old fashioned Thomas Edison bulbs which have extra-long filaments, which are dim enough that you can see how they heat up and create light.

To learn more about electricity, check out the electricity lesson in my Electronics Class. If you rather just get some practical hands-on experience with lamps, you can take Paige's Lamp Class.

Step 1: Lesson Materials

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Step 2: Measure and Mark

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Measure and mark the top surface of the box such that it is divided into 9 equal boxes.

Make markings at the corners of the center square. These will be for drilling.

Step 3: Drill

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Drill each of the four intersecting points with a 1-5/8" hole saw to make holes for the lamp sockets.

Step 4: Drill Once More

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Drill a 1/4" hole for the power cord on the side of the box in one of the bottom corners. This is to pass the power cord through.

Step 5: Wire the Lamp Sockets

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Connect a 6" wire to each of the screw terminals on the underside of the lamp socket by stripping the insulation off the end of each wire and attaching them using the socket's screw terminals.

There should be a black and white wire pair under the fabric cover. Make sure the black and white wires are attached identically on each of the sockets.

Step 6: Assemble the Sockets

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Once all of them are wire up, assemble the light sockets by inserting the base and twisting the outer casing together.

Step 7: Wire the Plug

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Cut 8" of fabric cord, and strip a little insulation of the wires on each end.

Take apart the power plug and attach one end of the power cord using the plug's screw terminals.

Reassemble the plug.

Step 8: Pass the Cord Through

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Pass the plug's cord through the 1/4" hole in the box towards the inside.

Step 9: Wire It All Up

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Now is time to wire together all of the sockets in parallel with the power cord.

To begin, strip the insulation off the ends of all of the wires.

Bring together all of white wires from the lamp socket, as well as the white wire from the power cord. Twist a wire nut over the wires and give it a very gentle tug to make certain it is locked in place. Finally, attach a zip tie just below the wire nut as strain relief and to prevent any of the wires from falling out individually.

Repeat this process for all of the black wires from the sockets and power cord.

The wiring for the lamp should now be complete.

Step 10: Bottom Flange

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Twist a flange onto each of the sockets so that the face of the flange is facing upwards.

Step 11: Top Flange

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Pass the sockets through the box from the bottom until the bottom flanges catch.

Twist the top flange onto each of the sockets to hold them in place.

Step 12: Bulbs

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Insert Edison bulbs into each of the sockets.

Step 13: Power

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Plug it in and enjoy.

If you are inspired to learn more about lamps, check out the Lamps Class.


LimeBlast made it! (author)2017-06-04

I skipped this project when I first encountered it as part of the Electronics Class, but I just had to go back and give it a go.

Mine is very different to the original, using a whole bunch of different components (mostly because the stuff I could get in the UK was totally different), but the spirit of the original in there.

I'm looking forward to having this on display in my living room.

LimeBlast (author)LimeBlast2017-09-30

Just a quick follow up to let you know of a blog post I've written about the lamp, and the upgrade I made it to:

Cris DIY (author)2017-06-12


DonCenzo (author)2017-05-30

Cool! I'd add a programmable WI-FI enabled dimmer switch with option for fade to bright, fade to off, instant on/off, and flashing. Might be overkill, but I have a grandson who loves to tinker with me in my garage/shop. He thinks I'm a top secret scientist! Maybe it's the Area 51 sign on the door, or the security badge and goggles (for safety!) that we wear when we're working on a "special project." I'm going to make one for him with an additional on/off toggle. Then, when I call him at home, I'll be able to control his light by "telepathy" - from 300 miles away!

How long would you wait before telling him about the remote control app? He's already suspicious and thinks I might be from Mars! I don't know where he get's such ideas...

Jens_2002 (author)DonCenzo2017-05-30

If it is okay, i could try to program and build the remote control system.

DonCenzo (author)Jens_20022017-06-01

What would it cost for a retired grandpa to get one of these WIFI remote controls for the lamp?

DonnH1 (author)2017-05-30

That project looks like it would lend itself to using the LED light bulbs which look very similar but which take a fraction of the power.

nardly (author)2017-05-30

You shouldn't use a yellow wire nut for 5 #18 conductors. You can use two yellow with a jumper wire between the two. To be technical, you don't twist wire together for a wire nut. Hold the wires, insert into nut and twist the nut. Then wrap black electrical tape around the nut and wire to secure it.

JohnR532 (author)2017-05-30

I would add a dimmer switch.

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Randy and I founded the Instructables Design Studio. I'm also the author of the books 'Simple Bots,' and '62 Projects to ... More »
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