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How Does a Strobe Light Work?


Strobe light. Stroboscopic lamp. Or just, strobe. With Ken Kesey of the 1960’s Grateful Dead having employed strobe lights as inspiration for his music, small wonder that today’s music fans—in particular, the EDM crowd—still employ this lighting tool to add an extra dimension to their nights getting hyphy!



For starters, strobe lights came from photography. In 1931, Harold “Doc” Edgerton experimented using a flashing lamp as a stroboscope to help capture dynamic photos of moving objects, like bullets! Today, the spinoff of Edgerton’s idea has a solid place at clubs and raves, where dancers jump at sudden ability to move in “slow motion”.

So how does a strobe light work? First, the “battery” of most strobe lights is a capacitor, which stores and release energy much faster than your typical Energizer® cells. When the capacitator is charged, an energy spike goes through a transformer, which then moves to a xenon flash lamp/tube to ionize awaiting xenon gas. After rapid heating, the gas reacts with a bright flash. Pigmented gels provide the different lighting colors you and your friends perceive.


Fun Fact: Strobe lights and (photosensitive) epileptics don’t mix. In 1997, an episode of Denno Senshi Porygon (also known as Pokémon) aired a scene with a flashing blue-and-red explosion. As a result of the seizure-triggering flashes, 685 viewers landed in Japanese hospitals! Definitely the wrong kind of turnt.

Disclaimer: Don’t try making a strobe light, unless you’re a seasoned physicist or electrician. The chances of getting injured during a freak spark show are too high to justify the risk. As an alternative, scour the interwebz for some converter options.

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Hel Ya

Helen Yang ("Hel Ya", Writer) synthesizes Turn Up's creative energies into online form. She has partied in cities outside of New York from L.A. to Shanghai. Hel Ya currently resides in Queens, NY.

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