There’s an incandescent lightbulb in Livermore, California that’s been burning since 1901, with the exception of a few power outages and moves when it was temporary switched off. While its brightness has waned from 60 watts now to 4 watts, it still remains lit and functional for over a hundred years.
Though this is pretty unusual and interesting, especially when we think about the life of the average household incandescent, but what may really remarkable about this bulb is that scientists still haven’t determined just what it is about that bulb’s design that has kept it functional for so long.
“Mastermind electrician Adolphe A. Chaillet designed the bulb, and his Shelby Electric Company manufactured it. The carbon filament was the defining feature, allowing the bulb to burn longer and at a lower temperature than tungsten-based Edison bulbs. Still, Shelby built the bulb for only a year. The conspiracy-minded say it was planned obsolescence that doomed the Shelby bulb. The more rational-minded say it was because the carbon filament within was too expensive.”
Disassembling the bulb to get closer to an answer is out of the question so long as this marvel of the lighting world is burning. For now, there’s little more we can do other speculate and watch the bulb through a streaming video feed coming directly from a camera at Livermore’s Fire Station 6.
Why do you think the Shelby bulb has managed to burn this long?