Giant southern thunderstorms are about the only thing that make the flat, urban wasteland of Dallas exciting. Lightning is my favorite thing to watch, and even during the stormy season I don't get enough of it. Which is why I spend so much time chasing Tesla coils at art festivals, and also why I sleep with a big ball of lightning beside my bed.
Like everything worthwhile, the Plasma Ball was originally developed by a mad scientist named Nikola Tesla. It's basically a glass ball filled with helium and neon with a high-voltage transformer driving 35 kHz of AC power through it. At the center of the globe is a tiny metal sphere called an electrode.
If you lived through the 1980s, odds are pretty good you've spent some time playing with one of these balls. You may even know that the radio frequency field they give off can sometimes interfere with electronics. I was aware that cell phones and lamps sometimes acted screwy around plasma balls, but I'd never seen one have any visible effect on one of my gadgets.
Until last night.
I planned to spend today out and about, so I made sure to charge up all three of my tablets before bed. My 'charging station' tends to be right under and around my bedside table. Which is also where the Plasma Ball goes. My phone, the iPad 2 and my Acer A500 all started charging with no peculiarities. But the PlayBook started going crazy as soon as it got close to the Plasma Ball.
Apps would open and close and switch at random! Videos would suddenly start playing, then stop. It looked as if a poltergeist with ADHD was manhandling my PlayBook. My first thought was that I'd dropped it and damaged the screen somehow. But there were no visible signs of an impact and I hadn't removed the PlayBook from its Otterbox case in days. When I unplugged the Plasma Ball, the tablet would cease its screwiness.
So far, the PlayBook appears to be the only one of my tablets affected by the Plasma Ball. Someone more technically inclined than me is welcome to leave a comment explaining why. My guess? Tesla's ghost is a big fan of QNX.