From Bolt to Bulb

Mathew Kneebone, 2014, pencil drawing on paper, 41.5 x 31.3 cm

If you were touched by lightning and lived to talk about it, you could show off your Lichtenberg Figure, a spray of branching, rose-quartz-colored burn marks named after German scientist Georg Christof Lichtenberg. A typical figure forms a tree that extends from a thick central trunk, zigzagging in every direction as each branch withers to nothing. The marks arise when capillaries burst following a strike. They appear remarkably lightning-like. It’s as though the electrical shock of the strike reveals the corresponding circuitry hidden deep within the body, leaving behind something of a tattoo, or, considering that the marks fade after a few days, more of an electrical hickey. An image of a figure found on the Internet shows what appears to be a bad case of sunburn. Sampling the mark with the Photoshop eye-dropper tool returns the color code EB4747. 

In German, Lichtenberg translates to “lit mountain”— a rather unbelievable coincidence. Lichtenberg, an experimental physicist before the letter, has become famous for his extensive collection of notebooks containing personal philosophy, scientific theories, and aphorisms. [...]

EB4747, the particular red sampled from the image of the lightning strike victim, is one red among many millions of reds, and only one of a hundred million colors a screen can display, but it is not the entire picture. The image is made from thousands of different color pixels, each with its own corresponding number. 6A4242, for example, is a kind of swampy maroon, while BE9FA4 could qualify for the equally murky designation of beige. Type in EB4748 to see the color closest to EB4747, a red virtually indiscernible from its neighbor. Though the codes seem random, they derive from a common source: hexadecimal notation. 

–“EB4747,” Mathew Kneebone, Bulletins of The Serving Library #7, 2014