Intersteller Visions

Craft & Design
Intersteller Visions


Photograph by David Olsen

Down a lonely stretch of Sonoran desert highway south of Tucson, Ariz., lies the washboarded pull-off for Interstellar Light Applications. Visitors don’t have to wait for the dust to settle to lay eyes on ILA’s majestic moonlight collector, towering 6 stories high and 60 feet across, and weighing in at a healthy 25 tons.

Science enthusiast Richard Chapin conceived of the collector when a close friend was faced with a terminal illness. Chapin was intrigued by research on full-spectrum light therapy, which had been conducted mostly using artificial light sources.

Chapin wondered if the unique spectrum of moonlight might have been overlooked. The sublime lunar glow carries slightly different frequencies than sunlight, with more reds and yellows. It’s no secret that moonlight is essential to a variety of life forms on Earth, but could it be used to aid the ailing?

Chapin collaborated with a crew of passionate engineers, telescope makers, and astronomers to design the collector. Comprised of 84 mirrored panels, each 4 feet by 8 feet, the “non-imaging optical array” is parabolic, hydraulic, and rotates 360

degrees with a mere 5hp motor. To weather the harsh desert conditions, the panels are made of a unique sandwich construction, with materials like aluminum honeycomb chosen for lightness, rigidity, and stability.

The collector is steered with amazing precision; the light can be focused on an area as small as 1mm or as large as 10 feet across. Due to the high volume of visitors, folks are allotted only a few minutes in its light, longer for those with serious illnesses.

Richard and his wife, Monica Chapin, are focused on promoting research and gaining scientific backing. They’ve worked with University of Arizona geoscien-tists who documented molecular changes in quartz crystals exposed to the collector for 45 minutes.

Believers abound, as witnessed by the exuberance of visitors and the testimonials on the ILA website. On any given full moon, folks from far and wide make the pilgrimage, hopeful that a solution could really be that simple, natural, and abundant.

>>Interstellar Light Applications:

From the column Made on EarthMAKE 15, page 21 – Goli Mohammadi.

16 thoughts on “Intersteller Visions

  1. td says:

    People who are sick and desperate will try anything, I guess. I think it would be more useful if they used it to generate power during the day.

  2. gunterhausfrau says:

    oh good, more press for another “Science enthusiast”. What we need maybe is more scientific work on perpetual motion, the Bermuda triangle, psychic surgery and UFOs. I had been really thinking that what was missing in Make was a more Omni magazine bent. Remember them “science and science fiction” and eventually it was all astrology and alien anal probes.

    but then again I am a gemini and generally we don’t believe in astrology.

  3. Phillip Torrone says:

    @gunterhausfrau – we have mostly hardcore science from real scientists here on MAKE every day – i don’t see the harm in this.

  4. gunterhausfrau says:

    the danger is passing off pseudo science as science. Should we talk about inteligent design as being just as valid as evolution? What about the people who decide that they would rather stand in the moonlight than get proper cancer treatment.

    For a direct example of harm. In the 70’s a family friend didn’t want to loose her hair with chemo so she got Laetril. Wanna know how that worked out? Didn’t loose her hair…

  5. Phillip Torrone says:

    @gunterhausfrau – i consider this “made on earth” it’s more art and “wow, look at what someone built” — i didn’t call it science, the photo was pretty cool. that’s why it’s called “made on earth”.

    lastly, i think it’s ok to have different points of view on MAKE in this way, this is about something that is “made” – if you study how a church is constructed it doesn’t mean you need to be part of what goes on inside it — just an analogy and example but i think it’s similar.

  6. gunterhausfrau says:

    agreed. From an object point of view, it has worth. I am all for building senseless cool/interesting objects. If this had been posted as a cure for lycanthropy then I would have been all for it (and likely thinking of ways to replicate/improve/mod it). The harm is when something is being passed off as science and more dangerous when it is being sold as a alternative cure to something as big and scary as life and death, or as less scary as getting a sick person to part with money (though I don’t think this was the driver for above).

    I’m all for putting myself in danger for senseless (did you hear about the guy who was stabbed in the hand by the stabbing robot at maker faire two years ago? wanna see pictures?) but this is different. Thanks for the comments/discussion. Appreciated.

  7. Phillip Torrone says:

    @gunterhausfrau – ok cool, we agree it’s a cool/interesting thing, that’s why i posted it. MAKE doesn’t endorse this as a cure for anything other than boredom :)

    i’m sensitive to what you brought up, there is a lot of things that claim to be “science” but are not. i think the audience here is smart enough to know when something is more of a “cool look at that” than something that is science-based. i also know that not 100% of everything can be answered by science for many folks, i think there’s room in the MAKE world for everyone with different points of view.

  8. Mike says:

    I think they lost their credibility when they started talking about crystals (if not at moon beams!).

    It’s an impressive array though, do you think you could get burnt by moon radiation if it were focused to a 1mm square area from a collector that large?

    I think step 1 for these guys would have been to get a reading of the moonlight spectrum and try to replicate that in a lab with a number of sources. Light is light, it doesn’t matter what the source is…if they can make an LED array that has the same spectrum it should have the same “effect”. You could use that to perform actual tests to see if there is any “mystic healing energy”…until then it’s just hippies howling at the moon smoking the local flora.

    p.s. Am I the only one that has trouble commenting without it saying I entered the text wrong?

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