Essay by vladaZudenkoHigh School, 11th gradeA, October 2014

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The Light Bulb


In the 1950s and 1960s, the Army released bacteria in hundred of tests in areas of high

population density throughout the country (Cole, 2009, p. 3). Agents dropped light bulbs

containing the bacteria in the New York subway (Cole, 2009, p. 3). The bacteria used in the tests

posed little risk to the welfare of the public, unlike a possible attack of a biochemical nature

(Cole, 2009, p. 3). The demonstration proved that a terrorist attack potentially could expose

millions of people to harmful organisms by simply using a light bulb (Cole, 2009, p. 3). In 1996,

the light bulb was used again in a similar government-operated experiment (―Airports and

Subways,‖ 2006, para. 1). The Special Operations Division of the United States dropped light

bulbs filled with rare, non-pathogenic bacteria to test the vulnerability of New York to a

biological attack (―Airports and Subways,‖ 2006, para.


Weeks after dropping the light bulbs in the subways, agents tested for the presence of the

bacteria in various locations across the city (―Airports and Subways,‖ 2006, para. 1). The use of

light bulbs was an unusual but effective method for releasing bacteria. The light bulbs used

today are similar to the one Edison invented in the late 19th century, and are seldom regarded as

complex or important technology (―Airports and Subways,‖ 2006, para. 1). However, they

proved to be useful in a modern and significant study regarding biological warfare and have

heavily impacted industry and technology since their invention (―Airports and Subways,‖ 2006,

para. 1).

Early Development of the Light Bulb

The first light bulb prototype, called the arc lamp, was developed by English chemist

Humphrey Davey (Douglas, n.d., para. 4). The lamp produced an electric arc that emitted light

as the current passed through an ionized gas...