IceCube–A Giant Neutrino Observatory Built in the Tradition of Thomas Edison

Neutrino (Def): An elementary particle which holds no electrical charge, travels at nearly the speed of light, and passes through ordinary matter with virtually no interaction.

Edison would applaud the innovative efforts that went into the conception and construction of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, essentially a giant neutrino detector to help us better understand the universe and its awesome operations.

Deep below the South Pole, carved into a cubic mile of ancient ice, is IceCube’s inner workings. Here scientists detect and learn about the universe’s dramatic events. The photos below show the surface and sub-surface arrangement of this massive and important lab-a facility that took 25 years to conceive and build.

The surface lab of IceCube, exposed to the inhospitable weather conditions there.

The surface lab of IceCube, exposed to the inhospitable weather conditions there.

The deep sub-surface of IceCube with its many sensors. Notice the Eiffel Tower to scale

The deep sub-surface of IceCube with its many sensors. Notice the Eiffel Tower to scale.

Here is the cool magic behind IceCube. As you read this, “zillions” of neutrinos (probably created within the nuclear process of the sun) are passing harmlessly right through you and Earth. Neutrinos are also being created in abundance from other processes deep in the universe like supernovas, black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts. From these neutrinos we learn about the birth and death of stars and the origins of the universe.

Studying neutrinos is difficult. They’re tough to detect (ghost particle) since they interact so weakly with other particles. In IceCube, as neutrinos pass through the ice, they can interact and produce charged particles, and these charged particles traveling through the ice give off light. Some have referred to IceCube as a telescope for neutrinos underground.

Edison did some interesting scientific work back in the 1875-1883 period by creating electrons in early light bulbs and applying them in what has come to be known as the world’s first electronic patent. About 25 years later, this led to vacuum tubes, thus giving birth to radio, television, and eventually solid-state transistors (Bell Labs). Electrons and their existence were not formally confirmed by scientists until the late 1890s.

Editor’s Deep Dive

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said, “I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

Time® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.


Thomas Edison and the Vagabonds [not a rock group]

The Idea for annual camping trips was born in 1914 when Henry Ford and the great environmentalist John Burroughs took a road trip to visit Thomas Edison at his Ft. Myers, Florida home. Between 1916 and 1924, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs, embarked on a series of camping trips. Calling themselves the Vagabonds or Gypsies, they camped in style with big tents, servants, formal dining tableware, all transported by a caravan of automobiles; and a small truck with a refrigerator serving as camp kitchen.

Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone

Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone

Sometimes the wives went along. Photos and movies often documented the famous outings … maybe an early form of reality show?

Check out these great photos at:

Check out these great short movies at:

The vagabonds toured Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, California, New York, Michigan, Massachusetts and Vermont. These camping activities were often covered by local and national news outlets. The hardy campers would engage in tree-chopping contests, hunting, racing, horseback riding, talking and entertaining onlookers, “off-road” motoring-whatever caught their fancy-or maybe just relaxing in canvas chairs; or taking a snooze while stretched out on a blanket [Tom’s famous activity].

The Vagabonds at play--Henry Ford as the eccentric sheriff to a smiling Edison

The Vagabonds at play–Henry Ford as the eccentric sheriff to a smiling Edison

Each would have an assigned role to play on the excursion, with Edison tending to the electricity and battery needs, Firestone ensuring the cars were well equipped and stocked with food, Ford scoping out possible camp sites, and the elder Burroughs playing the role of wildlife resource, bird caller, and hiking instructor.
Imagine the conversations around the campfire!

John Burroughs died in 1921, but the vagabonds picked up a new member, President Harding who went along when his schedule permitted. Others sometimes joined in like Luther Burbank, George Eastman, and President Coolidge. By 1924, the distractions of the public eye became too much for the Vagabonds and the group ended its annual camping pilgrimage.

Editor’s note:
These camping trips may have helped inspire the use of cars for vacations and out-doors activities [perhaps later even inspiring famous 1950s slogans like “See the USA in your Chevrolet” and “Happy Motoring”].

Thomas Edison on Time Magazine“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.


Team Edison Shows Problem Solving in Action!

Thomas Edison had a lab team (i.e. “R+D”), people who could latch onto a problem, no matter how complex or difficult, and solve it. This behavior gave birth to Edison’s highly prized descriptor, “stick-to-it-ness”.



Kids, students, and budding young inventors can get a taste of what it is like to be Team Edison. Tune on to the new action comedy series–Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab–created by Genius Brands International.

Techno-savvy Team Edison discovers a hidden secret lab, built and stocked by none other than Thomas Edison at his former lab site in West Orange, NJ. See what these young talented minds [and a likable robot, Von Bolt] do with the resources of this lab. Old Tom Edison is there too, in holographic form, to help out and give advice.

There’s Angie, Nicky, Kent, Chang and Von Bolt the robot, to teach STEM principles to young viewers. Entertainment and education in every video … be there with the young ones! See the kids in action–now playing on NETFLIX, THE KID GENIUS channel on XFINITY, and on select PUBLIC TELEVISION stations [check their website for details]. Enjoy!