there is an uncertain moment when you complete the circuit and your fluorescent tube stutters to life. it’s a violent event, made all the more startling if at this moment you have the tube in your hands. this is to ‘strike the arc’; when the ionised mercury atoms are jolted into a plasma of excitement [think of accelerating from almost stationary to nearly the speed of light in what is effectively, an instant].
it is only now that the electrons meet a small enough resistance between the filaments that the ultraviolet blaze takes hold. over the last few weeks i have, shock horror, begun to admire the technical complexity of these begrudgingly over-used [and often harsh] emitters.