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World's Oldest Light Bulb Still Burning After 110 Years

Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department oldest bulb.jpg

A frame from the Livermore-Pleasanton Dire Department's bulbcam shows the oldest lightbulb in the world, still glowing after all these years. (Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department)

It may not glow brightly, but it sure glows consistently.

A light bulb hanging in the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department has been burning steadily for exactly 110 years, according the Centennial Bulb website. Since the "Centennial Bulb" was first turned on, the stock market crashed and was reborn, the nuclear age began, two World Wars were fought, cars and planes were developed … and through it all the bulb kept burning.

How exactly it stays lit remains something of a mystery, Lynn Owens, who is in charge of the light bulb centennial committee, told Time magazine.

"Nobody knows how it's possible. It's a 60-watt bulb and it's only turned on for about four watts, but nobody knows why it keeps burning ... We've had scientists from all over the country look at this light bulb," Owens said.

On June 18, the bulb celebrates its 110th year of illumination -- a fact documented extensively by  Guinness World Records. But even beyond its staggering powers of endurance, it's hardly an ordinary bulb.

According to the bulb's website (it's probably the only light bulb in the world to boast one) the "Shelby Bulb" was donated by Dennis Bernal to the Livermore Volunteer Fire Department , and is actually a somewhat different style bulb invented by Adolphe A. Chaillet and made by the Shelby Electric Company.

In the Shelby bulb, a coiled filament and funky design burn brighter and last longer than the Edison bulb -- as evidenced by Livermore "centennial" bulb.

Just see for yourself: The bulb's website features a "bulbcam" where you can watch it silently glowing away. 

Sure, it's not as interesting as the paint-drying webcam or the grass-growing cam. But it confirms that, like the Energizer bunny, that bulb just keeps on glowing.

In a 2010 interview with the Daily Mail, bulb protector Steve Bunn ascribed the light's success to good old fashioned engineering.

"They certainly don't make them like this anymore, it's a real sign of how some things were better made in the past," he said.

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