The difference between science and magic may seem obvious, but in this video Henry Feinberg easily makes the two come together in a fun and, at times, dazzling presentation of using light waves to carry sound. In this entertaining show Feinberg presents a working version of Alexander Graham Bell’s Photophone, as well as experiments in other principles of light.
Before his 30-year tenure at Bell Labs, Feinberg worked with Don Herbert, television’s “Mr. Wizard”, developing experiments that were both fun and educational. Using everyday household items, that show’s experiments seemed like magic tricks, capturing their youthful audience’s imagination and helping instill an interest in science.
Feinberg continued that mixing of science and entertainment while working for Bell. He helped develop exhibits for AT&T at the InfoQuest Center in New York City and the Epcot Center in Florida.
However, Feinberg’s most famous creation really was a piece of magic – movie magic. In 1982 Bell Labs was approached by Steven Spielberg to design a device that might be created by an errant Earth-bound alien to communicate with his ship in outer space. Bell declined to work on the film but referred Spielberg to Feinberg, who gladly tackled the job on his own time. The resulting film, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, became an instant classic, with Feinberg’s “Communicator” built out of toys and household items, proving to be a central and delightful part of the movie.
Feinberg worked at Bell Labs until his retirement in 1998. Since then he has continued to contribute to science education as an exhibit designer and consultant for museums, and as a science enthusiast of inter-galactic dimensions.
Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ