This year at Burning Man, wanderers on the playa will be drawn to a new beacon rising against the night sky -- a swirling tornado of flame shot through with lightning.

It’s a resonant image, long associated with gods manifesting themselves on earth, from Greek Zeus to Maya Chaac, to Japanese Kagu-tsuchi, Hindu Agni, and the Hebrew God of the Old Testament. Now, science has advanced our understanding of natural forces enough that we mischevious humans can ignite our own tornadoes of fire and lightning just for sheer exuberance and spectacle.

The installation for Burning Man is called Theophany, and it’s this year’s offering from our group, Coup de Foudre (french for “stroke of lightning,” and, interestingly, a favorite metaphor for “love at first sight”). CdF is a collection of scientists, engineers, makers and artists from the San Francisco bay area that, since 2014, has been delighting people with dramatic displays of huge arcs, demented music, luminous columns of dancing ions, and ambient electric fields so strong you can shoot sparks from your fingertips.

For this year’s project, we’re creating ways to sculpt fire with sophisticated aerodynamics, infuse it with intense arcs using million-volt electric coils, and orchestrate the unearthly sounds that arise from the chemistry and physics of fire, plasma, and electricity. And, we’re busy inventing ways for our visitors take control of the fire and lightning into their own hands.

We’re also very pleased to announce that Theophany has been awarded a Burning Man Honoraria grant that will help us bring all of this into being.

We’re looking forward to seeing all of you out on the playa!

Max and Jeff stand in front of an early prototype of Theophany

Max and Jeff stand in front of an early prototype of Theophany