There’s a beautiful country, with forests and deserts, vast salt lakes and tall mountains. A country where driving can be mortally dangerous. A country where your new plasma TV won’t last very long.

¡Bienvenidos a Bolivia!

A plasma screen is basically a bunch of small neon lamps. They work by passing an electric current through a container full of gas (like, you guessed it, neon!): the current excites the electrons and gets them to emit UV rays. The container is coated in fluorescent materials, which means that they convert UV light in visible ones.

Neon lights only need white light, whereas each tiny pixel in a plasma screen has a blue, a green and a red light, to form all the images of your favorite TV show.

Since we all like our high definition screens flat, the “lamps” inside them must be tiny gas cans, thin and rather fragile.

So, if the external pressure becomes too low, the gas expands and bends the walls of the can, making it harder for current to pass through. So the television has to work a lot harder, and the cooling system pays the biggest toll. The result is a very loud TV that ages really fast.

Normally it’s not a problem, since atmospheric pressure is basically always the same… at sea level.

But going up in altitude, pressure goes down. And many of the main Bolivian cities are so high up that plasma TVs don’t work properly.

 

Foto: Jungle and Mountains – Coroico, Bolivia, CC-BY-NC-ND Geee Kay, via Flickr. Some rights reserved

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