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Sky Lanterns

by Jacob Resneck in Design on 29 July 2007

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Like mini paper hot air balloons, Sky Lanterns take to the sky when filled with air heated by an open flame. When the Cool Hunting testing team, standing at the edge of a Brooklyn pier, lit a sky lantern passersby began to shout in alarm. What were we doing? Put that out! It'll bring the cops, we were told.

Then, as the flame-resistant bag inflated and started to take flight, we let go and all were silent on that sultry summer evening while the lantern slowly drifted upwards. Caught in the maritime breeze, it hovered over the East River briefly before vanishing with the wind as it was carried over the city. The crowd's suspicions vanished, asking us what were those floating lanterns? Where did we get them? It was like nothing they'd ever seen.

It's not clear who introduced sky lanterns to the West or how long they've been available. They are reportedly popular in Thailand (known as "khom loy") where notes and inscriptions are written on them and set aloft to rise, sending their message skyward. Now available online in North America here and in Britain from Wishes in the Sky, sky lanterns are fast gaining a foothold in the west and are a perfect display of pyrotechnics without the noise and smell of conventional fireworks.

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