It may not sound like serious science, but that giant moonbeam collector out in the desert west of Tucson now has a serious-looking official number.Tanque Verde Swap Meet owner Richard Chapin’s $2 million Interstellar Light Collector was granted United States Patent # 7,338,178 B2 on March 4, after two denials.
Chapin says he built the huge night light collector — 84 eight-foot-by-four-foot polycarbonate mirrors — in hopes of helping a friend who had cancer. She died before he could help her, but he says the device has been highly successful on people with depression and has enjoyed moderate success with relieving asthma symptoms.
The patent has certainly cheered Chapin, although it’s far from a money machine. Chapin says that’s not the issue. On the three nights around full moon that they’re open, Chapin says they charge $25 for a treatment. That can range from just three minutes to 20 minutes — the maximum exposure so far. At 120 people treated each month, he and wife Monica and their family won’t be getting much return anytime soon. People stand in front of the focused beam of moon and starlight, or, when the moon is low, on a platform about five feet off the ground. Chapin thinks light therapy will catch on, so much so that he’s planning to build a 50-casita mini-health resort — “a Disneyland of healing” — on their 80-acre parcel off Arizona 86 about five miles west of Ryan Field. Chapin says they haven’t filed any plans yet, but that construction could commence within the next six months. -azs