Sunday, June 5, 2016

Power from the wall

Those who camp out know how to stay warm with sleeping bags and ground sheets to hold moisture down.  They camp near water or temporarily do without. But they also know they won't have electricity, unless they bring some sort of generator along. What we do with electricity today may be the most miraculous difference in our lives compared to the life of the American pioneers or the experience of wilderness campers.

We can use electricity to move people and goods.  I spent many hours of electricity-driven street cars in Baltimore.  We use it to create a very brief fire in our internal combustion engines with spark plugs.  Our bodies use it to send nerve impulses and have some artificial limbs that use electricity to get and respond to people's bodies. We use electricity to power computers and communicate in modes and speeds totally unbelieveable to earlier ages.  We use it to heat, to power microwaves that excite water molecules in foods and to remove heat and attain a freezer's temperatures.  

The most arresting and touching statement I have heard in a long time is the quote in "Fear Itself"  by Mississippi's John E. Rankin working to have Congress pass the Tennessee Valley Authority bill to bring electricity to large parts of the American South.

The program for the river and its valley of some 40,660 square miles— the size of England— which originated in Missouri and moved through parts of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia, had the potential, it was said, if with a degree of exaggeration, to generate some one million jobs for a population of six million. It would produce, Mississippi's John Rankin informed the House, "hydroelectric power that will exceed in amount the amount of physical strength of all the slaves freed by the Civil War."

Katznelson, Ira. Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (p. 253). Liveright. Kindle Edition.

Can you imagine a greater step forward for humanity than to find a way to produce better power that slaves can?  A way to make slavery an inferior way to getting work done?

Here is a link to a website by the Engineering Society of America that lists the 20 most outstanding inventions of the 20th century.  How many of them depend on electricity, a force not available just a couple of hundred years ago.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Popular Posts

Follow @olderkirby