Modern Marvels taken for Granted: Electricity

There are many modern marvels of note, mostly things we take for granted like smart phones, laptops, electric cars, and bullet trains. You can go crazy thinking about the field of medicine, geology, aerospace, and physics. On a small scale we have aspirin that beats them all for wide-scale use and appreciation. It goes way back, but nevertheless I pair it in importance with the ubiquitous chip and the miraculous laser light. Our modern existence is the product of innovation and discovery, going back to the Roman aqueduct and Egyptian pyramids, taking a breather in the Dark Ages, and emerging in the Industrial Revolution. A bit more recently, electricity spawned a plethora of gadgets and devices, the least of which is the light bulb and the plug-in fan. We can see at night to read or eat, and cool ourselves off in the heat of summer. Give me a whirling ceiling fan in August anytime!

Technology has taken us to the brink of another brave new world of existence as electronics continue advance. Our lives are affected less by overt inventions, which have been around for a century, than by the way we conduct our leisure time. It is mostly practical stuff that temps our pocketbook to open, but then there is the huge realm of entertainment what with video games and all. Maybe cars look more or less the same and planes still have engines, but in the microscopic world, times they are a ‘changing (credit to Bob Dylan). Our lives are only getting better as we surf the net and buy most of our products online. Cyberspace is growing and the world is shrinking into one big e-commerce web. No one thinks of wasting time in snarled traffic to rush to a brick and mortar store!

We take it all for granted and in stride. We have learned to expect a lot in a short period of time to amuse us and help us enjoy our environment. We can retool and computerize our homes and streamline our lives. The world is our diversionary oyster with electricity as our oyster. Microprocessors, here we come!

So we have to ask: what on earth would life be like without electricity? Is this too philosophical a question? Maybe, but it bears a bit of thought. Mostly because it is so pervasive and as a power source, it is unsurpassed. Cars have progressed from gas to electricity. Computers still like juice from the outlet (batteries have a way of dying).

Electricity is so precious that we are vigorously trying to conserve it. We give people tax credits for installing solar panels. Alternative fuels are in high demand. If only we could free ourselves from our dependence. It is too bad the new inroads into a solution have not born cost-effective fruit. You see odd-looking windmills on a distant horizon, hoping they will take root. There is water power as well, but you have to live near Niagara Falls.

So electricity is here to stay, at least for the time being. You should be glad that you don’t have to manually turn your ceiling fan to stay cool. You can automate just about anything electronically: your coffee is ready when you wake up in the morning and the toast is done to a t. Your thermostat adjusts to the seasons and your clothes are spun perfectly dry to a pre-established setting. It is all a perfection of the past but it smooths out those little wrinkles in our daily reality.

So stop taking electricity for granted. Look up at that ceiling fan and give a nod of recognition. Your life is immeasurably better thanks to Ben Franklin. Who knew his kite experiment would bear such sustaining fruit, affecting every single person on the planet. It took a few others to move things along at a steady pace. There was Luigi Galvani, not a household name, Alexander Graham Bell, who is, and Nikola Tesla, not to be left out. Electricity grew from a curiosity into a tool to better modern life. It is prevalent, powerful, and potent.

Electricity was discovered, meaning it has always existed. It is the way we have harnessed it that counts. It is a quite magical thing to non-scientists who have dissected its essence completely. We don’t have to know about kinetic energy, joule heating, integrated circuitry, or units of capacitance. All we have to do is pay homage to science and give it a big pat on the back.