Jul 5, 2011

Empires of Light

About a month ago, I finished reading Empires of Light by Jill Jonnes. It details the rise of the modern electrical distribution system in the United States and how the major electrical players of the time (Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla) each contributed to its early design.

This blog was never meant to be a place for book reviews, and I won’t be doing that for this text. However, I would like to take this opportunity to recommend it to any reader who is interested in the history of electrical distribution and, to a lesser extent, the lives of the engineers involved. The reason I even bring it up in this blog post is because Jonnes wrote in one of her closing statements that “electrical power made possible the important and the frivolous, the noble and the idiotic”, which has been stuck in my mind ever since I finished the book. It got me thinking of the ways in which people use and abuse the seemingly ubiquitous supply of power in this country and abroad.

So, I thought it would be at least mildly interesting if each month I pick out news stories about the use of electrical power that fall into each of these categories. I haven’t set the exact parameters for meeting each of the criteria yet, but I am thinking of breaking them down like this:

1.   Important – this is a fairly broad term that could really apply to almost any new story about power. Electricity is the currency of the world so no small event is ever really unimportant.
2.   Frivolous – most of these stories will probably be about completely useless electrical products or applications of electrical power that serve no real purpose (for instance letting the E! Network be a thing)
3.   Noble – Nikola Tesla believed that his AC system of electrical distribution would ease the lives of people across the globe and did all he could to make it a reality, even at his own expense (more on this in future blogs). Stories that fall into this category remind me why I became an electrical engineer and of the power electricity has to shape our world for the better. This category will highlight stories of engineers improving the lives of people around the globe.
4.   Idiotic – anyone who knows me can probably expect to see several Apple-related news stories fall into this category in the coming months. All-in-all this area is pretty self-explanatory so expect some ranting.

I would like to turn this blog into a mixed bag of news, technical concepts, and projects. This was just an idea I had in passing so comments are always welcome. It seems to me that once a month is probably a good frequency for these posts. Once a week would get repetitive plus I couldn’t commit enough time to work on the entries. Look for a test run at the end of this month.


Joel Ryan said...

I like this idea. I will totally send you anything I find that falls in these categories.

Noah Ryan said...

I have to admit, in my first reading of the "important" category I read that electricity is the current of the world, and I was going to praise how thoughtful a comment that was.
I also think this is a good idea. Keeps you on your toes.

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