Thursday, June 2, 2011

When the lights go out...

This is not a post on another power failure at home, nor am I just posting it as a matter-of-fact kind of subject that, "Hey, poor me, the power's out last night and I couldn't blog, etc etc", then whine and grind over the whole episode, because, THIS is NOT about that.

I am not saying that this post is not about electricity or power shutdown, because it is, but there were some realizations and reflections with regards to the matter.

It has been a really long time since I have experienced power failure, but I would know one when it comes too (not that ignorant just yet).
When the power failure happened in the afternoon, I was a little taken aback, because the computer was running with my CD in it!
Well, just when I was worrying about the unexpected shutdown and what could it do to my harddisk and computer lifespan, I realized that mine was nothing compared to what was happening out there.

This is not my own home, but panic still crept in when I heard shouts and cries and when I rushed to see what the commotion was all about, I noticed that the main electricity box (power box) was in flames!
Yes, with dark smoke coming out of it and fire!

The aunty who was the one to discover it, reacted by pouring water over the box to put out the fire and after two tries, it was out, leaving behind a dark and black mess.

It was then that we were struck with the devastating realization that we had no hope of reviving the power in the house following the mess created. Now, before you shake your head in disapproval over the usage of water to put out fire on a power box, let me speak for the poor aunty (whom everyone seemed to blame).
There were flames and she was truly afraid it was going to spread like wildfire, and furthermore, when it involves electricity, it won't take THAT long to snap every single wire/cable in the house to set the whole place to flames (or ashes!)
Therefore, it is not totally illogical for her to help to put it out first.

Anyway, there we were, trying to beat the heat by taking deep breaths and immersing ourselves into deep thoughts, telling ourselves that it is cold, not hot...I was just kidding about that part.
Well, thankfully it rained a bit in the morning and the afternoon sun was not that bad, but still I was starting to feel dizzy as I had been unwell, and I just wanted to lie down on the bed.
We set to work to open all the windows and doors that can be opened without sending an invitation to potential robbers/thieves/burglars to allow proper air circulation around the house.

While waiting for the electrician to arrive and restore the power in the household, I lay down on the bed, thinking of all the things which kept me occupied most of the time, and guess what, they are ALL related to electricity!
See, I love to read and write, a LOT, and most of the time, I am at the computer to update my blogs (not Facebooking - I am not narcissist, okay!) and definitely powered by electricty...don't give me the crap about battery, they need to be recharged anyway!

I probably can get away reading a book (see, that's why I still prefer the conventional paperback books compared to e-books) in the day when there's sunlight, but that means it's gonna be hot, right?
I can choose to turn on the fan instead of the A/C, but isn't the fan also powered by electric current?
There goes another tick on the electricty list.

Then there's TV, or watching/listening to dramas or songs....sighs, another tick.
Drinking water, needs to be boiled..another tick (no way we can drink from the tap in the urbanized ares unless we want to die of severe contamination!)

Thank goodness I have charged my phone the day before...but then again, they have come up with solar chargers these days too :)

I used to think that it is worse to not have water supply compared to electricity, but guess I was wrong too; it is equally as bad.
We have been SPOILT (capital S) and overly dependent on the technology we have around us today, that we could not longer imagine life without them.

I mean, come on, didn't our ancestors used to have only oil lamps, no TV/Computer/cell phones? They didn't find it difficult to survive, but now, take away all the above from our lives and you will see zombies almost on the verge of suicide before the end of the day, willing to trade even their souls to the devil just to have their 'technology gadgets' back!

It was really agonizing, waiting for the electricity to be back on, and I then started to think of how electricity started, and how much do all of us really know about what has been 'powering' our lives these days, how has it evolved, or did we all just really take it for granted??

So, I did a bit of reading and researching, and I have found some facts, fun and even trivia on Electricity (yeah, I am making this sound like it's a lesson/class on Electricity 101!~)
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1. Electricity is a result of moving tiny little positive and negative particles (atomic); known as electrons and protons (electron is the negative and proton is the positive)
As Wikipedia would put it, it is a phenomenon.

2. Before the big names of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison in the field of electricity (they are not the founders by the way), electricity had already been noticed by the Egyptians (yup, them again!), who encountered the electric fish (a type of fish found in the Nile) emitting shocks. However, they referred to the fish as the protector, and also the 'Thunderer of Nile'
(Refer to Wikipedia for more information). The earliest discovery of electricity or lightning, well, can be traced and credited to the Arabs.
After that, that's where all the big names came in who conducted extensive researches; Thales of Miletos, William Gilbert, Otto von Guericke, Robert Boyle, Stephen Gray, C.F. du Fay, and yeah, our hero, Benjamin Franklin and his famous experiment with the lightning.

3. It was during the 18th century that there were published works, discovery and inventions which started to take place. (The age where most of us have to remember the following names, not to mention their formulas!)
Luigi Galvani (rings a bell?) discovered and published bioelectricity, Alessandro Volta with battery (no prize for associating his name with the word voltage), Hans Christian Ørsted and André-Marie Ampère, Michael Faraday, George Ohm, James Clerk Maxwell.

4. Thomas Edison came into the picture in the 19th century, along with Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Ottó Bláthy, Ányos Jedlik, Sir Charles Parsons, Joseph Swan, George Westinghouse, Ernst Werner von Siemens(yeah, I know this guy too!), Alexander Graham Bell(who doesn't know him anyway?) and Lord Kelvin (no prize again for guessing his invention/formula!)
Source: Wikipedia (again!)

5. Electricity is produced by converting energy (from sources), at a power plant and then flow onto the Electric Power Grid

6. Benjamin Franklin did NOT discover electricity; he proved that lightning is a form of electrical energy.
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7. Thomas Edison did NOT invent the first light bulb; BUT he invented one that lit for a few seconds and he continued to invent more than 2,000 products (switches, fuses, sockets, meters, etc).
OH, he owned the FIRST power plant, in 1882, in New York.

8. Electricity travels at the speed of light (> 186,000 m/s)! (no wonder everyone gets electrocuted when they touch each other and were roasted even faster than oven!)

9. Electricity always travels through the shortest/fastest path to the ground (and they don't even need to study Djikstra Algorithm).
In case you don't know, don't play/stand in an open field when there is lightning unless you wanna join Kenny Rogers as their latest mascot.

10. One single power plant can power up 180,000 homes, get that!
That also translates to that number of homes being in total failure when the plant breaks down, huh?

11. Electricity can be made from wind, water, animal faeces (yeah man), and also our beloved sun (that's where we get our solar energy and Vitamin D!)

12. A single lightning bolt which strike has enough electricity for 200,000 homes!
*Shudders* what can that do to a human being struck?

13. Electrocution, happens to be one of the top five causes of work deaths (why am I not surprised?)

14. An electric eel can produce up to 650 volts at one ampere!! (WOW!)

I think 14 facts and figures are more than enough to educate you on electricity, go read more if you'd like.
For some trivia, what's the vocabulary for electricity?
Words like switches, fuses, voltage, inductor, transformer, motors, resistors, transistors, etc..and NOT iPhone, LCD TV, Computer (not that they are wrong either:)

So, how much do you really know about electricity these days, besides that there is a new tariff for our electricity rates in Malaysia? :p
Go find out, and learn to appreciate what you have's funny how we only realized the importance (or even existence) when we don't have it.

Another one for thought, with the high consumption of energy these days, we are running into lots of environmental, health and social issues (think Greenhouse effect and the melting of ice in the Arctics). It is not more of an issue on how much more energy we have left, but how much harm we are causing the planet Earth and OURSELVES (not to mention future generation).
So, THINK before you flick that switch on!

Have a great day! (with electricity)

*Images are from google and do not belong to me; they are only used for illustration purpose*

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