Electricity is Like Magic, but is Also Law

Surely there is no technology that has changed our lives more than the electricity that comes into our homes on a wire. Lighting, cooling, heating, ironing, cooking, and entertainment at the flick of a switch. Cheap, silent, invisible energy at our beck and call, flowing though a wire.

Magic. Wonderful.

One of my scientific heroes is Michael Faraday -- gentle, brilliant, infused with wonder. No one did more to wrest electricity from the gods and make it do our bidding than he. For most people of his time, electricity was a curious novelty, a parlor game. Faraday understood it another way:

Electricity is often called wonderful, beautiful; but…The beauty of electricity or of any other force is not that the power is mysterious, and unexpected, touching every sense unawares in turn, but that it is under law, and that the taught intellect can govern it largely.

There you have it, as perfect a statement of the scientific spirit as you are likely to find.

Everyone who flicks a switch to turn on the light and at the same time espouses a belief in miracles is embracing a kind of cognitive dissonance. The lightning bolt that jags across the sky is not the whim of a willful Zeus -- or as we might say, an act of God -- it is lawful. Behind all of the apparent randomness of nature, law prevails. And the taught intellect can govern it.


We cannot forget when we appreciate the wonder of our Universe that it is governed by laws, not magic.

Folksonomies: nature laws magic electricity

/business and industrial/energy/electricity (0.573273)
/hobbies and interests/magic and illusion (0.426620)
/technology and computing (0.291160)

electricity (0.964384 (negative:-0.193738)), Michael Faraday (0.839334 (positive:0.703320)), invisible energy (0.805568 (positive:0.386253)), apparent randomness (0.803876 (neutral:0.000000)), curious novelty (0.796219 (neutral:0.000000)), willful Zeus (0.794799 (negative:-0.568145)), parlor game (0.792224 (negative:-0.210021)), cognitive dissonance (0.783026 (neutral:0.000000)), scientific heroes (0.768936 (positive:0.703320)), lightning bolt (0.761884 (negative:-0.568145)), scientific spirit (0.748887 (positive:0.544213)), law (0.602425 (negative:-0.374424)), wonder (0.595237 (positive:0.558090)), intellect (0.592269 (neutral:0.000000)), switch (0.579726 (positive:0.404678)), wire (0.551646 (negative:-0.092481)), time (0.534015 (neutral:0.000000)), whim (0.495057 (negative:-0.568145)), ironing (0.492551 (neutral:0.000000)), flick (0.487730 (positive:0.404678)), beck (0.482886 (positive:0.386253)), bidding (0.482261 (negative:-0.724743)), Universe (0.478166 (neutral:0.000000)), laws (0.477995 (neutral:0.000000)), technology (0.477221 (negative:-0.491188)), lives (0.477080 (negative:-0.491188)), homes (0.476826 (negative:-0.491188)), Magic. (0.475740 (positive:0.845878)), gods (0.474840 (negative:-0.724743)), turn (0.474610 (positive:0.454645))

Michael Faraday:Person (0.804369 (positive:0.579446)), beck:Person (0.461582 (positive:0.386253))

Light (0.957246): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Michael Faraday (0.862649): dbpedia | freebase | yago
God (0.857994): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Electricity (0.847374): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Universe (0.838544): dbpedia | freebase

Electronic/World Wide Web>Blog:  Raymo , Chet (NOVEMBER 22, 2011), Click!, Science Musings Blog, Retrieved on 2012-01-06
  • Source Material [blog.sciencemusings.com]
  • Folksonomies: wonder electricity