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A Case for making the invisible visible

For millennia in the history of mankind, there was no knowledge of electricity. Several ancient writers, such as Pliny the Elder and Scribonius Largus, attested to the numbing effect of electric shocks delivered by catfish and torpedo rays, and knew that such shocks could travel along conducting objects. Possibly the earliest and nearest approach to the discovery of the identity of lightning, and electricity from any other source, is to be attributed to the Arabs, who before the 15th century had the Arabic word for lightning (raad) applied to the electric ray.

Ancient cultures around the Mediterranean knew that certain objects, such as rods of amber, could be rubbed with cat’s fur to attract light objects like feathers.

Electricity would remain little more than an intellectual curiosity for millennia until 1600 when the English scientist William Gilbert made a careful study of electricity and magnetism, distinguishing the lodestone effect from static electricity produced by rubbing amber. He coined the New Latin word electricus (“of amber” or “like amber) to refer to the property of attracting small objects after being rubbed. This association gave rise to the English words “electric” and “electricity in 1646.

In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin conducted extensive research in electricity, selling his possessions to fund his work. In June 1752 he is reputed to have attached a metal key to the bottom of a dampened kite string and flown the kite in a storm-threatened sky. A succession of sparks jumping from the key to the back of his hand showed that lightning was indeed electrical in nature and the rest, as they say… is history.*

Henceforth, electricity became the backbone of modern society; its almost limitless applications have included transport, heating, lighting, communication and computation.

It’s quite remarkable to think that something so intrinsic, something that most of us could not possibly imagine living without, remained hidden in plain sight for so long. Can you imagine what the next world-altering phenomenon might be? It could be right under your nose!

Think about it…what is currently invisible that might be rendered ‘visible’ and one day be harnessed to similar history-altering effect?

Let your imagination roam free. Consider writing down your thoughts down and taking part in What If? our open submissions project. Info on that can be found HERE


[* source: Wikipedia]


Published: November 27th, 2014

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