It's amazing what we 21st-century Americans take for granted. When the power sputters to a halt, so does life as we know it.
On this most recent stormy night, my husband and I were driving home from the movies. We were only a few feet from turning down the driveway when a huge pine tree was uprooted by the wind. It fell right into and knocked over a utility pole—a pole that also held a transformer. (You don't know what that is? Neither did I until it exploded in front of our car, burst into flames and lit the woods on fire.) Basically, a transformer is a device that takes in electricity at a higher voltage, lets it run through lots of coils wound around an iron core and then transforms it into a voltage we can use in our homes.
Are you still with me? I promise this science lesson is leading somewhere.
Next time you're out and about—in the city or the country—look up at the wires and follow them until you get to a pole with a square-shaped object. That's the transformer. That innocent-looking metal box you pass by every day is a bomb waiting to explode. Forget about the Christmas underpants bomber—there are potential terrorists suspended on poles all around us. I am not sharing this information to frighten you, but merely to illustrate a point I would like to make: Our everyday humdrum life is wildly unstable, almost improbable and therefore a miracle. Just the fact that most of us make it from birth to old age without being snuffed out prematurely is incredible. I sometimes imagine myself as a very old lady, lying on my deathbed, astonished that I made it there alive!
Is earth becoming more unstable?