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Showing posts from August, 2019

It Starts with a Spark

How much power is in a spark?
There are many, many things that you can Google and get the answer you need within seconds, but I had to do a ridiculous amount of searching and math to get a halfway respectable answer to this question. But let's err on the high end and say that a particularly large and hot steel spark can represent up to 11 joules of energy. It just so happens that 11 joules could power an energy-efficient 10 watt LED light bulb (a typical lamp) for just over 1 second, if I did my math correctly.* There's nothing terribly powerful about turning on a lamp for 1 second. Not much can be done in the darkness with 1 second of lamp light.

But in 2018, a rancher in California hammering a metal stake struck a single blow that produced a single spark that ignited a patch of grass that spread to a tree that spread to a forest and became the largest wildfire in California history. By the end, this fire had burned for over 100 days and covered 640 square miles. And (here&#…