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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's where the math gets really crazy**) that much fire, burning that many trees, produced enough energy - if it could have been somehow harnessed and stored - to power the United States for 6 days. Or the entire globe for 26 hours.

It started with a spark.

You see, while a spark in and of itself is not powerful, a spark can ignite and unlock energy stored within something else. That ignition, given the right conditions and unlocking the right potential, can quite literally change the world.

Here's another story. In 2016 a man named Steve Spear came and spoke at my local church, and shared the story of his involvement with World Vision. How it had changed his life and touched others. (Steve once ran from the west coast to the east coast of the US, but that's another story.) At the end of his talk, Steve invited the audience to sign up to run a marathon. I eventually, with some coaxing, agreed. Steve was my spark. That year I finished the Chicago marathon and raised enough money to bring clean water to over 150 people. The next year I ran again, this time with my wife and my sister, Tracy. The next year Tracy ran two more marathons! And now two of Tracy's kids are running too. Over the past 3-4 years, our family has had a net impact of over $37,000 raised for World Vision in donations and sponsorships.

It started with a spark.

Have you ever been someone's spark? It's a powerful thing to ignite inspiration and energy in another. Sometimes it is impossible to know what impact a spark has had or will have. But one of the cool things about sponsoring a child through World Vision is that you get to maintain a relationship with the child whose life you are changing. You get an opportunity to witness firsthand the spark that lights the tinder that heats the embers that feed the flame in another. There is so much potential, so much stored energy that needs only a spark. A spark can give hope. A spark can unlock a promising future.

And lets be honest - I need a spark from time to time too. It's your action that keeps me running. I'm just here to ask the question...
Will you be someone's spark?
Click here to Sponsor a Child, to start down that path and learn more about child sponsorship.

Or visit my sister Tracy's page to be a spark for her today.



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* If you're feeling really nerdy, here's my math:Carbon steel has a density of up to 8050 kg / cu m
1 cu mm of carbon steel would have a mass of .00805 g
Carbon steel has a specific heat capacity (energy required to heat it) of .502416 J / g-deg C
A particulate spark may reach up to 5000 deg F, or 2760 deg C
0.00805*0.502416*2760 = a 1 cu mm spark of carbon steel may have 11 J of energy
11 J = .00305556 W/hr, or 11 W/s
SO a 10 W bulb could be powered for 1.1 s

** I left this math to the pros, ripping off a calculation from this site:  
http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2017/ph240/timcheck1/
The Ranch fire burned 410,203 acres, or 166,003 hectares
According to the site above, a fire burning that area would potentially produce 232,404,200,000,000,000 J, or 64,556,722,222 kwh
The US consumes an estimated 3,911,000,000,000 kwh/yr
SO the energy from the Ranch wildfire could power the US for 6.02 days or 144.60 hrs
The entire world consumes an estimated 21,776,088,770,300 kwh/yr
SO the energy from the Ranch wildfire could power the world for 1.08 days or 25.97 hrs

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