(Tier 1) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XLI: Wherein There is Ungodly Static

Geez, if I were a fundamentalist Christian parent reading this chapter, I’d be getting pretty concerned that the Science of the Physical Creation writers are just phoning the creationism in. I mean, yeah, they’ve paid some lip service to God, but nothing really meaty. And now that we’re on to Transferring Charges, a quick glance through the pages turns up no obvious God-talk at all.

The first couple of pages is just straight-up talk of how inducing electrical charges works. Then they talk about detecting electrical charges, and pretty much my only complaint is that it might have been nice if they’d told us a bit more about Sir William Gilbert, who is one of those fathers of modern science who were doing fascinating things and bringing a branch of science into being. He happened to be doing so while Shakespeare was coining words and phrases and entertaining the masses. He’s one of the fathers of electrical engineering, and has a unit of magnetic force named after him. He also figured out that the earth is magnetic and has an iron core.


We then find out about early attempts to generate electricity, such as Otto von Guericke’s sulfur ball contraption. They mention a Wimshurst machine without telling us what it is. Apparently, they figure it’s “best known” enough that they don’t need to bother. It basically looks like a wheel of fortune contraption. I’ll bet you could generate some electricity for the classroom by turning it into a game.

Image is an etch showing a machine that is a disc mounted vertically on an arm that allows it to freely spin.
Wimshurst machine (Rankin Kennedy, Electrical Installations, Vol V, 1903)

They do spend a long time explaining Van de Graaff generators. I think these things are pretty much required for every mad scientist. And the authors even explain how to safely use the device to produce the standard-issue mad scientist hair. Don’t say a Christian textbook never learned you nothing.

We next learn that “electric charge always moves to the outside of the charged object.” They don’t explain what a Faraday cage is, but do tell you this is why the inside of a car can protect you in a lightning storm – although if you’re in a cloth-top convertible, no such luck. Nice to know they’re not spreading the rubber tires myth.

A very long explanation of thunderstorms as “nature’s electrostatic generators” follows. I think, if we’re bring the supernatural into science, we need to teach the controversy here.

Image shows the enormous statue of Jesus in Rio getting struck by lightning. Caption says, "Christ: 0 Thor: 1"
They give some pretty outrageous estimates for the power of lightning, saying that one bolt of lightning “may develop more power than the combined peak capacity of every electric power plant in the country, and the occasional superbolt can exceed the combined capacity of every power plant in the world.” Those figures seem a bit excessive. I mean, I’m finding estimates that range from 145 litres of petrol to enough energy to “power a small, 56-house town for a day.” Slight disagreement there. Maybe these folks are secretly in the tank for Thor.

We’re treated to a factually accurate description of Ben Franklin’s kite experiment and lightning rods. This would be quite interesting if I hadn’t heard the story roughly 12 million times in my K-12 education. But yay for facts not myths.

The accidental side of scientific discovery is illustrated by the story of Pieter van Musschenbroek, who zapped himself silly during an experiment when the device he’d been holding turned out to be quite unexpectedly capable of storing a respectable charge. Thus scientists learned that electricity could be stored. The Leyden jar was promptly developed. And we learn that these early devices are distantly related to modern electronic camera flashes: both are capacitors, which store up a charge and then release it all at once. Cool!

If you were hoping the info box on St. Elmo’s Fire would have a divine spark, you’re in for a disappointment. They debunk the belief that there’s anything at all supernatural about the stuff. Their description of how it works is pretty simplistic, but they’re right about it being a suspect in the Hindenburg disaster.

And that’s it. End of section. Not one solitary mention of God. Who are the atheist Darwinist commies writing this stuff?! I can’t tell you if it got past the fervently faithful editors and reviewers because it’s sandwiched between pious pontificating about God’s role in stuff, but I mean, you’d think someone would’ve stuck God in any old how at some point in the process. This section was so secular, Misha fell asleep on it.

Image shows a black cat curled up on an open textbook.
So we shall have to wait for next time to see if this godless streak is broken.

(Tier 1) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XLI: Wherein There is Ungodly Static