Sunday, August 22, 2010

Uncle Ohm

Awhile back, John and I visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI. Great museum, by the way, if you're ever in the area. On our way out, we stopped at the museum gift store. I love museum gift shops. You never know what kind of unusual stuff you'll find there. This is what I found on that particular trip - an amazing puzzle of famous scientists:

So the reason that I find this puzzle so interesting is that my hubby is related to one of the scientists pictured. How cool is that?

Georg Simon Ohm formulated Ohm's Law, which defines the relationships between (P) power, (E) voltage, (I) current, and (R) resistance. One ohm is the resistance value through which one volt will maintain a current of one ampere. (Yes, I had to look that up. Although I did know that he came up with the theory of electrical resistance.)

Georg is John's um...great great great, well, not sure how many greats, uncle.

I did not know about this famous physicist in the family tree until our pre-teen son began to diagram circuits. For fun. Because he thought it was cool. I found them scrawled on papers and stapled to plywood in John's workshop with coils of wire and more diagrams and materials lists. What WAS this kid up to, I fretted. Nothing to worry about, said John. He's just interested in electricity lately.

I commented to John that our kid's interest in physics and electricity certainly didn't originate from ME. Which is when I learned about Uncle Ohm.

We thought this proclivity was way cool, and tried to encourage him to continue to explore and learn. Until.......

There came a day when I saw him hauling our very expensive stereo receiver upstairs to his bedroom.

Stop it right there, buddy ol' pal. What's going on with our stereo?

"Dad SAID I could!"

SAID you could what?

"He SAID I could fix your receiver up so that I can add a few more speakers."


"MOM! I promise!"

I dubiously watched him head up the stairs, cords trailing behind him. By now I had come to learn to just vacuum around the piles of cable and wires and connectors and soldering tools and electronics catalogues littering his bedroom.

I heard him bustling around whistling and obviously having a great time. When John came home from work, he confirmed that yes, he did actually give this kid permission to monkey around with the very pricey and complicated innards of our stereo.

We congratulated ourselves for raising such an intelligent son. Then heard a loud "zzzaaap!" and saw the entire house's lights dim. As we raced upstairs I smelled a distinct burning plastics and metal odor. My son stood surrounded by smoke in his room, peering quizzically into the completely melted electronics of the shell of our now-dead receiver.

"Hm," he said. I didn't know whether to strangle him because he had just completely wrecked our stereo - or to grab him in a mommy bear hug because he had avoided electrocuting himself.

"Oh, Mom," he said as he shrugged off my hug and our smoke alarms began to shriek. "I know enough not to zap myself silly." Good thing he also knew enough that he needed to start saving to pay his parents for a new stereo receiver.

Four years later, he began college as a freshman studying electrical engineering, but after the first few semesters, changed his major. I couldn't understand why. He was doing really well, and after all, obviously had the genetics for the profession.

"Mom," he said. "I want to keep this fun. Making it my career takes the fun out of it."

Fun? Wires and circuits?

"Oh, yeah. The best stuff ever."


Thank goodness his degree in computer informatics has suited him just fine and has provided him with a great job. And yes, electronics catalogues and cables and wire still litter his apartment along with circuitry designs.

You can buy your very own Famous Scientists puzzle here

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