geekiness pays off

“Got time for a question that doesn’t have anything to do with anything?” Tim asked me the other day.

I just love questions that don’t have anything to do with anything, so I said, “Shoot!”

“If you want to increase the amount of heat in a circuit, do you increase the voltage or the current.”

Well, damn. I used to know that kind of thing, but I don’t tinker so much with trying to make electrical circuits hotter so I don’t go doing things like increasing the voltage or the current.

“I’m not sure,” I told him. “It’s just a guess, but I think you have to increase the amperage.” I liked that answer because “increase the amperage” made me sound as if I knew what I was talking about.

He seemed satisfied with that, and I figured he would probably go look it up himself later anyway, so I let it go.

Then, about a half-hour later while I was thinking about other things that didn’t have anything to do with anything, a light bulb lit over my head. As soon as I could, I got to a phone and dialed Tim’s number.

“It’s volts,” I said.

“Really? Volts? How’d you remember that?”

“Apollo 13 blew up because the space ship was designed as a twenty-four volt system, but was upgraded to a 36-volt system. The heater in the oxygen tank was built for the old system and got too hot during a test run.”

“It’s cool that you remember that,” he said, and he really meant it. “I guess knowing all that space geek stuff might actually be good for something, eh?”

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