Politicizing Science Is Nothing New: It Happened To Ben Franklin
“But the “point effect” is more subtle. When there’s an electric field gradient, charges pool at the edge of a conductor. At a point, the charges reach a higher density than under any other conditions. More than perhaps two inches (5 cm) away from the tip of such a rod, the electric field around the top of the building becomes more dissipated. As a result, if there are many tall buildings around with lightning rods on them, lightning will be more likely to strike the ones without a pointed tip. The rod itself is more protection for a building if it does get struck by lightning, but the tip makes it less likely the building will be struck if there’s a better source around.”
You’ll often hear charges that science has become too politicized, but it’s the other way around. Science is our best way of drawing conclusions about the natural world, including how natural and human-caused phenomena work and interact together. When politics, biases, agendas or predispositions get in the way, however, they can derail actual knowledge and cause us to live in an inferior fashion. This isn’t new to modern times, but goes back at least hundreds of years, to Ben Franklin. Franklin, who invented the lightning rod, came up with the design that would save countless buildings from fire once that rod was applied. Yet the inability of many dogmatic people – including King George III of England – to accept the reality of the science led to a huge number of disasters and fires, many of which revisionist historians still try and cover up today.
The science doesn’t lie, and the safety and efficacy of modern, properly-implemented lightning rods is proof of that. But the story of how science was politicized way back in the 1700s is something we can all learn from.