Thomas Edison travels to the present time and is shocked by how far his humble invention has gone!

It is the year 1930 and Thomas Edison has been selected as the winner of the annual ‘Ek Ghante Ke Liye Kaun Kahan Jayega’ competition. Edison, true to form, has decided to undertake time travel and travel way into the future into the year 2016. Boy, is he in for an illuminating experience!

Putting on his hard hat and strapping himself in, he begins his journey. In what feels like a split second he arrives outside the door of his great granddaughter, who lives in Guwahati. It is late in the night and everything is dark, except for this one light emitting device outside of her door. This device certainly does not look anything like the electric light bulb that Edison himself had invented. Not sure, he steps away into the darkness and lo-and-behold the light emitting device turns off! “What is this piece of magic?” thinks Edison. Surely there isn’t someone on the other side of the door playing a prank!

He steps toward the door and the device came to life once again shining brightly into the bewildered eyes of the prolific inventor.

Surely not…it just cannot be. Does this device that looks like the humble bulb I invented have a mind of its own? Or can it sense that there is someone around? The inventor in Edison was piqued. He just had to get to the bottom of this.

No inventor can get by in life without experimenting, and so Edison sat outside the door scratching his head for a way to test out his theory. “Bingo!” he exclaimed. Or maybe it was “Eureka”. To an unsuspecting passer-by, it looked like Edison with the light bulb over his head portraying the proverbial image of someone with an idea – oh what a light bulb moment!

He went up to the door and rang the bell. Dismissing all pleasantries, he quickly asked the confused face on the other side of the door “What is this wonderful invention?” Edison realised, the quickest way to get something answered was to ASK the question. Alva, his descendent – with cricket bat in hand – proceeded to explain that the bulb was in fact motion sensing bulb to save on energy. Relieved that bulbs did not have a mind of their own, Edison wiped his sweaty brow and proceeded to introduce himself as the great inventor of light bulbs, Thomas Edison.

How does the Tungsten filament work that way queried Thomas? Alva replied with a quizzical, “What is Tungsten?”

Alva had no further need for the cricket bat as she had seen photographs of her ancestor. She screamed with joy and invited him in, offering food and water. A proud Thomas asked Alva what he is most remembered for. Without hesitation, Alva explained to Thomas that his greatest invention for mankind was the ‘light bulb jokes’ and she proceeded to give him a sampler:

Q: How many actors does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Only one. They don’t like to share the spotlight.
Q: How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Two, one to screw it almost all the way in and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

Thomas burst out in uncontrollable laughter. When he stopped, he stood in the middle of the room and stared for a minute at each of the wonderful light emitting devices he laid eyes on.

He saw this “cupboard” that Alva opened to take out cold water. There was a bulb in there. He saw a device that showed the time using light and Alva managed to heat a quick snack in it. He saw this extremely flat device that was showing images of people. The TV, however, was only just invented in 1925. He finally saw a device that was blinking on and off.

He stepped towards the device that looked like bar of chocolate. It was blinking, displaying the face of a young boy, with the words “Answer” and “Cancel”. He baulked! Alva explained that it was a mobile phone, although Thomas wanted more of an explanation. He was amazed. He made a mental note to go back and let his friend Graham Bell know how far his telephone invention had progressed.

Alva let the phone go to voicemail and picked up the phone to explain its features. The feature that caught Thomas’s interest the most was the camera! Here is a device that can take a photograph, it is the size of one’s palm, has its own flash and does not print out on to a paper! Alva promptly took a selfie and showed the photograph to Thomas who clearly needed to sit down and process how far his invention had progressed!

Light beyond the bulb with Edison

Alva continued to explain some of the features. She first talked about Apps – which she described to her ancestor as ‘things you did not need to know or do, but now we can’t live without’. She described Facebook as the means to keep in touch with people you would rather not meet face-to-face!

Thomas was amazed. Alva in her element decided to impress her ancestor and give him an insight into her world, hoping that he would be as proud of her as she was of him. She led him into her medical lab. The dimly lit lab was full of shiny equipment. She led him to her XRAY table and showed him a scan of a patient and explained how light is now used to view the internals of the human body for medical diagnosis. She also showed him a miniature camera that is used to photograph and study the internal working of organs, once again for medical diagnosis.

Saving the best for last, she took him over to the laser workbench. She explained how the laser was used for ophthalmic surgery, allowing correction of vision of a person. Even though Thomas has perfect eyesight he was very impressed with how light was being used and even more impressed with the achievements of his great granddaughter.

His hour in 2016 was coming to an end and Thomas realised that he had only just scratched the surface of how 2016 was certainly using light way beyond the bulb.

Word- meaning:

  • Piqued: curious
  • Baulked: to stop short
  • Ophthalmic: relating to the eye

Values learnt:

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Light beyond the bulb with Edison
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