Benjamin Franklin in China

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Flying into Hangzhou, I was fascinated by the pattern created by apartment buildings lining the streets and canals, separated by wide fields of carefully striped fields of vegetables. I don't think I have seen anything like it in all my travels, though I was being a good boy and didn't power up my camera during landing.


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Once on the ground, I was even more impressed with a style of architecture seen throughout the suburbs. The buildings that form the hedges around these gardens are four or five stories tall with a square footprint, and stairs rather than elevators (there's a reason these people are all slim). Many of these buildings are topped off with ornate metal towers, some a series of techno-looking spheres, others resembling the Eiffel Tower, or the adornments on a Russian Orthodox Church. At first I thought they might be antennas or even merely decorative. But the week before my trip, I had been discussing Benjamin Franklin and his inventions with my 8th grade students.

I happened to be riding with a high-level executive of a building-materials company.
"What is the purpose of those tall towers?" I asked.
The answer: "For protection from lightning."

Franklin has been one of my heroes since I read his biography in third grade. I can testify that his work is still pretty popular in Hangzhou, as well.

 
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2 comments:

I guess I don't understand the physics of lightening very well, but wouldn't you want to have lightning posts where your house isn't and not where it is?

We don't have too much lightning here in Recife, which is strange to me, since the weather seems much like Colombian weather, where we had lots.

caedmonstia said...
November 16, 2008 at 3:43 PM  

Benjamin Franklin had a remarkable impact in so many ways. A Benjamin Franklin article just received the ‘Top 100 Electricity Blogs’ Award http://bit.ly/z8Ckp

Ed Hird+ said...
October 25, 2009 at 6:38 AM  

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