Thursday, April 17, 2014

A-Z Challenge. Ohm.

In case new readers haven't caught on yet, I have an odd and inexplicable curiosity of names. (My favorite subject is toponyms, but that's for the letter 'T'.) This interest even surfaces in my science writing where I often address scientific names and common names of, well, just about everything in science. Yet, I am also known for totally disregarding official names, including my own. I'll let the couch-psychologists toy with that.

Rubbing the sleep from my eyes (literally, desert dust) and listening to a quail thumping outside my window while waiting for my coffee to brew, the roulette in my mind landed on a rather insignificant word for today's letter 'O': ohm.

What's in an 'ohm'?

Some might recall from physics (the 'F' word, 'fysics') class learning about the relationship between the potential difference applied across a conductor and the resultant electric current; aka Ohm's Law.

Those with an engineering slant will immediately gravitate to that Pièce de résistance of electricity, the ohm. It is an SI (International System of Units) unit of resistance: the proportionality of current and voltage in a resistor. The definition of ohm as a unit has undergone several revisions since the 1860's, but it also has been assigned a symbol: Ω. That's easier to remember.

Probably few know that Georg Ohm, the German mathematician and physicist, received most of his education in chemistry, mathematics, physics and philosophy from his self-taught father, who was a locksmith by trade. His brother, Martin, also became a well-known mathematician. Despite the lack of exceptional institutional education, both siblings surmounted that resistance with family motivation. Seems to be the 'Ohm way.'

But there are more 'ohm's to be had. A large impact crater on the far side of the Moon (cue Pink Floyd) is known as the 'Ohm lunar crater'. The name of that crater was assigned by the the International Astronomical Union, and, of course, in tribute to our friend Georg Ohm.

The Ohm River lies in the region of Hesse, Germany, and is a tributary of the greater Lahn River. Suitably, the town of Homberg/Ohm in the valley of the Ohm was famous for its beer in the 13th century.

Now let's go across the ocean to the U.S. The small town in Ohm, California, was named (1900) after the Ohm Ranch. Thomas Ohm, a German native, established the ranch in 1868 and raised grain. I wonder if his crop was hops.

South of the border, a Mexican of German descent, Germán Ohm, was a popular featherweight boxer. His boxing career was short, spanning the age 18 to his retirement at 22. Most of his fights of recognition took place in the late 1950's. Seems that his fists carried the Ohm legacy of resistance.

Sweeping across the globe now to India, and overlapping centuries across time, 'ohm' is also an alternative spelling for 'om'. The sound is a mantra of Hindu origin, but also a sacred sound in Buddhism, Dharma and Jainism. The syllable represents many meanings depending on the source.

Anyone that grew up in the 1960's (me, for instance) will recognize its association with the Flower Child and Peace Anti-war Movements. One explanation probably describes it in both earlier and latter contexts: ""OM" is the reflection of the absolute reality, it is said to be "Adi Anadi", without beginning or the end and embracing all that exists." Or, as I like to put it, "No matter where you go, there you are."

And with that, let's slowly form the syllable 'Om' in our throats and mouths, slowly humming it out with no resistance, and embrace the day.



  1. Stopping by from the A to Z ...As a yoga practitioner this resonated with me. Nice post.

  2. I like to meditate and have taken several meditation classes, I found OM to be distracting because I speak Swedish and in Swedish OM is IF... but now after your post I am DOOMED OHM or OM ... means so much I need a new frequency to chant! #AtoZchallenge ☮Peace ☮ ღ ONE ℒℴνℯ ღ ☼ Light ☼ visiting from

    1. Heheh. :) This is why I am so curious about names. When we fit things to names, or name a thing, it's all over. We have put boundaries and lines around it and carry it around in our pocket, stuff it in a box. Then we continue to compare and contrast, sometimes by names alone, while the thing sometimes loses its inherent essence. ;)