The study of the presence and flow of electric charge. Charges, currents, fields, potentials.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

44
votes
4answers
64k views

Why do grapes in a microwave oven produce plasma?

Some of you may know this experience (Grape + Microwave oven = Plasma video link): take a grape that you almost split in two parts, letting just a tiny piece of skin making a link between each ...
43
votes
2answers
19k views

Why don't electric fish shock themselves?

Fish like electric eels and torpedoes have specially designed nerve cells that allow them to discharge hundreds of volts of electricity. Now, while pure water is usually nonconductive, the dissolved ...
41
votes
6answers
27k views

Why do power lines buzz?

When near high tension power lines, particularly after a good rain, the lines themselves emit a buzzing noise. A similar noise can be heard coming out of the electric meters attached to my apartment. ...
38
votes
7answers
10k views

Does electricity flow on the surface of a wire or in the interior?

I was having a conversation with my father and father-in-law, both of whom are in electric related work, and we came to a point where none of us knew how to proceed. I was under the impression that ...
34
votes
3answers
2k views

Wind generators - why so few blades?

Why commercial wind generators usually have just 2-3 blades? Having more blades would allow to increase power OR decrease diameter. Decreased diameter would also reduce stress due to different wind ...
31
votes
3answers
3k views

Why do electric sparks appear blue/purple?

Electric sparks tend to appear blue or purple or white in color. Why?
30
votes
4answers
2k views

I touched a tree that was touching an electric fence and got an electric shock. How is this possible if wood is an insulator?

I touched a tree that was touching an electric fence and got an electric shock. How was this possible if wood is an insulator? The tree wasn't wet either, and it was a pretty strong shock too.
29
votes
5answers
5k views

If the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, why don't people get electrocuted every time they touch the Earth?

Since the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, is it safe to assume that any charge that flows down to the Earth must be redistributed into the Earth in and along all directions? Does this also ...
29
votes
1answer
1k views

Can lightning be used to solve NP-complete problems?

I'm a MS/BS computer science guy who is wondering about why lightning can't (or can?) be used to solve NP complete problems efficiently, but I don't understand the physics behind lightning, so I'm ...
26
votes
2answers
1k views

Static electricity and door handles

I have a pair of shoes, which seem to isolate me from the ground. In effect I'm gathering static charge and every time i grab an aluminum door handle, that current discharges and that hurts. Ouch. I ...
25
votes
6answers
15k views

Lightning strikes the Ocean I'm swimming in - what happens?

I'm swimming in the ocean and there's a thunderstorm. Lightning bolts hit ships around me. Should I get out of the water?
24
votes
8answers
8k views

Since cables carry electricity moving at the speed of light, why aren't computer networks much faster?

Why can't cables used for computer networking transfer data really fast, say at the speed of light? I ask this because electricity travels at the speed of light. Take Ethernet cables for example, I ...
23
votes
4answers
7k views

Birds sitting on electric wires: potential difference between the legs

We have seen birds sitting on uninsulated electric wires of high voltage transmission lines overhead without getting harmed, because sitting on only one wire doesn't complete any circuit. But what ...
23
votes
4answers
3k views

If air cannot conduct electricity, how can lightning happen?

If air cannot conduct electricity, how can lightning happen?
22
votes
3answers
4k views

Why do 'dead' batteries work again after exchanging the places of the batteries in an electronic device?

My camera, which is powered by two AA batteries in series, would not power on. I removed the batteries, exchanged their locations, and the device worked again - for another 15 minutes or so. The ...
21
votes
1answer
1k views

Is it possible to overload a lightning rod?

A couple of weeks ago we had a big storm roll through the Chicago area. I watched as the city's skyscrapers were struck multiple times by lightning throughout the night and told my coworker about it ...
20
votes
7answers
16k views

Why is the charge naming convention wrong?

I recently came to know about the Conventional Current vs. Electron Flow issue. Doing some search I found that the reason for this is that Benjamin Franklin made a mistake when naming positive and ...
20
votes
5answers
2k views

Does alternating current (AC) require a complete circuit?

This popular question about "whether an AC circuit with one end grounded to Earth and the other end grounded to Mars would work (ignoring resistance/inductance of the wire)" was recently asked on the ...
19
votes
3answers
581 views

Why can't batteries be charged quickly?

Charging of laptops, cell phones take so much time. Why can't we make such batteries easily/commercially which are charged more quickly? What's the thing behind this limiting?
15
votes
9answers
69k views

How to avoid getting shocked by static electricity?

sometimes I get "charged" and the next thing I touch something that conducts electricity such as a person, a car, a motal door, etc I get shocked by static electricity. I'm trying to avoid this so if ...
14
votes
3answers
5k views

Does Fire Conduct Electricity? Why?

Recently, I have stumbled upon a YouTube video by Veritasium describing the conductivity of fire. My question is: how exactly does fire conduct electricity? I am a high school student; therefore ...
13
votes
5answers
47k views

Why is AC more “dangerous” than DC?

After going through several forums, I became more confused whether it is DC or AC that is more dangerous. In my text book, it is written that the peak value of AC is greater than that of DC, which is ...
12
votes
6answers
9k views

Are Fresnel lenses widely used for solar electricity? If not, why not?

I was just wondering why Fresnel Lenses are not widely used in the production of solar electricity. Their use there would mean that you could produce heat within a fraction of a second, up to a few ...
12
votes
7answers
4k views

Why is electricity not transmitted wirelessly?

Why is electricity not transmitted wirelessly such that we don't need to span cables on the earth's surface? As in: electricity is transmitted wirelessly from the power plant to the household.
12
votes
11answers
7k views

Does 'electricity' have mass? Is 'electricity' tangible?

Background: I'm in a legal academic discussion about the status of electronic 'goods' and whether they qualify as 'goods' in the same way a chair and a pen do. In this context (and specifically at the ...
12
votes
8answers
25k views

Electricity takes the path of least resistance?

Electricity takes the path of least resistance! Is this statement correct? If so, why is it the case? If there are two paths available, and one, for example, has a resistor, why would the ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

Why are materials that are better at conducting electricity also proportionately better at conducting heat?

It seems like among the electrical conductors there's a relationship between the ability to conduct heat as well as electricity. Eg: Copper is better than aluminum at conducting both electricity and ...
12
votes
1answer
560 views

What are all the lines on a double circuit tower?

I understand what three-phase power is. But when I look at some pictures of a double-circuit-three-phase-power-line I see two or three lines close together? What is the purpose of these lines close ...
12
votes
9answers
12k views

What is the difference between electric potential, potential difference (PD), voltage and electromotive force (EMF)?

This is a confused part ever since I started learning electricity. What is the difference between electric potential, potential difference (PD), voltage and electromotive force (EMF)? All of them have ...
12
votes
6answers
12k views

What are the fields produced around a current carrying conductor?

If you consider a current carrying conductor, every instant an electron enters the conductor, another electron will be leaving the conductor. Thus, the current carrying conductor will not be charged ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

What could magnetic monopoles do that electrically charged particles can't?

I understand the significance to physics, but what can a magnetic monopole be used for assuming we could free them from spin ice and put them to work? What would be a magnetic version of electricity? ...
11
votes
3answers
884 views

Why do lightning rods have a sharp point at the top?

We know that a lightning rod or lightning conductor is a metal rod or metallic object mounted on top of an elevated structure and, if we look closely, most of them have a sharp point at the top. What ...
11
votes
5answers
880 views

Why are wires in simple circuits approximated as equipotentials?

I just answered this question: Voltage in a circuit by asserting that any two points joined only by a wire, but no other circuit elements, are at the same value of the electric potential. It is, of ...
11
votes
5answers
5k views

Why can different batteries with the same voltage send different currents through the same object?

According to an answer in this thread on Skeptics: If you take one of the little 12V garage door opener batteries and short out (directly connect) the two terminals with a piece of wire or ...
11
votes
2answers
570 views

Why does a cathode have to be heated to emit electrons?

Considering that electrons are highly mobile inside of a metal, why do they have such a tough time getting out at the edge of it and continuing their trip ballistically?
11
votes
2answers
25k views

How does load affect frequency on the power grid?

This story about the use of battery/freewheel based Frequency Regulators confused me about how the 60hz frequency of the North American power grid was set--saying that it was kept at that frequency by ...
10
votes
3answers
680 views

How does electricity 'decide' on it's pathway? [duplicate]

I'm struggling to understand the fundamental concepts of electricity, more specifically, the way in which it 'chooses' its optimal pathway. I appreciate electricity will always choose the path of ...
10
votes
3answers
3k views

Is it possible to mathematically derive the formula for resistance?

Resistance is given by $\rho L/A$, where $\rho$ is the material constant, $L$ is the length, and $A$ is the area. Is there any way that this can be derived mathematically, or is the only way ...
10
votes
3answers
568 views

Current in a simple circuit

I was going over my notes for an introductory course to electricity and magnetism and was intrigued by something I don't have an answer to. I remember my professor mentioning, to the best I can ...
10
votes
5answers
1k views

Can someone explain the science behind MIT's 230% efficient LEDs?

I was reading Gizmodo the other day and I didn't quite understand the Physics behind this. Could anybody shed some light on how this effect actually works?
10
votes
3answers
3k views

Where does the electricity, generated by a solar panel, go if you don't use the electricity?

I'm sorry if this question is too trivial for this Q&A forum. I am a layman when it comes to physics (though I did cover the high-school physics courses). I was wondering what happens to the ...
10
votes
1answer
554 views

Explanation for speed of an electrical impulse

Our calculus book, Stewart, has a problem where they claim that for a metal cable (inner radius $r$) encased in insulation (outer radius $R$), the speed of an electrical impulse is given by $$v = - ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

How electrons move so fast in a electric circuit?

Whenever we switch on a bulb......it takes almost no time to glow up.....But we know that the atoms of a solid are tightly packed and there is a very little space between them. So how the electrons ...
9
votes
3answers
7k views

Why do power lines sag when they are heated up?

I was reading some information about the 2003 power blackout in the Northeastern US. Beginning early in the afternoon of August 14, 2003 big transmission lines began to fail in First Energy's ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

Why does lightning emit light?

What exactly is causing the electric discharge coming from the clouds to emit light while traveling through the air. I've read and thought about it a little but with my current knowledge I cant really ...
8
votes
7answers
1k views

Is electricity instantaneous?

My question is basically what exactly is electricity? I've simply been told before that it's a flow of electrons, but this seems too basic and doesn't show that electricity is instant. What I mean is ...
8
votes
6answers
25k views

Why does my wife's skin buzz when she's using her laptop?

When my wife uses her laptop, if I touch her skin, I can feel a buzz. She doesn't feel the buzz, but she can hear it if I touch her ear. So I'm guessing it's a faulty laptop, and she's conducting an ...
8
votes
4answers
5k views

Resistor circuit that isn't parallel or series

What's the equivalent resistance in this circuit (between points A and B)?
8
votes
1answer
9k views

Why does it spark when I push a plug in the electrical socket?

When I slowly push a plug into the electrical socket I can often see sparks. Can anybody explain why? Can this be possibly harmful for the devices I plug in?
8
votes
3answers
51k views

Why do birds, sitting on electric wires, not get shocked?

If we would touch electric wires, we would get a shock, even if we are not touching ground (so that no connection is complete form wire to ground through us). I always see that birds sit on electric ...