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

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Why does public mains power use 50-60 Hz and 100-240 V?

Is there a physical reason behind the frequency and voltage in the mains electricity? I do not want to know why exactly a certain value was chosen; I am rather interested to know why that range/order ...
47
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3answers
20k 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 ...
47
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4answers
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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 half-...
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Why do electric sparks appear blue/purple?

Electric sparks tend to appear blue or purple or white in color. Why?
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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. ...
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7answers
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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 ...
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3answers
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What causes electrical boxes to hum?

Often times you pass by an electrical box on an electrical pole and you hear a distinct hum emanating from it. What causes that tone? Does the flow of electricity itself have a sound? Or does the flow ...
38
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2answers
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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 ...
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5answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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.
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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 ...
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4answers
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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 ...
28
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6answers
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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?
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7answers
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Why are the electric force and magnetic force classified as electromagnetism?

I confuse the four kinds of fundamental interactions, so I think the electric force and magnetic force should not be classified as a big class called electromagnetism. Here is my evidence: The ...
26
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2answers
4k 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 ...
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8answers
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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 ...
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6answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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2answers
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Can sugar be affected by a magnetic field?

While I was making a morning coffee at work, some sugar from the spoon started to fly away, seemingly towards some foam cups. Can this be explained by magnetism?
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1answer
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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 ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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4answers
9k views

If air cannot conduct electricity, how can lightning happen?

If air cannot conduct electricity, how can lightning happen?
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3answers
678 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?
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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 ...
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4answers
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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 ...
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11answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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8answers
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Why is capacitance defined as charge divided by voltage?

I understand that capacitance is the ability of a body to store an electrical charge and the formula is $C=\frac{Q}{V}$. What I don't understand, however, is why it is defined as coulomb per volt. Of ...
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How does a wire carry alternating current?

Consider a simple network of a bulb whose two terminals are connected to two wires with open ends A and B respectively A o--------💡--------o B Now if a DC ...
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6answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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6answers
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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 (...
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375 views

Why does lightning generate multiple branches?

Everyone have seen and knows how lightning occurs. But then I realized that lightning never occurs in straight lines but it follows branching. But Why is that so? Why can't lightning goes in straight ...
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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? ...
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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.
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11answers
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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
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2answers
778 views

Does A.C. make the material through which it is flowing vibrate?

So recently I have been studying A.C. circuits and the graphs show that the current oscillates itself as a function of time. Now, according to me an oscillating body vibrates. Hence, the oscillating ...
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5answers
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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 ...
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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
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3answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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3answers
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Different batteries connected in parallel

If we have 2 batteries one of emf x and the other is of emf y and we connect them in series we get an effective emf of x+y. But what if we connect them in parallel, how to calculate the emf now?
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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
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3answers
6k 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 ...
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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
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3answers
832 views

Does electricity have an associated entropy?

One can certainly measure entropy changes associated with the generation of electricity, but does electricity itself have an associated entropy (maybe related to voltage, current etc.)?
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2answers
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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?
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How Special Relativity causes magnetism

So my physics teacher assigned us an article about how special relativity causes magnetism in a wire with a current, even with the low drift velocities of electrons in a current. It seemed that the ...
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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 ...