In common house hold wiring we have the hot lead, neutral and ground. If the hot lead in electrical wiring contacts earth ground (perhaps though a short circuit in the chassis of a device) then the current shorted to earth. This however doesn't appear to me to be a complete closed circuit. My intuition tells me current should flow, but my academic knowledge says that it shouldn't because we have an open circuit condition. So how does the current therefor flow?
I've heard the argument that because the neutral wire is earth grounded at the service panel (aka breaker box), that it is actually a complete circuit. So in my example, current travels though earth and back up into neutral at the service panel.
However IF at the service panel, the neutral was not connected to earth ground (so the neutral left floating), then we definitely don't have a closed circuit, yet my intuition tells me somehow current would still flow into earth in a short circuit condition.
I've looked up a similar question like this here on stackexchange. In that question, current flow is examined between earth and mars in an incomplete circuit. In that scenario the answer looked at the planets somewhat like two capacitor plates. That would not apply in my question however