ARTICLES ABOUT "ELECTRICITY"
New Explanations, Alternate Mental Toolkit
William J. Beaty
Electrical Engineer, U. of Washington
Jump down to Highly Recommended Books
or Build-it Projects.
What's the relation between Watts, Ohms, Amps, and Volts?
Memorizing facts? That's not learning. Tie it all together instead.
Ohm's law and electrical energy.
What Is "Electricity?"
There is a simple answer to this question. Really. Not the one you
What is Voltage?
What the heck is VOLTAGE? What the *HECK* is voltage? Charles Fort
said that when investigating a circle you can start at any point.
Electricity: Frequently-asked Questions (FAQ)
Browse these Electricity Answers, or submit a new question.
Why I never really understood capacitors...
How transistors REALLY work
Problems with traditional transistor explanations...
Explaining "electricity" visually
A simple classroom activity using red and green plastic sheets.
Here's a way to visualize Electric Current, "Static", and the electric
charge which creates both.
Why three prongs?
Why do wall outlets have three holes? "Grounding" and safety.
Right Angle Circuitry
Do Lenz' Law and the Right Hand rule still work... after you've been
turned INSIDE OUT by that greasy black Fog?
A list of things which gave me a warped view of Electrostatics. Once
I recognized their existence, I was able to fight free of them.
Speed of "Electricity"?
Everyone is sure that charges flow in wires at nearly the speed of light.
All the K12 books say so, and that many books can't be wrong,
can they? Ah, but science is not settled by voting.
If a cat gets trapped in a clothes dryer full of nylon pantyhose, which
way do the electrons flow?
Where does EM energy flow in a circuit?
The schematic of a flashlight looks simple, but only because the
electromagnetic energy flow is invisible.
How Scientists Define
the word "Electricity"
Quotes from J.C. Maxwell's "Treatise" and others. Maxwell says that
electricity is not energy. So does Faraday.
Also Millikan, Einstein, and JJ. Thompson. The CRC Handbook agrees!
Twenty misconceptions which prevented me from understanding simple
electrical science as a student. Maybe they cause trouble for you as
is really just high voltage.
Scuff on the rug, then measure your body voltage. Three Thousand
Electricity mistakes and 'nitpicking'
How SHOULD we teach Electricity?
My encounters with elementary-school electricity, and how I
started my "electricity debunking" articles.
Doorknob sparks and zapping yourself on the car door... and people who
suffer from an "electric shock" disease.
The Electricity Map
How are batteries different than static cling? Perhaps this diagram
will "generate" some insights.
If Voltage is
...then how many pounds-square-inch is one volt?
Which way does
The direction of the current.
Charge really flows from negative to positive, right? RIGHT???
Electricity is not a form of energy
How can so many K12 texts and encyclopedias make a major mistake?
What Is Charge?
Even if we stop asking about "electricity," we still must ask about
What Is Energy?
Even if "electricity" isn't a form of energy, WHAT IS ENERGY? Is it like
a substance, or is it just an abstract concept?
Sparks and Lighting
What would lightning look like if we could slow it down?
How is "static"
different from "current?"
Not the usual answer found in most K12 textbooks!
How is "current"
different from "net charge?"
This one goes with the article above.
Use sticky tape to demonstrate electric charge.
Can current stay constant, yet voltage reverses?
Doesn't voltage always cause current? Not if we're talking about
spinning flywheels made out of "electricity."
Tesla's Big Mistake
Why did physicists deride Nikola Tesla? What was really going on
in Tesla's mind? Some insights...
A long rant about sound, work and electrical energy
When currents DON'T shock
High current versus low current. The oomph of the zappth.
How are Light Emitting Diodes like thermocouples and solar
Everyone learns about "Amps" but never remembers what a "Coulomb" is.
This is totally backwards.
If "static electricity" could flow along, would the world end? Maybe
I'm always getting into flamewars about this stuff...
How should we
Doing something, rather than just whining. ;)
Why "Electricity" is
Impossible to Understand
Gigantic collection of thoughts on learning-barriers in electrical
Electricity educational links collection
Part of my Electronics Hobbyist page.
A whole large pageful of links for the electronics freak. Online
discussion groups, schematic and project archives, etc.
Don't trust what random strangers on the internet stay about electricity!
Instead read professional papers by PUBLISHED random strangers.
LOOKING FOR BOOKS? Try searching
Build These Electrical Devices
Static Electricity Projects, all the High Voltage, low-current stuff in one place.
Spin the magnet, light a bulb. The complement to the "Beakman Motor".
Challenge: make the one run the other.
Plasma Globes, make an "eye of the storm" using a tiny
Tesla coil and a plastic bag of Argon gas.
Actually SEE invisible electrostatic fields and magnetic fields by
harnessing the amazing powers of Baby Oil.
, a generator with no coils
Spin some copper pipe-caps in mercury pools. Create huge electric
Plasma Globe with no vacuum
pump The Radio Shack "Eye of the Storm" device would be REALLY
impressive if it didn't need that glass globe...
by Mark Rehorst. No magnets, no magnetism, this speaker uses voltage-force.
Almost like wiggling the air itself.
Instructions for having fun with 500,000 volts, including
finding a cheap one,
plans sources, FAQ,
Lifts a bar magnet from below. Use this to perpetrate a Room Temperature
Your own picoammeter.
If you already have a digital voltmeter, use it in heretical fashion:
as a nano-amp meter, even measure picoamps.
Ball Lightning plasma in your microwave oven
Demonstrate the 'Maser Theory' of Ball Lightning formation
sensitive charge detector
Build this simple circuit and detect miniscule levels of electric
charge at large distances. Befuddle onlookers with the the "mysterious
voice commands" trick by holding it and scuffing your shoes on a rug.
The Duluc Drypile
A "battery" with so many cells that Electrostatic effects appear.
with a big capacitor bank
Nobody died from simply reading this. But stay away from actually
performing any of these demos.
Use a battery to draw red lines on wet yellow paper
High Powered Ultrasound
Shatters water into a fine mist. Collect some in a bowl. Probe it with
high voltage, see what happens.
GENERATOR, Kelvin's Thunderstorm"
An electrostatic generator based
on dribbling water. Also see the INLINE VERSION
made from plastic pop bottles.
Who says "static electricity" must remain static, or that it's useless and
GENERATOR, a simple one
A simple device which can be used to power the pop-bottle motor.
electrostatic device construction
Building 500,000 volt devices in your basement? Avoid these pitfalls.
Egor! Activate the Dehumidifier Array!
Build this and SEE electrostatic fields!
Build this moving-LEDs device which makes the flowing charges visible in
wires. Wouldn't "electricity" be easier to understand if you could SEE it
Incredibly easy way to
make a 100-amp cable.
Around the world, the physics teachers look at this and say
of electrostatic wind
Play with these strange "threads" of high-speed, high-voltage air.
device makes e-fields visible
Idea for dangerous whirling mechanisms which reveal invisible field
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOKS
Books, but also one website. Paul F's circuit simulator does what I've
always dreamed about: uses the "charge flow" concept to animate a complex
circuit without needing any
hardware. The slow
charges move along, and the wires' surface charge appears as changing
red and green!
Paul Falstad's Java circuit simulator
Since the 1980s, K12 textbook offerings have been improving. When I
first started these articles in 1986 I could find no text that wasn't
choked with mistakes and misleading concepts. But during the time I
lectured on the problem to teachers in MA, the late Dr. Mel
Steinberg at Smith College (also in MA) was working on a solution: Genecon
generators and supercapacitors. His C.A.S.T.L.E. highschool curriculum,
Capacitor-aided System for Teaching and Learning Electricity, is designed
to directly attack typical student misconceptions in electricity.
(also kit of parts)
For student guide zipfile, see Pasco FTP site
Electricity and Magnetism
( also teacher's ed)
Camille L. Wainwright
Prentice-Hall Science Explorer
Electrical Energy and Circuit Design
Science and Technology Concepts for Middle Schools
STC/MS Project, Smithsonian / The National Academies
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