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You simply flip a switch and - WHAM - lights go on or off. Isn’t it amazing? Click a button on a remote control and instantly the TV is up and running! For the most part, we never even think of the process that is going on behind the scenes to make this happen. Of course, we are talking about electricity.
What exactly is electricity? Electricity is the interaction that takes place between electrical charges. It is a form of energy that builds up and can flow from one point to another point.
Electrical charges are the movement of electrons that is brought about by the process of having an unequal amount of protons and electrons interacting with each other.
How was electricity discovered? We’ve all heard the story about Benjamin Franklin tying a key to a kite string during a thunderstorm. That happened back in 1752. However, electricity or the effects of electrical charges was known for centuries before then. Then, in 1600 an English scientist by the name of William Gilbert, while studying the static that occurred when rubbing amber, named this static electricus which is Latin for “of amber” or “like amber.” The English then changed or converted the word electricus to “electric” and “electricity” in 1646.
Further studies showed that electricity comes from certain kinds of subatomic particles (particles that are smaller than atoms). The electric charges generated by these subatomic particles interact with electromagnetic forces. An electromagnetic force is one of the four fundamental forces found in nature. In other words, electricity was not invented by humans. Humans have merely learned how to harness it.
Protons and electrons are the transporters of electrical forces. Electrons give a negative charge while protons give a positive charge. Both are needed for an electric current to occur.
The study of electricity falls under the field of Physics and is a physical science. There are a lot of vocabulary words that are associated with electricity that, as you become familiar with them, will help you to start to understand the basics of electricity itself. Below is a very short list of electrical terms to help you get started in understanding this amazing phenomenon.
Vocabulary words found in the study of electricity
Static Electricity – This is the build up of charges on an object. When two objects are rubbed together, electrons are released. Examples include hair frizzing and clothes clinging.
Static Discharge – As electric charges transfer from one object to another, you get static discharge. An example of static discharge is lightning.
Voltage – This is the amount of force it takes to push an electrical current.
Electric Circuit – This refers to the entire pathway from beginning source to final destination through which electric charges flow.
Electric Current – This is the continuous flow of electrical charges that pass through a material.
Direct Current – This is when the electrical charge will only flow in one direction. It is also known as DC current. Examples would be batteries and motors.
Alternating Current – This is when the electrical charge will flow in both directions. It is also known as AC current.
Series Circuit – This refers to a single source or pathway through with an electric current can flow. If the pathway is blocked or broken, the electrical charge cannot reach its source.
Parallel Circuit – This refers to a circuit that has multiple pathways through which an electric current can flow. If one pathway is blocked or broken, the charge quickly takes another pathway to the final destination.
Conductors – These are any materials where electrical charges can easily flow through. Examples of conductors include water and certain metals.
Amp – this is the unit for the rate of a current.
Now that you’ve had this little overview on electricity, look at the following ten quiz questions and see how many of them you can answer correctly.