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Understanding Electricity, and the power of imagination.

Updated on May 31, 2011
A powerful idea.
A powerful idea.

I can think of no better introduction to this topic then a quote from a man whom I admire, that speaks passionately about the great irony and tragedy that I think plagues all of our hearts and minds.
“We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it, or rather we are educated out of it“ - Sir Ken Robinson.
Electricity is perhaps the most profound topic in all of science, it fuelled the interest of many, if not all of the remarkable scientist that lived near our time. It is something subtle, and beautiful. It causes some of the most bizarre phenomenon’s in nature, and understanding it can change your view of the world forever.

I will try my best to cover the background knowledge that is necessary to grapple with the concept of electricity, but I will need your help. You see physics is not easy, it makes use of , no it strains the use of imagination. In due course I will need you to take leaps away from common sense, * because that is imaginations worst enemy. Lastly if there is anything that you are still left in question about, I will need you to ask it in the comments bellow.

Finally, we are ready to get started! Before we go, here’s a quick plan of how we will tackle the feat. We will try first to describe what is electricity. We will then cover the important topic of “the atom”, after which we will cover the topic of “charge”, followed by the topic of "electric current". Finally we will finish with the terribly important topic of “electromagnetism?”. Without final a-due, lets begin!

* - Common-sense, composed from our exhaustive experience of the nitty-gritty “real world”, is only a barrier in the pursuit of physics, which is to understand the universe

The high drama of electricity.
The high drama of electricity.

What do you mean - What is it?

Electricity happens to be one of the most profound, and deepest forces in nature. We are all familiar with it's more powerful phenomenon, oh you know the use of organised lightning. It powers our factories, our homes, and our hospitals. However, conventional electrical generation is actually very simple. The basic concept behind almost all of our modern day power is actually, quite simple. Just about all of our electrical power is generated by rotating turbines, which make use of the phenomenon of electromagnetism as described later in this article. However electricity is more than just the powerhouse of our livelihood. Wether playful or violent it is the dance, of the stuff of matter. It is governed by one of the fundamental force of nature "the electromagnetic force". Most importantly, It's laws are the same, no matter where you find yourself in all of the universe.

The atom
The atom

The atom

It is possible, and until only recently, perfectly scientifically justifiable, to believe that all of matter is a soup of atoms. Which should raise the obvious question, what are atoms? Or perhaps more importantly, what are atoms made of, or what glues atoms together to make objects? Those are questions for another time, for now it is just to say that the atom consists of a nuclease which contains neutrons and protons. This nuclease is orbited by particles called electrons. Off course these atoms are composed of mostly nothing…, their mostly empty space. The nucleus, is 10,000 time smaller than the atom, and the nuclease is what composes nearly all of the mass of an atom! The nuclease has protons and neutrons, which have a positive and neutral charge respectively. The electrons have an negative charge.

The powerful effect of moving charges!
The powerful effect of moving charges!


We are matter. Everything that you touch, smell, or taste is made of matter. This matter is a very strange thing, in-fact there are many branches of physics dedicated to understanding it in more profound ways. For this article it's important to understand that all matter is made of atoms (described above), as you know these atoms consist of many interesting sub-particles. Among them is a particle called the electron, this particle, is the prime mover of the electricity that you are familiar with. You see electrons repel against each other, but they attract another atomic particle called the proton. We can help communicate about these charges by saying that protons have a "positive charge" equivalent to say +1, and electrons have a "negative charge" equivalent to -1. Electric charge of an object is the sum of the electric charges of the particles that make it up. In most objects these forces generally cancel each other out. When the do, the object is considered to have a "neutral charge". For example you and me rarely produce an electric charge, (except on exceptionally humid days), and therefor we are considered to be "neutral". When this balance is changed however, there is either going to be a "positive" or "negative" charge.

a beautiful example of non electric current.
a beautiful example of non electric current.

Electric Current

Electric current is the flow of electric charge, more specifically it is the rate of the flow of electric charge through a medium. This flow of charge is usually caused due to the movement of electrons (the particles with a negative charge), through a conductor such as copper wire. A useful way of measuring electric current is the unit of ampere. which is the charge flowing through at the rate of one *Coulomb per second. A good analogy for electric current is the flow of water, or water current in a mill. Just as with the mill, large amount of electric current does not necessarily mean the flow of allot of electrons, nore does it necessitate allot of Ò-power.

*- one Coulomb is exactly the charge of  6.24151 × 1018   or 6241510000000000000 electrons

Ò - power is actualy the product of current and resistance, resistence being the quality of matter to restrict the propagation of charge!

The maglev

A popular electromagnetic system.
A popular electromagnetic system.
an electric generator, making use of the electromagnetic force!
an electric generator, making use of the electromagnetic force!


You may of herd of the term "electromagnet" or "super magnet". Well both of these are one in the same and the basic idea behind them is actually extremely simple. When you run electric current ( the propagation of charge), through something you create a Ò magnetic field. This phenomenon is exploited in all sorts of technologies, including: motors, solenoids, hard disks, super magnets and allot more!

The generator
Remarkably, the phenomenon also functions the other way around, that is, it's possible to generate an electric current if you alternate magnetic fields.This is the fundamental phenomenon that powers our generates, though it really is quite simple! An electric generator forces electrons (with a negative charge) gathered in the compact windingings (usualy of copper wire) to flow through an external circuit, where it can be used or stored.

Ò - For the purpose of this article it is sufficient to say that the magnetic field is the direct effect of the electric charge running through an object. Actually it is due to one of with the *four fundamental force of nature, the electromagnetic force.

* -  The four forces of nature are: "the electromagnetic force, the weak force, the strong force, and the force of gravitation.

What is electricity? - a summary

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A profound idea.An alluding, yet awe-inspiring consept.governed by the very small.Within us all. It is... powerful. It defines what it means to live in our society, and our epoch.
A profound idea.
A profound idea.
An alluding, yet awe-inspiring consept.
An alluding, yet awe-inspiring consept.
governed by the very small.
governed by the very small.
Within us all.
Within us all.
 It is... powerful.
It is... powerful.
It defines what it means to live in our society, and our epoch.
It defines what it means to live in our society, and our epoch.

What is your favourite electric quote?

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      8 years ago

      i loved this hub, it reminded me of being in science class! voted it awesome!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Electrifying stuff, enjoyed the read. I like this quote:“I shall make electricity so cheap that only the rich can afford to burn candles” by T.A.Edison


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