How electricity REALLY works

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Author: Jenny Roehm

If electricity is a mystery to you, this is the explanation you have been looking for. My dad has been studying this matter for years now. He has no formal education in electrical engineering, but in the fine tradition of natural science and philosophers of old, he has spent many hours observing nature and here is his explanation of electricity.

Electricity comes from lightning. Ben Franklin’s first experiment with electricity was flying a kite in a lightning storm. Even he knew that is where electricity comes from. In the summer, the water in lakes and rivers around the earth evaporates and becomes clouds. Those clouds build up and create big rolling thunderstorms with lots of thunder and lightning. If you have spent any time in Montana during the summer, you know what I’m talking about. Most of the lightning goes from the clouds into the earth, but not all of it. Sometimes it goes from cloud to cloud, where it is called ‘sheet lightning.’ Lightning that doesn’t go into the ground gets trapped in raindrops. When rain falls to the earth, it brings trapped lightning or electricity down with it. The rain gathers in rivulets and eventually forms creeks and streams up in the mountains. Those streams come together and form rivers as the water heads towards the ocean.

Scientists discovered, probably the same way my dad did, lightning was trapped in the rain. They built big dams to catch the lightning filled raindrops. The captured water is then run through giant machines called turbines to spin the electricity out of it; kind of like a salad spinner. This electricity is collected and forced into wires, which are actually hoses that the electricity runs through. This is how electricity is delivered to your house.

Behind many houses, large gray canisters, or transformers, are mounted on the electric poles to control the pressure of the electricity in the house. The more the pressure, or the faster it moves through the hose, the higher the voltage. This is how electricity can come in 110 or 220 volts.

(For you history buffs, according to my dad, ‘volts’ is actually a misnomer. Originally the measurement for electricity was in ‘jolts per minute.’ Somewhere along the line someone had horrible handwriting and the word jolts was corrupted into volts. No one ever took the time to go back and find the mistake, except him.)

Like a faucet controls the flow of water, a light switch or a switch on an appliance opens and closes the hose, or electric cord, turning on lights and machines. And like a leaky faucet, switches can let a little bit of the electricity out. Outlets are especially bad; electricity leaks out when nothing is plugged in. The electricity leaks out and pools on the floor, but you can’t see it because it is electricity. When you walk through it, some will stick to your shoes and pants; and when you touch someone or something metal you get shocked. According to my dad, that is why they invented outlet covers. These handy plastic plugs are sold now as child proofing devices to stop children from getting shocked if they try putting bobby pins or forks into open outlets. They were really made to plug leaky outlets and keep the electricity inside.

My dad is truly an amazing individual!! So there you have it, the real story of electricity.

Happy April Fools!

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