Picked up someplace eons ago, and just ran across the file.
ASK DAVE: WHAT IS ELECTRICITY?
by Dave Barry
Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity?
where does it go after it leaves the toaster?
Here is a simple experiment that will teach you an important
lesson: On a cool, dry day, scuff your feet along a carpet, then
your hand into a friend's mouth and touch one of his dental
Did you notice how your friend twitched violently and cried out in
pain? This teaches us that electricity can be a very powerful force,
and we must never use it to hurt others unless we need to learn an
important electrical lesson.
It also teaches us how an electrical circuit works. When you scuffed
your feet, you picked up batches of "electrons," which are very
objects that floor covering manufacturers weave into carpets so they
will attract dirt. The electrons travel through your bloodstream and
collect in your fingertip, where they form a spark that leaps to
friend's filling, then travels down to his feet and back into the
carpet, thus completing the circuit.
Amazing Electronic Fact: If you scuffed your feet long enough
touching anything, you would build up so many electrons that your
finger would explode! But this is nothing to worry about unless you
Although we modern persons tend to take our electric lights, radios,
mixers, etc. for granted, hundreds of years ago people did not have
any of these things, which is just as well because there was no
to plug them in. Then along came the first Electrical Pioneer,
Franklin, who flew a kite in a lightning storm and received a
electrical shock. This proved that lightning was powered by the
force as carpets, but it also damaged Franklin's brain so severely
he started speaking only in incomprehensible maxims, such as "A
saved is a penny earned." Eventually he had to be given a job
the post office.
After Franklin came a herd of Electrical Pioneers whose names have
become part of our electrical terminology: Myron Volt, Mary Louise
James Watt, Bob Transformer, etc. These pioneers conducted many
important electrical experiments -- One notable pioneer, Galvani,
discovered that when he attached two different kinds of metal to the
of a frog, an electrical current developed and the frog's leg kicked
even though it was no longer attached to the frog, which was dead
anyway. Galvani's discovery led to enormous advances in the field of
amphibian medicine. Today, skilled veterinary surgeons can take a
that has been seriously injured or killed, implant pieces of metal
its muscles, and watch it hop back into the pond just like a normal
frog, except for the fact that it sinks like a stone and,
begins to stink.
But the greatest Electrical Pioneer of them all was Thomas Edison,
was a brilliant inventor despite the fact that he had little formal
education and lived in New Jersey. Edison's first major invention in
1877 was the phonograph, which could soon be found in thousands of
American homes, where it basically sat until 1923, when the
phonograph record was invented. But Edison's greatest achievement
in 1879 when he invented the electric company. Edison's design was a
brilliant adaptation of the simple electrical circuit: The electric
company sends electricity through a wire to a customer, then
gets the electricity back through another wire, then (this is the
brilliant part) sends it right back to the customer again.
This means that an electric company can sell the customer the same
of electricity thousands of times a day a never get caught, since
few customers take the time to examine their electricity closely. In
fact the last year any new electricity was generated in the United
States was 1937; the electric companies have been merely re-selling
ever since, which is why they have so much free time to apply for
Today, thanks to men like Edison and Franklin, and frogs like
we receive almost unlimited benefits from electricity. For example,
the past decade scientists have developed the laser, an electronic
appliance so powerful that it can vaporize a bulldozer 2,000 yards
away, yet so precise that doctors can use it to perform delicate
operations to the human eyeball, provided they remember to change
power setting from "Vaporize Bulldozer" to "Delicate."