Top 13 Electrical Facts

There are a lot of things about electricity that most people don’t know. Despite the fact that we use it in nearly every part of our modern lives, electricity is kind of a mystery for many people. Now, I wont be able to give you the complicated physics courses necessary to start to understand exactly what electrical power is, but I can give you some interesting facts about the way this power works, and some of it’s history. Whether it is for a school project or just for your own curiosity, I hope you enjoy this short list I put together.

  1. Electricity is fast, but does not usually travel at the speed of light. People will often repeat that electricity travels at the speed of light, a blistering 300,000,000 meters per second. However, this is simply the speed at which electromagnetic energy waves can propagate in a vacuum. This is true for all electromagnetic waves. However, the speed that electricity propagates through a medium such as wiring will be noticeably slower. If you want to measure the speed of the electromagnetic wave, it will depend on the medium through which it is propagating but will always be slower than the speed of light. Finally, if you want to measure the speed of the electrons moving through the wire, it will be even slower than that, potentially fractions of an inch per second.
  2. The two main modes of transferring electrical energy are AC and DC
  3. AC and DC stand for alternating current, and direct current. Essentially, DC means that electrons are flowing through the wire in a complete circuit, eventually traversing its entire length. This is analogous to water flowing through a hose. DC refers to when electrical current is rapidly changing direction, using the energy of oscillation to perform work.
  4. During the early years of commercial electrical power, there was huge contention about which type of power to use in the U.S. This contention was later referred to as the “current wars”, which featured Thomas Edison promoting DC, and squaring off against other industry titans. Eventually, most electrical systems adopted AC as the standard for power distribution.
  5. Electrical communication may be older than you think. The telegraph, which is a method of communication using electrical signals transmitted over distance, was invented in the 1840s.
  6. Morse code is named after Samuel Morse, one of the inventors of the aforementioned system. Because electrical pulses could not be used at the time to recreate speech, they used short and long pulses to send coded messages.
  7. The Fax Machine was invented around the same time. Most people don’t think of fax machines and long distance communication when they think of 1850s America.
  8. Electricity will always take the path of least resistance when it is travelling. This is why lightning rods work. When lightning, which is composed of electrical discharge strikes a structure, the lightning rod (which is made of a very conductive metal) will direct the electrical energy to a ground. Because the electrical energy is flowing safely through the rod, the incredible amounts of energy contained within a lightning strike will not be able to damage the building. This has become more and more important as we have built buildings taller and taller.
  9. The first Lightning Rod is credited to Benjamin Franklin, although there is some evidence that structures constructed previously had similar attachments which could have been designed to serve that purpose.
  10. The average person uses an average of over half a million kilowatt hours of electricity over their lifetime. However, with current trends, this could drastically increase over the next few decades. As energy gets cheaper and technological advances increase, we could see huge amounts of electricity used by every person in the states. However, it is also possible that technological advances could give us technology which is more energy efficient, decreasing our electrical footprints.
  11. While most people think about devices like computers and light bulbs when they think of electrical power, they may not realize that a huge amount of our power goes to other things. For example, massive amounts of electricity are used for things like farming and food production. Similarly, the largest electrical power hogs in a home are typically things such as the HVAC system and refrigerators.
  12. Electrical demand could go up in the future as electrical vehicles become more popular. This could allow the centralization of power creation, and lead to increases in efficiency over the grid. It could also mean more electrical power will be available easily, and in more places.
  13. Electrical power is great, but it is not easy to store. Commonly, electrical power will be converted into a different type of energy, such as chemical energy in a battery, or as gravitational potential energy in a high altitude lake for storage.
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