Thursday, March 12, 2009

Electricity 101-b: Opposites attract; magnetism is your friend!

In our first lesson, we learned that some electrons can be caused to move from one atom to another, and that this "flow of electrons" was known as electricity. Yes, indeed.

Actually, we can be a bit more specific: electricity is a form of energy which results from the very existence of "charged particles". When we say "charged particles" we mean what, little Lidian? Do you remember? YES! Protons and Electrons! Good! And you weren't even here!

And opposites attract, right? The little boy in the very back - no, Canucklehead, not you. You would not know the answer to this. Descartes? Yes. Descartes. What's that? Call you "Rene"? I think not. You are a little boy, not a little girl. Tell us what are attracted to each other, D. I will call you "D" because Descartes is too long to type each time.

D: "Protons and electrons are attracted to one another because they have opposite charges!" Oh, my! Have an Oreo, little D! And YOU weren't in class last time either! Amazing!

Electricity can be either STATIC or DYNAMIC. Yes. Yes. Don't shake your head Little Debbie. Static electricity is an accumulation of a charge, and dynamic electricity is that which you cause by inducing a current. Don't worry - all will become plain, little Alison. What? No, I haven't seen your church, Alison.

Angelika! No more warnings, young lady! Pay attention! Put your Hugh Laurie dolls away, please.

An example of STATIC electricity might be that which comes from a battery. Or lightning. Or... hmmmm. Come up here little Canucklehead. Take off your shoes. Good. Now walk over to the door, shuffling your feet on the carpet. Good. Good. Good boy, little Canuck. Now, slowly point your finger at the metal door knob. Gently now... good boy! Don't cry little Canuck. It is only a demonstration of static electricity. What's that? "POP"? Yes, little Canuck, big "pop." Thank you. Sit down now. Stop sniffling little Canuck.

Can anyone tell us why there was that little spark at the tip of Canuck's finger? Anyone? No? Little A.? Little A., don't try to hunch down and hide. We know you are sitting there. Anyone else? Sheila? "Because little Canuck had shuffled off some electrons and needs to receive more"? Why, that's very good indeed, Sheila! The door knob KNEW little Canuck needed some more electrons, so the extra ones just JUMPED right into the tip of Canuck's finger. More surprising than painful. Little Canuck? Nod your head, please. Yes. Say, "More surprising than painful."

"Static electricity is simply the transfer of electrons from one material to another." Write that down, please.

"Static electricity is the imbalance of electron charges." Write that down too. Janet? Write that down, please. You can just remember it? No, little Janet. Write it down. Yes, please.

Please come up front, Canucklehead. Bring the balloon we blew up earlier. Yes. The pink one. It doesn't matter little Canuck. The yellow one. Whichever. Because I thought you might break one. Just choose one. Hurry. Don't shuffle your feet, little Canuck. Just walk.

Now I need one more volunteer. No Canuck. You are already a volunteer. Besides, we need someone with hair. Little A.? Will you help us? Thank you. Just come up front, please.

Yes, Canuck. She does have hair. Lots of nice curly hair. Of course I am not going to hurt her. Why would you say that?

Watch this very closely, class. Lidian? Please? Don't be passing notes, little Lidian. Just watch. Thank you. Canucklehead, go stand over there by the wall. You too, little A.

Rub the balloon on little A.'s hair, Canuck. GENTLY! More, please. Now hold the balloon against the wall. Let go. Let go. Yes, let go. Let go of it, Canuck!

Class, what is the balloon doing now?

Janet? Yes! It IS staying stuck to the wall! Good girl! Now who can tell us WHY the balloon is staying stuck to the wall?

Angelika: ::yawning:: "Opposites attract." ::yawns again::

Yes! Opposites attract! Two whole words! Good, little Angelika!

The balloon has a more negative charge because it picked up electrons from little A.'s hair. What? Yes, little A. "Curly" hair. Thank you. And the wall has a more positive charge than the balloon. Opposites attract. Good! Sit down, children.

What else is static electricity? Lightning is static electricity. Don't point your finger at lightning, little Canuck. Lighting moves from cloud to cloud or from cloud to the ground, but who's checking it that closely? NOBODY! Besides, it is too fast to see that. Too fast - right, little Canuck? ::Playfully flicks his fingers out and snaps little Canuck's ear::

How about the other kind of electricity - the kind you make yourself? "Dynamic" electricity. Who can guess, before we start? Anyone? Little Sage?

Little Sage: "You can make your own electricity by repeatedly cutting an electromagnetic field with an armature."

Wow! And little Sage wasn't here last time either! But little Sage is British, so that explains it. Hmmmm. But little A. is British, too. A conundrum. Can you say "conundrum", Ettarose? No, sweetheart, not quite. But close. Don't hunker down, little A. Please. Yes, little Canucklehead? You had your hand up? No, no beer at your age, young man. Well, what then? Ah. Little Sage is a biker. I see. Yes. That would explain it, wouldn't it?

Now, if you would please just step up here for a moment, little Canuck. Little Canuck? Don't back away, little Canuck. You can trust your teacher.

Next time: Electricity is stored in one-gallon-sized plastic-lined buckets that are located behind each light switch and wall receptacle in your home. True or false? And little Sage cuts that electromagnetic field like a chocolate cake. Also: Little Canuck demonstrates the proper way to use a neon current tester. 



  1. My Oreo! You BIT my Oreo! Now I have to go and find another, and some milk......

  2. I might have known what a conundrum was. I would have known that before I knew the other things. I am too old to go back to school. Great story. I really like the way you do these. I want another so keep doing these.

  3. I know about static electricity, don't think I don't. I also know that I never cut anything with my armature. It's just not strong enough. If I want electricity, I turn on the switch, but that costs money. So if I practice with strengthening my armatures, and of course find a field of electricity, I can make my own? For free?

  4. Commenting probably counts as passing a note. But I'll risk being sent to the office just the same. That was a very good lesson. I like electricity and magnetism a lot because it is interesting (you now know my standard default book report in 1st grade 1: I liked [book title] because it was interesting).

    There isn't any homework though, is there? because my hand is tired from writing all those notes.

  5. "I like electricity and magnetism a lot because they are interesting" - they are, not it is. Oh dear. Now I really WILL be sent to the office! :)

  6. Static electricity is fun. I tend to be full of the spark. Especially when I go to my mother in laws house, for some reason, I cannot grab a door handle without shocking my hand! It's fun. :)

  7. Ah, the old Van de Graaf accelerator. Fun stuff.

    (Again, out of respect, not commenting on lesson.)

  8. So no9w I understand you name, you are really The Maxwell that created these equations!

    "Bang, bang, Maxwell's four equations
    I shove into my head
    Bang, bang, Maxwell's four equations
    My social life is dead"

  9. @A. - I have your cookies, little girl. Candy too. Stop by after class. :)

    @Ettarose. You better not be to old to go back to school. They still keep the 18-year-old boys there. So young. So innocent. And it sure beats meeting the fleet when they come back from sea. I know, I know - you want both. It's a conundrum. Thank you for the compliment, though. :)

  10. @Sheila - Yes, you can make free electricity. But you'll have to keep cranking your armature. :)

    @Lidian - I liked your comment. It was very interesting. Oh! Two comments! THEY were interesting! :)

    @Chica - (Must I? CH!CA) Sigh. Yes, you are shocking. Electrifying. Jolting. Magnetizing. Fully turned on. Caught in the current. As usual. :)

    @Debbie -

    Bang, bang, Maxwell's silver hammer
    Came down upon her head
    Bang, bang, Maxwell's silver hammer
    Made sure that she was dead

    Don't fear. :)

  11. @Stephanie B - You respect me? Har! Go ahead and make your snide comments. I can take it! I grew up with sisters. You can't hurt me. :)

    Or at least a generator. It is only an illustration; I would never drag one of those into class. Even a virtual class. But I would drag a virtual photo of one showing it at work on a virtual child into my virtual class. Why not? All things are relative. Virtually. :)

  12. Oh! I'm sorry, were we suppose to read the whole post? I got side tracked when I saw the picture of Hugh Laurie. Let me go try again.

  13. I don't get it, give the lesson again...

  14. Sorry I missed the class I am looking forward to the magnetic one as I find that very interesting

  15. My physics professor in college, had a traveling show he'd take to high schools and the like that included the Van de Graaf accelerator, a rocket bike, the ubiquitous gyro in a suitcase, sticking fingers in molten lead, blowing up hydrogen balloons, freezing of various items in liquid nitrogen and, of course, having someone smash cinderblocks on his chest while he laid on a bed of nails. All done in a multicolored wig.

    You can see I'm hard to impress. Now, if you had some silly putty (as, of course, he did)...

  16. I would have preferred a different picture of Hugh Laurie to look at during that interesting lesson about static electricity...

  17. @Sue - What's with all you female peeps and Hugh Laurie? Write me an essay on what you would do with him if you had him.

    @Alison - Sure. Just walk over to the wall. Shuffle your feet... :)

    @Frostygirl - We noticed you were missing. Be sure to bring a note from home with your excuse. :) Yes, magnetic forces are ever so cool. And we may also learn the various ways to boil water. So don't miss it. :)

    @Stephanie B - In high school I once attended an assembly/lecture put on by a guy like that. Maybe it WAS the same guy. It was in Michigan, so probably not. Well, I don't know where the heck you went to school, so maybe so. Anyway, I thought it was interesting.

    At first I noticed I had typed your name "Staph" instead of "Steph". Probably that is not as funny to you as it was to me. Just sayin'.

  18. @Angelika - I would be happy to post a different picture of Hugh Laurie but SOMEONE (who shall remain nameless) is hoarding them all. :)

  19. I find it scary that you know what I was like in school. I never needed to write anything down then. These days, if I have more than 2 things to get at the store, I have to write it down.

    DeBoy's hair does that van de Graff thing when he goes down slides. His hair is pretty long, so it's pretty spectacular.

    More lessons please. I never had so much fun in school before.

  20. That is just so funny.. you have such a witty sense of humour.. just trust me don't go into teaching they will only beat it out of you.

  21. @Janet - But DeBoy's hair is no longer long. :(

    W(rite that down.)

    @Sage - I wish. I am still laughing over your joke about the zookeeper and the gorilla. You are not quite the prim and prissy English gentlelady I had pictured you as. Hmmmm.

    No, not teaching. I am an explainer. Close, but not quite. I would be the one who writes the texts and stays away from the actual classroom battlefield. Besides, I have always liked money. :)



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