Contents of the ELECT.TXT file
Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity?
And where does it go after it leaves the toaster?
Here is a simple experiment that will teach you an important electrical lesson: On a cool, dry day,
scuff your feet along a carpet, then reach your hand into a friend's mouth and touch one of his dental
fillings. Did you notice how your friend twitched violently and cried out in pain? This teaches us
that electricity can be a very powerful force, but 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 small objects that carpet manufacturers weave into carpets so
they will attract dirt. The electrons travel through your blood stream and collect in your finger,
where they form a spark that leaps to your 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 without touching anything, you would
build up so many electrons that your finger would explode! But this is nothing to worry about unless
you have carpeting.
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 place to plug them in. Then along came the first Electrical Pioneer, Benjamin Franklin, who flew a
kite in a lightning storm and received a serious electrical shock. This proved that lightning was
powered by the same force as carpets, but it so damaged Franklin's brain that he eventually had to be
given a job running the Post Office.
After Franklin came a herd of Electrical Pioneers whose names have become part of our electrical
terminology: Myron Volt, Mary Louise Amp, James Watt, Bob Transformer, and so on. These pioneers
conducted many important electrical experiments. For example, in 1780, Luigi Galvani discovered (this
is the truth) that when he attached two different kinds of metal to the leg of a frog, an electrical
current developed and the frog's leg kicked, even though is was no longer attached to the frog, which
was dead anyway. Galvani's discovery led to enourmous advances in the field of amphibian medicine.
Today, skilled veterinary surgeons can take a frog that has been seriously injured or killed, implant
pieces of metal in 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.
But the greatest Electrical Pioneer of them all was Thomas Edison, who was a brilliant inventor
despite the fact that he had little formal education and lived in New Jersey. Edison's greatest
acheivement came 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 immediately 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 a customer the same batch of electricity thousands
of times a day and never get caught, since very 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 it ever since, which is why they have
so much free time to apply for rate increases. Many of them, however are beginning to experience
wear problems with their carpeting.
Today, thanks to men like Edison and Franklin, and frogs like Galvani's, we receive unlimited
benefits from electricity. For example, in the past decade, scientists developed the laser, and
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 that they
remember to change the power setting from "Vaporize Bulldozer" to "Delicate".
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