What Is Electricity?
Posted by Bal Vallah on May 27, 1998 at 05:34:03:

(Reproduced without permission from Dave Barry's humor Archive)

Here is a dissertation on physical science for your enlightenment. I don't know where it came
from so it must be true!

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 one that electricity can be a very powerful force, but we must never use it to hurt
others unless we need to learn an important lesson about electricity.

It also illustrates 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 carpet
so that they will attract dirt. The electrons travel through your bloodstream and collect in
your finger, where they form a spark that leaps to your friend's filling, then travel 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 also damaged Franklin's
brain so severely that he started speaking only in incomprehensible maxims, such as, "A penny
saved is a penny earned." Eventually he 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, etc. These pioneers
conducted many important electrical experiments. Among them, 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 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 frog that has been seriously injured or
killed, implant pieces of metal in its muscles, and watch it hop back into the pond -- almost.

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 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 record was invented. But Edison's greatest
achievement 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 was 1937.

Today, thanks to men like Edison and Franklin, and frogs like Galvani's, we receive almost
unlimited benefits from electricity. For example, in the past decade scientists have developed
the laser, an electronic appliance so powerful that it can vaporize a bulldozer 2000 yards away,
yet so precise that doctors can use it to perform delicate operations to the human eyeball,
provided they remember to change the power setting from "Bulldozer" to "Eyeball."

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