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Assignment in Physics:

Who Discovered Electricity ? From the writings of Thales of Miletus it appears

that Westerners knew as long ago as 600 B.C. that amber becomes charged by
rubbing. But other than that, there was little real progress until the English scientist
William Gilbert in 1600 described the electrification of many substances and coined
the term "electricity" from the Greek word for amber.
As a result, Gilbert is called the father of modern electric power. In 1660, Otto von
Guericke invented a crude machine for producing static electricity. It was a ball of
sulfur, rotated by a crank with one hand and rubbed with the other. Successors,
such as Francis Hauksbee, made improvements that provided experimenters with a
ready source of static electricity. Today's highly developed descendant of these
early machines is the Van de Graaf generator, which is sometimes used as a particle
accelerator. Robert Boyle realized that attraction and repulsion were mutual and
that electric force was transmitted through a vacuum. Stephen Gray distinguished
between conductors and nonconductors. C. F. Du Fay recognized two kinds of power,
which Benjamin Franklin and Ebenezer Kinnersley of Philadelphia later named
positive and negative.
Progress quickened after the Leyden jar was invented in 1745 by Pieter van
Musschenbroek. The Leyden jar stored static electricity, which could be discharged
all at once. In 1747 William Watson discharged a Leyden jar through a circuit, and
comprehension of the current and circuit started a new field of experimentation.
Henry Cavendish, by measuring the conductivity of materials (he compared the
simultaneous shocks he received by discharging Leyden jars through the materials),
and Charles A. Coulomb, by expressing mathematically the attraction of electrified
bodies, began the quantitative study of electric power.
Depite what you have learned, Benjamin Franklin did not "discover" electric power.
In fact, electric power did not begin when Benjamin Franklin at when he flew his kite
during a thunderstorm or when light bulbs were installed in houses all around the
The truth is that electric power has always been around because it naturally exists
in the world. Lightning, for instance, is simply a flow of electrons between the
ground and the clouds. When you touch something and get a shock, that is really
static electricity moving toward you.
Power Personalities

Benjamin Franklin
Ben Franklin was an American writer, publisher, scientist and diplomat, who helped
to draw up the famous Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. In
1752 Franklin proved that lightning and the spark from amber were one and the
same thing. The story of this famous milestone is a familiar one, in which Franklin
fastened an iron spike to a silken kite, which he flew during a thunderstorm, while
holding the end of the kite string by an iron key. When lightening flashed, a tiny
spark jumped from the key to his wrist. The experiment proved
Franklin's theory.

Galvani and Volta

In 1786, Luigi Galvani, an Italian professor of medicine, found
that when the leg of a dead frog was touched by a metal knife, the leg twitched
violently. Galvani thought that the muscles of the frog must contain electric signals.
By 1792 another Italian scientist, Alessandro Volta, disagreed: he realised that the
main factors in Galvani's discovery were the two different metals - the steel knife
and the tin plate - apon which the frog was lying. Volta showed that when moisture
comes between two different metals, electric power is created. This led him to
invent the first electric battery, the voltaic pile, which he made from thin sheets of
copper and zinc separated by moist pasteboard.
In this way, a new kind of electric power was discovered,
electric power that flowed steadily like a current of water
instead of discharging itself in a single spark or shock. Volta
showed that electric power could be made to travel from one
place to another by wire, thereby making an important
contribution to the science of electricity. The unit of electrical
potential, the Volt, is named after Volta.

Michael Faraday
The credit for generating electric current on a practical scale goes to the famous
English scientist, Michael Faraday. Faraday was greatly interested in the invention of
the electromagnet, but his brilliant mind took earlier experiments still further. If
electricity could produce magnetism, why couldn't magnetism produce electric

In 1831, Faraday found the solution. Electricity could be

produced through magnetism by motion. He discovered that
when a magnet was moved inside a coil of copper wire, a tiny
electric current flows through the wire. Of course, by today's
standards, Faraday's electric dynamo or electric generator was
crude, and provided only a small electric current be he
discovered the first method of generating electric power by
means of motion in a magnetic field.

Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan

Nearly 40 years went by before a really practical DC (Direct Current) generator was
built by Thomas Edison in America. Edison's many inventions included the
phonograph and an improved printing telegraph. In 1878 Joseph Swan, a British
scientist, invented the incandescent filament lamp and within twelve months Edison
made a similar discovery in America.
Swan and Edison later set up a joint company to produce the
first practical filament lamp. Prior to this, electric lighting had
been my crude arc lamps.
Edison used his DC generator to provide electricity to light his
laboratory and later to illuminate the first New York street to be
lit by electric lamps, in September 1882. Edison's successes
were not without controversy, however - although he was convinced of the merits of
DC for generating electricity, other scientists in Europe and America recognised that
DC brought major disadvantages.

George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesl

Westinghouse was a famous American inventor and industrialist who purchased and
developed Nikola Tesla's patented motor for generating alternating current. The
work of Westinghouse, Tesla and others gradually persuaded American society that
the future lay with AC rather than DC (Adoption of AC generation enabled the
transmission of large blocks of electrical, power using higher voltages via
transformers, which would have been impossible otherwise). Today the unit of
measurement for magnetic fields commemorates Tesla's name.

James Watt
When Edison's generator was coupled with Watt's steam engine, large scale
electricity generation became a practical proposition. James Watt, the Scottish
inventor of the steam condensing engine, was born in 1736. His improvements to
steam engines were patented over a period of 15 years, starting in 1769 and his
name was given to the electric unit of power, the Watt.
Watt's engines used the reciprocating piston, however, today's
thermal power stations use steam turbines, following the
Rankine cycle, worked out by another famous Scottish
engineer, William J.M Rankine, in 1859.

Andre Ampere and George Ohm

Andre Marie Ampere, a French mathematician who devoted himself to the study of
electricity and magnetism, was the first to explain the electro-dynamic theory. A
permanent memorial to Ampere is the use of his name for the unit of electric
mathematician and physicist, was a college
teacher in Cologne when in 1827 he
Investigated Mathematically". His theories
were coldly received by German scientists
but his research was recognised in Britain
and he was awarded the Copley Medal in 1841. His name

has been given to the unit of electrical resistance.

The ability to repair basic house wiring in you home is a skill you can acquire.
Knowing how circuits work and what can be done with them is useful knowledge.
Wiring in a residential house is not that complicated, but it can be dangerous.
Proper understanding and cautions are required.

Balls, Arrows, Missiles and Stones

If you throw a ball (or shoot an arrow, fire a missile or
throw a stone) it will go up into the air, slowing down as it
goes, then come down again ...
... and a Quadratic Equation tells you where it will be!
Example: Throwing a Ball
A ball is thrown straight up, from 3 m above the ground,
with a velocity of 14 m/s. When does it hit the ground?

Ignoring air resistance, we can work out its height by adding up these
three things:

The height starts at 3 m:

It travels upwards at 14 meters per second (14 m/s):


Gravity pulls it down, changing its speed by about 5 m/s per

second (5 m/s2):


(Note for the enthusiastic: the -5t2 is simplified from -()at2 with
a=9.81 m/s2)
Add them up and the height h at any time t is:
h = 3 + 14t - 5t2
And the ball will hit the ground when the height is zero:
3 + 14t - 5t2 = 0
Which is a Quadratic Equation ! In "Standard Form" it looks like:
-5t2 + 14t + 3 = 0

Example: New Sports Bike

You have designed a new style of sports bicycle!
Now you want to make lots of them and sell them
for profit.

Your costs are going to be:

$700,000 for manufacturing set-up costs, advertising, etc

$110 to make each bike

Based on similar bikes, you can expect sales to

follow this "Demand Curve":
Unit Sales = 70,000 - 200P

Where "P" is the price.

For example, if you set the price:
at $0, you would just give away 70,000

at $350, you would not sell any bikes at


at $300 you might sell 70,000 - 200300

= 10,000bikes

So ... what is the best price? And how many should you make?
Let us make some equations!
How many you sell depends on price, so use "P" for Price as the variable

Unit Sales = 70,000 - 200P

Sales in Dollars = Units Price = (70,000 - 200P) P = 70,000P 200P2

Costs = 700,000 + 110 x (70,000 - 200P) = 700,000 + 7,700,000 22,000P = 8,400,000 - 22,000P

Profit = Sales-Costs = 70,000P - 200P2 - (8,400,000 - 22,000P) =

-200P2 + 92,000P - 8,400,000
Profit = -200P2 + 92,000P - 8,400,000
Example: Small Steel Frame

Your company is going to make frames as part of a

new product they are launching.
The frame will be cut out of a piece of steel, and to
keep the weight down, the final area should be 28
The inside of the frame has to be 11 cm by 6 cm
What should the width x of the metal be?

Area of steel before cutting:

Area = (11 + 2x) (6 + 2x) cm2
Area = 66 + 22x + 12x + 4x2
Area = 4x2 + 34x + 66
Area of steel after cutting out the 11 6 middle:
Area = 4x2 + 34x + 66 - 66
Area = 4x2 + 34x

Let us solve this one graphically!

Here is the graph of 4x2 + 34x :
The required area of 28 is shown as a
horizontal line.

The area equals 28 cm2 when:

x is approximately -9.3 or 0.8
The negative value of x make no
sense, so the answer is:
x = 0.8 cm (approx.)

Example: River Cruise

A 3 hour river cruise goes 15 km upstream and then back again. The river
has a current of 2 km an hour. What is the boat's speed and how long was
the upstream journey?

There are two speeds to think about: the speed the

boat makes in the water, and the speed relative to
the land:

Let x = the boat's speed in the water (km/h)

Let v = the speed relative to the land (km/h)

Because the river flows downstream at 2 km/h:

when going upstream, v = x-2 (its speed is

reduced by 2 km/h)

when going downstream, v = x+2 (its speed is

increased by 2 km/h)

We can turn those speeds into times using:

time = distance / speed
(if you travel 8 km at 4 km/h it would take 8/4 = 2
hours, right?)

And we know the total time is 3 hours:

total time = time upstream + time downstream = 3 hours
Put all that together:
total time = 15/(x-2) + 15/(x+2) = 3 hours
Now we use our algebra skills to solve for "x".
First, get rid of the fractions by multiplying through by (x-2)(x+2):

3(x-2)(x+2) = 15(x+2) + 15(x-2)

Expand everything:
3(x2-4) = 15x+30 + 15x-30
Bring everything to the left and simplify:
3x2 - 30x - 12 = 0
It is a Quadratic Equation! Let us solve it using the Quadratic Formula:

Where a, b and c are from the

Quadratic Equation in "Standard Form": ax2 + bx + c = 0
Solve 3x2 - 30x - 12 = 0
Coefficients are: a = 3, b = -30 and c = -12
x = [ -b (b2-4ac) ] / 2a

Put in a, b and c:

x = [ -(-30) ((-30)2-43(-12)) ] /

Solve: x = [ 30 (900+144) ] / 6
x = [ 30 (1044) ] / 6
x = ( 30 32.31 ) / 6
x = -0.39 or 10.39

Answer: x = -0.39 or 10.39 (to 2 decimal places)

Example: Resistors In Parallel

Two resistors are in parallel, like in this diagram:

The total resistance has been measured at 2 Ohms, and one of the
resistors is known to be 3 ohms more than the other.
What are the values of the two resistors?
The formula to work out total resistance "RT" is:




In this case, we have RT = 2 and R2 = R1 + 3





Now, let us set about solving this:


2R1(R1 + 3)
2R1(R1 + 3)
Get rid of the fractions by 2R1(R1 + 3)
all terms by 2R1(R1 + 3):
Simplify: R1(R1 + 3) = 2(R1 + 3) + 2R1
Expand to: R12 + 3R1 = 2R1 + 6 + 2R1
Bring all terms to the left: R12 + 3R1 - 2R1 - 6 - 2R1 = 0
Simplify: R12 - R1 - 6 = 0
Yes! A Quadratic Equation !
Let us solve it using our Quadratic Equation Solver.

Enter 1, -1 and -6

And you should get the answers -2 and 3

R1 cannot be negative, so R1 = 3 Ohms is the answer.

The two resistors are 3 ohms and 6 ohms.