Up to K-6 Miscon


Are "static" and "current" really two separate kinds of electricity? I say no. There is only one type of electrical energy. We usually call it Electromagnetism. It is true that electromagnetism has a wide variety of behaviors. Its behavior depends on the strengths of the electric field and magnetic field involved. But electromagnetism is a seamless whole, and the boundaries between its various parts exist only in our minds.

[various devices plotted upon a volts/amps graph]
Electric field corresponds to voltage, and magnetic field corresponds to current. Therefor, it is possible to place "static electricity" and "current electricity" upon different regions of a single map. The map is plotted in terms of voltage on one axis and current on the other. Does this tell us that there really is no such thing as "static electricity" or "current electricity"? Yes! Only electrical devices and electrical phenomena exist, and these devices and phenomena can have various ratings of voltage and current.

In view of the "electricity map", here is how we usually divide up Electricity:

Electrical happenings which involve HIGH VOLTAGE at low current.

Electrical happenings which involve HIGH CURRENT at low voltage.

Refer to the above map, and note that the left-hand side contains the things involving "current", while the right-hand side has the "static."

I believe that talk of "current" and "static" is profoundly misleading. It hides the true nature of electricity. It's like saying that there are two kinds of water, pressurized water and flowing water. Yet water is water, and water doesn't magically turn into a special kind of substance called "Current Water" whenever it starts flowing. There is no such thing is "current water," and there is no such thing as "current electricity." If something is flowing inside of wires, just say it that way. Don't pretend that a form of energy called "current electricity" exists.

If fur rubbed upon rubber causes a high voltage at nearly zero current, why not simply say so, instead of discussing a nonexisent "kind" of electricty called "Static?" In truth, "static" is a separation of negatives from positives, and if the separated charges should move along, that is a (ahem!) FLOW OF STATIC ELECTRICITY.

Other relevant pages on this site:

"Static" and "Current"

'Static' Electricity that Flows

Electricity Misconceptions


Created and maintained by Bill Beaty. Mail me at: billb@eskimo.com.
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