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Protons Electrons

How Electricity Works

Electricity is a major part of your life, so you might as well be one of the few people who understand the system of currents and charges to which we are so indebted. First of all, electricity exists in nature regardless of humanity´s ability to harness it. Lighting is the most well-known instance of naturally occurring electricity; its voltage adds the danger to its otherwise fantastic aesthetic. The powerful current of a lightning bolt carries 30,000 amps, and is so hot that it turns the air molecules it comes into contact with from gas into plasma. That material change is what makes the sound we know as thunder.

Static electricity is another form that we experience in everyday life without analyzing it or even acknowledging it. When a balloon at a party pulls your hair out of its normal style into random spikes that is static electricity. The negatively charged hairs are all repelling each other and creating space around them in the process. Same goes for the walk across your living room carpet that leaves you with a shock when you reach for the door knob. Your body has a net positive charge, but as you walk across the carpet and gather electrons via the friction of your feet, your body’s charge becomes net negative. Upon reaching out to touch the door knob, electrons jump from your negatively charged body to the neutral knob in an attempt to restore balance, and the resulting sensation is a shock.

Our own bodies use electricity to perform every single function they carry out. The reason your body even has a charge, as mentioned above, is because of the aggregate effect of the charged atoms that comprise it. Each atom is comprised of a negatively charged electron, a positively charged proton, and an eponymously neutral neutron. The fluctuation in the net charge of an atom as it attempts to make whatever adjustment is necessary to reach neutrality involves the transfer of electrons from one atom to another. The neutrons and protons are not as easily dislodged. Therefore, the human body’s mass of atoms constantly exchanging electrons is perfectly capable of conducting electricity.

Fortunately, our bodies make good use of the electrical currents running through them. The electrical impulses jumping from cell to cell are not empty of content; rather, they contain vital messages about everything from how fast your heart should be beating to what diameter your pupils should contract to and which finger you want to move to scratch your nose. Without the rapid fire tool of electricity to monitor everything, regulatory systems and empirical actions, our bodies would never be able to survive in the complex, dynamic environments we inhabit, nor operate at the level of multitasking we sustain. Luckily for us, we don’t have to fully understand the workings of the voltage that keeps us going- so long as we know the basics of not flying a kite in a lightning storm.