December 20, 2009

Electricity Theme Day

On this day in 1879, Thomas Edison privately demonstrated his incandescent light bulb at his Menlo Park research lab.

Remember, Edison didn't invent or even discover electricity (known from ancient
times), and he didn't invent the first light bulb (Sir Humphrey Davy made an arc lamp in 1809, and Frederick de Moleyns got the first patent for an incandescent bulb in 1841). What Edison did was to make the first commercially practical light bulb and an entire system of electric lighting. Edison said on the last day of 1879, "We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles."

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On this day in 1880, Broadway in Manhattan, NYC, became one of the fi
rst streets in the U.S. lit by electricity. A mile of the street was lit by carbon-based Brush arc lamps, which provided much brighter light than the incandescent light bulbs of the time. Since then, that section of Broadway, which features the Theatre District and Times Square, has become known as “The Great White Way” because it is lit by millions of lights on marquees and billboards.

On this day in 1901, Robert J. Van de Graaf was born. This American physicist invented a high-voltage electrostatic generator, which looks like a large silver ball mounted on a pedestal. It makes your hair stand on end, but more importantly, it can be used as a particle accelerator in physics research.

On this day in 1938, Russian-American inventor Vladimir Zworykin (sometimes called the “true father of television,” although most give Philo Farnsworth that honor) was finally granted a patent for his iconoscope, an early television camera. (This camera had already been used for the historic TV transmission of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.)

On this day in 1951, the first electricity ever generated by nuclear energy was created near Arco, Idaho. (The Experimental Breeder Reactor in Idaho produced enough energy to light four 200-watt light bulbs that day.)

By 1952, the Paley Commission was already somewhat pessimistic about nuclear power and called for “aggressive research in the whole field of solar energy.” And by 1955, the Arco Reactor was the first reactor in the U.S. to experience partial meltdown.

Have fun with this model of the electric force
Virtually speaking, create electrons and see if you can keep them from getting sucked into the positive-charged proton.

Do some electricity experiments!
Try the ideas here. Or here is a fun website.
These experiments are so easy, they're considered “snack size.”

Build electric circuits with information found here.

Learn more.
Here is an interactive course about electricity.
And here is an interactive diagram that shows the difference between AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current).

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