Amber and electricity

Since ancient times, people have identified amber and magnet. It would seem, what is common between a piece of fossilized resin of prehistoric trees and a magnet that is completely different from it? Quite simply, their general ability to attract objects. The property of amber to attract small and light objects was first described by the famous Greek philosopher Thales from the city of Miletus.

Since ancient times, people have identified amber and magnet

Probably, each of us also observed how in a frosty winter in a well-heated apartment, when the air is especially dry, hairs, threads and other light debris are simply impossible to clean from clothes. But as soon as you go out into the street, the adhering particles immediately disappear by themselves.

But even before Thales' works, many peoples knew the property of rubbed amber to attract objects to itself. This follows at least from the name of amber: after all, "electron" - "amber" in Greek means "attracting to itself, enthralling". From the Greek name for amber comes the word "electricity".

The English scientist V. Hilbert fought with all his might against those who considered amber and magnet close to each other. The scientist set up many experiments, rubbing a variety of materials and testing their ability to attract. First of all, it was found that some substances have this property, others do not. Hilbert called the first of them electricians. He referred to them: amber, jet (dense and shiny coal), diamond, sapphire, carbuncle, varieties of quartz, amethyst, opal, beryl, gum, glass and several other substances, the effect of which is weaker.

At the same time, it was found that rubbed electricians attract all objects, both solid and liquid, without exception - metals, wood, stones, earth, water, and not just dry chaff and straws (as was previously thought).

In addition, it was completely unrelated to magnetism, that amber not only attracts objects, but in some cases also repels them for unknown reasons.

It turned out that there are "contradictions" not only between amber and a magnet, but also between electricians. The French botanist Charles Dufay, like the ancient scientists, noticed that some objects were attracted to the grated amber, but at the same time repelled from the grated, i.e. electrified, glass rod. The most amazing thing was that the same bodies could repel from amber and be attracted to glass! Unable to explain this phenomenon in any way, Du Fay suggested that there are two types of electricity. One of them, which occurs when rubbing amber (hardened resin), was called "resinous" by Dufay, and the other, associated with rubbing glass, was called "glassy".

And now the famous American physicist Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) presents his experience, which made it possible to solve this complicated question. The experience was as follows.

Two people, facing each other, were isolated from the floor with non-conductive wax plates. Then one of them received a charge of electricity by rubbing a glass tube, and then another person took this tube and removed the charge from it. At the same time, it turned out that both participants in the experiment were electrified by different types of electricity, although glass could only produce one of its types. When the participants touched each other, a spark ran between them, and the charge disappeared altogether.

Franklin explained this phenomenon as follows. A body containing "glass" electricity is charged with an excess of some matter (or, according to B. Franklin, a fluid), while a body containing "resinous" electricity lacks this fluid. A person, rubbing a glass tube, gave up his fluid, and the one who removed the charge received it. Therefore, when the bodies touch, the fluid flows in the form of a spark from one body to another, leveling the amount of fluid in them.

This explanation was correct in principle, only the "fluid" is now called electrons, the excess of which, by the way, turned out to be in "resinous" electricity, and the lack - in "glass". The flow of electric charge from one body to another is the transition of electrons from one body to another. When few of them cross, it is a small spark; when there are many, a formidable lightning. No wonder electricity in the old days was called thunderstorm matter.