"Static" Electricity versus
"Current" Electricity
1997 William Beaty BSEE

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's true that electromagnetism has a wide variety of behaviors. Its behavior depends on the strengths of the electric field and magnetic field involved. Electric field corresponds to voltage, and magnetic field corresponds to current. The "map" below is intended to show us that "static electricity" and "current electricity" are really just two fields of science. But electromagnetism itself is a seamless whole, and the boundaries between its various parts exist only in our minds.

[various devices plotted upon a volts/amps graph]
Electromagnetism. Also called "E and M." In EM, its electric field corresponds to voltage, and its magnetic field corresponds to current. Therefore it's possible to place "static electricity" and "current electricity" upon different regions of a single map. The map is plotted in terms of e-field (voltage) on one axis and magnetism (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. "Electromagnetism" has different regions.

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." Things aren't perfect, e.g. where do we put the lightning and the high voltage power lines? These are both electrostatic phenomena and electrodynamic phenomena at the same time.

I believe that talk of "two kinds of electricty" called Current and Static is profoundly misleading. It hides the true nature of electric charge. 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 as "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 (ahem!) ...A *FLOW* OF STATIC ELECTRICITY. 'Static' means unmoving, so what the heck is a static flow? Something is seriously wrong with how we explain electricity. The cure is simple. Cross out the words "static electricity" everwhere. This forces us to seek out better words to replace it.

Other relevant pages on this site:

"Static" and "Current"

'Static' Electricity that Flows

Electricity Misconceptions

All articles on electricity



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