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UPSC Physics Electric Current and Magnetism Electric Current and Magnetism

Electric Current and Magnetism

Category : UPSC


Electric Current and Magnetism


1.           Electric Current and Circuit


  • Electric current is expressed by the amount of charge flowing through a particular area in unit time. In other words, it is the rate of flow of electric charges.
  • In circuits using metallic wires, electrons constitute the flow of charges.
  • Electric current was considered to be the flow of positive charges and the direction of flow of positive charges was taken to be the direction of electric current.
  • The direction of electric current is taken as opposite to the direction of the flow of electrons, which are negative charges.
  • The SI unit of electric charge is coulomb (C), which is equivalent to the charge contained in nearly \[6\times {{10}^{18}}\] electrons. (We know that an electron possesses a negative charge of \[1.6\times {{10}^{-19}}\,\,C)\].
  • The electric current is expressed by a unit called ampere (A). One ampere is constituted by the flow of one coulomb of charge per second.
  • An instrument called ammeter measures electric current in a circuit. It is always connected in series in a circuit through which the current is to be measured.



2.           Electric Potential and Potential Difference


  • What makes the electric charge to flow? The electrons move only if there is a difference of electric pressure - called the potential difference - along the conductor. This difference of potential may be produced by a battery, consisting of one or more electric cells.
  • The chemical action within a cell generates the potential difference across the terminals of the cell, even when no current is drawn from it.
  • When the cell is connected to a conducting circuit element, the potential difference sets the charges in motion in the conductor and produces an electric current. In order to maintain the current in a given electric circuit, the cell has to expend its chemical energy stored in it.
  • We define the electric potential difference between two points in an electric circuit carrying some current as the work done to move a unit charge from one point to the other.
  • The SI unit of electric potential difference is volt (V), named after Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), an Italian physicist. One volt is the potential difference between two points in a current carrying conductor when 1 joule of work is done to move a charge of 1 coulomb from one point to the other.
  • The potential difference is measured by means of an instrument called the voltmeter. The voltmeter is always connected in parallel across the points between which the potential difference is to be measured.



3.           Ohm's Law


  • In 1827, a German physicist Georg Simon Ohm (1787-1854) found out the relationship between the current I, flowing in a metallic wire and the potential difference across its terminals. The potential difference, V, across the ends of a given metallic wire in an electric circuit is directly proportional to the current flowing through it, provided its temperature remains the same. This is called Ohm's law.
  • R is a constant for the given metallic wire at a given temperature and is called its resistance. Its SI unit is ohm.
  • It is obvious from that the current through a resistor is inversely proportional to its resistance. If the resistance is doubled the current gets halved. In many practical cases it is necessary to increase or decrease the current in an electric circuit.
  • A component used to regulate current without changing the voltage source is called variable resistance. In an electric circuit, a device called rheostat is often used to change the resistance in the circuit.


4.           Electric Resistance


  • We know the electrons, however, are not completely free to move within a conductor. They are restrained by the attraction of the atoms among which they move.
  • Thus, motion of electrons through a conductor is retarded by its resistance. A component of a given size that offers a low resistance is a good conductor. A conductor having some appreciable resistance is called a resistor. A component of identical size that offers a higher resistance is a poor conductor.
  • Resistance of the conductor depends on its length, on its area of cross-section, and on the nature of its material. Precise measurements have shown that resistance of a uniform metallic conductor is directly proportional to its length (/) and inversely proportional to the area of cross-section (A). That is, \[R=\rho \frac{1}{A}\]
  • Where \[\rho \] (rho) is a constant of proportionality and is called the electrical resistivity of the material of the conductor. The SI unit of resistivity is \[\Omega \] m. It is a characteristic property of the material.
  • The metals and alloys have very low resistivity in the range of \[{{10}^{-8\,}}\Omega \] m to \[{{10}^{-6\,}}\Omega \] m. They are good conductors of electricity. Insulators like rubber and glass have resistivity of the order of \[{{10}^{12}}\] to \[{{10}^{17}}\] \[\Omega \] m. Both the resistance and resistivity of a material vary with temperature. The resistivity of an alloy is generally higher than that of its constituent metals.
  • Alloys do not oxidise (bum) readily at high temperatures. For this reason, they are commonly used in electrical heating devices, like electric iron, toasters etc. Tungsten is used almost exclusively for filaments of electric bulbs, whereas copper and aluminium are generally used for electrical transmission lines.


5.           Resistivity of Various Materials


  • The materials are classified as conductors, semiconductors and insulators depending on __ their resistivities, in an increasing order of their values. Metals have low resistivities in the range of \[{{10}^{-8\,\,\,}}\Omega \]m to \[{{10}^{-6\,\,}}\Omega \]m.
  • At the other end are insulators like ceramic, rubber and plastics having resistivities 1018 times greater than metals or more. In between the two are the semiconductors. These, however, have resistivities characteristically decreasing with a rise in temperature.
  • The resistivities of semiconductors are also affected by presence of small amount of impurities. This last feature is exploited in use of semiconductors for electronic devices.
  • Commercially produced resistors for domestic use or in laboratories are of two major types : wire bound resistors and carbon resistors. Wire bound resistors are made by winding the wires of an alloy, viz., manganin, constantan, nichrome or similar ones. The choice of these materials is dictated mostly by the fact that their resistivities are relatively insensitive to temperature.
  • These resistances are typically in the range of a fraction of an ohm to a few hundred ohms. Resistors in the higher range are made mostly from carbon. Carbon resistors are compact, inexpensive and thus find extensive use in electronic circuits. Carbon resistors are small in size and hence their values are given using a colour code.
  • The resistivities of semiconductors decrease with increasing temperatures.


6.           Resistors in Series and in Parallel


  • The value of the current in the ammeter is the same, independent of its position in the electric circuit. It means that in a series combination of resistors the current is the same in every part of the circuit or the same current through each resistor.
  • We can conclude that when several resistors are joined in series, the resistance of the combination \[{{R}_{s}}\] equals the sum of their individual resistances, \[{{R}_{1'}}\,\,{{R}_{2'}}\,\,{{R}_{3'}}\]and is thus greater than any individual resistance.
  • We may conclude that the reciprocal of the equivalent resistance of a group of resistances joined in parallel is equal to the sum of the reciprocals of the individual resistances.
  • In a series circuit the current is constant throughout the electric circuit. Thus it is obviously impracticable to connect an electric bulb and an electric heater in series, because they need currents of wiidely different values to operate properly.
  • Another major disadvantage of ai series circuit is that when one component fails the circuit is broken and none of the components works.
  • We used 'fairy lights9 to decorate buildings on festivals, on marriage celebrations etc.
  • We might have seen the electrician spending lot of time in trouble-locating and replacing the 'dead9 bulb - each has to be tested to find which has fused or gone.
  • On the other hand, a parallel circuit divides the current through the electrical gadgets. The total resistance in a parallel circuit is decreased. This is helpful particularly when each gadget has different resistance and requires different current to operate properly.


7.           Heating Effect of Electric Current


  • According to Joule's law of heating. Heat produced in a resistor is directly proportional to the square of current for a given resistance, directly proportional to resistance for a given current, and directly proportional to the time for which the current flows through the resistor.
  • The generation of heat in a conductor is an inevitable consequence of electric current. In many cases, it is undesirable as it converts useful electrical energy into heat. In electric circuits, the unavoidable heating can increase the temperature of the components and alter their properties. However, heating effect of electric current has many useful applications. The electric laundry iron, electric toaster, electric oven, electric kettle and electric heater are some of the familiar devices based on Joule's heating.
  • The electric heating is also used to produce light, as in an electric bulb. Here, the filament must retain as much of the heat generated as is possible, so that it gets very hot and emits light. It must not melt at such high temperature. A strong metal with high melting point such as tungsten (melting point\[3380{}^\circ C\]) is used for making bulb filaments. The filament should be thermally isolated as much as possible, using insulating support, etc.
  • The bulbs are usually filled with chemically inactive nitrogen and argon gases to prolong the life of filament. Most of the power consumed by the filament appears as heat, but a small part of it is in the form of light radiated.
  • Another common application of Joule's heating is the fuse used in electric circuits. It protects circuits and appliances by stopping the flow of any unduly high electric current. The fuse is placed in series with the device.
  • It consists of a piece of wire made of a metal or an alloy of appropriate melting point, for example aluminium, copper, iron, lead etc. If a current larger than the specified value flows through the circuit, the temperature of the fuse wire increases. This melts the fuse wire and breaks the circuit. The fuse wire is usually encased in a cartridge of porcelainor similar material with metal ends.
  • An electric bulb is used for light but it also gives heat. This is not desirable. This results in the wastage of electricity. This wastage can be reduced by using fluorescent tube lights in place of the bulbs. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) also reduce wastage and can be fixed in the ordinary bulb holders.
  • These days Miniature circuit breakers (MCBs) are increasingly being used in place of fuses. These are switches which automatically turn off when current in a circuit exceeds the safe limit. You turn them on and the circuit is once again complete.
  • The credit for the invention of the electric bulb is usually given to Thomas Alva Edison, though others before him had worked on it. Edison was a remarkable man. He made some 1,300 inventions including the electric bulb, gramophone, the motion picture camera and the carbon transmitter, which facilitated the invention of the telephone.


8.           Magnetic Effects of Electric Current


  • Hans Christian Oersted, one of the leading scientists of the 19th century, played a crucial role in understanding electromagnetism. In 1820 he accidentally discovered that a compass needle got deflected when an electric current passed through a metallic wire placed nearby. Through this observation Oersted showed that electricity and magnetism were related phenomena. His research later created technologies such as the radio, television and fiber optics. The unit of magnetic field strength is named the Oersted in his honor.
  • Magnetic field is a quantity that has both direction and magnitude. The direction of the magnetic field is taken to be the direction in which a north pole of the compass needle moves inside it.
  • Therefore it is taken by convention that the field lines emerge from North Pole and merge at the South Pole. Inside the magnet, the direction of field lines is from its south pole to its north pole. Thus the magnetic field lines are closed curves.
  • The relative strength of the magnetic field is shown by the degree of closeness of the field lines. The field is stronger, that is, the force acting on the pole of another magnet placed is greater where the field lines are crowded.
  • No two field-lines are found to cross each other If they did, it would mean that at the point of intersection, the compass needle would point towards two directions, which is not possible.
  • An electric current through a metallic conductor produces a magnetic field around it.


9.           Magnetism in Medicine


  • An electric current always produces a magnetic field. Even weak ion currents that travel along the nerve cells in our body produce magnetic fields. When we touch something, our nerves carry an electric impulse to the muscles we need to use. This impulse produces a temporary magnetic field.
  • These fields are very weak and are about one-billionth of the earth's magnetic field. Two main organs in the human body where the magnetic field produced is significant, are the heart and the brain.
  • The magnetic field inside the body forms the basis of obtaining the images of different body parts. This is done using a technique called Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Analysis of these images helps in medical diagnosis. Magnetism has, thus, got important uses in medicine.


10.        Electric Motor


  • An electric motor is a rotating device that converts electrical energy to mechanical energy. Electric motor is used as an important component in electric fans, refrigerators, mixers, washing machines, computers, MP3 players etc.
  • A device that reverses the direction of flow of current through a circuit is called a commutator. In electric motors, the split ring acts as a commutator. The reversal of current also reverses the direction of force.
  • The commercial motors use:
  • an electromagnet in place of permanent magnet;
  • large number of turns of the conducting wire in the currentcarrying coil; and
  • a soft iron core on which the coil is wound.
  • The soft iron core, on which the coil is wound, plus the coils, is called an armature. This enhances the power of the motor.
  • A galvanometer is an instrument that can detect the presence of a current in a circuit. The pointer remains at zero (the centre of the scale) for zero current flowing through it. It can deflect either to the left or to the right of the zero mark depending on the direction of current.


11.        Domestic Electric Circuits


  • The difference between the direct and alternating currents is that the direct current always flows in one direction, whereas the alternating current reverses its direction periodically.
  • Most power stations constructed these days produce AC. In India, the AC changes direction after every 1/100 second, that is, the frequency of AC is 50 Hz. An important advantage of AC over DC is that electric power can be transmitted over long distances without much loss of energy.
  • In our homes, we receive supply of electric power through a main supply (also called mains), either supported through overhead electric poles or by underground cables. One of the wires in this supply, usually with red insulation cover, is called live wire (or positive). Another wire, with black insulation, is called neutral wire (or negative). In our country, the potential difference between the two is 220 V.
  • At the metre-board in the house, these wires pass into an electricity meter through a main fuse. Through the main switch they are connected to the line wires in the house. These wires supply electricity to separate circuits within the house.
  • Often, two separate circuits are used, one of 15 A current rating for appliances with higher power ratings such as geysers, air coolers, etc. The other circuit is of 5 A current rating for bulbs, fans, etc.
  • The earth wire, which has insulation of green colour, is usually connected to a metal plate deep in the earth near the house. This is used as a safety measure, especially for those appliances that have a metallic body, for example, electric press, toaster, table fan, refrigerator, etc.
  • The metallic body is connected to the earth wire, which provides a low-resistance conducting path for the current. Thus, it ensures that any leakage of current to the metallic body of the appliance keeps its potential to that of the earth, and the user may not get a severe electric shock.


12.        Chemical Effects of Electric Current


  • When salt is dissolved in distilled water, we obtain salt solution. This is a conductor of electricity.
  • The water that we get from sources such as taps, hand pumps, wells and ponds is not pure. It may contain several salts dissolved in it. Small amounts of mineral salts are naturally present in it. This water is thus a good conductor of electricity. On the other hand, distilled water is free of salts and is a poor conductor.
  • The process of depositing a layer of any desired metal on another material by means of electricity is called electroplating. It is one of the most common applications of chemical effects of electric current.
  • Electroplating is a very useful process. It is widely used in industry for coating metal objects with a thin layer of a different metal. The layer of metal deposited has some desired property, which the metal of the object lacks. For example, chromium plating is done on many objects such as car parts, bath taps, kitchen gas burners, bicycle handlebars, wheel rims and many others.
  • Chromium has a shiny appearance. It does not corrode. It resists scratches. However, chromium is expensive and it may not be economical to make the whole object out of chromium. So the object is made from a cheaper metal and only a coating of chromium over it is deposited. Jewellery makers electroplate silver and gold on less expensive metals. These ornaments have the appearance of silver or gold but are much less expensive,
  • Tin cans, used for storing food, are made by electroplating tin onto iron. Tin is less reactive than iron. Thus, food does not come into contact with iron and is protected from getting spoilt.
  • Iron is used in bridges and automobiles to provide strength. However, iron tends to corrode and rust. So, a coating of zinc is deposited on iron to protect it from corrosion and formation of rust.
  • In the electroplating factories the disposal of the used conducting solution is a major concern. It is a polluting waste and there are specific disposal guidelines to protect the environment.


13.        LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes)


  • LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are available in many colours such as red, green, yellow, blue, white and are increasingly being used for many applications, for example in traffic signal lights. LEDs are increasingly being used for lighting.
  • A cluster of white LEDs grouped together forms a LED light source. LED light sources consume less electricity and have longer lifetime than light bulbs and fluorescent tubes. But LED light sources are expensive, so CFLs are currently the best choice.
  • However, CFLs contain mercury which is toxic. Therefore, used or broken CFLs need to be disposed off safely. Once the technological advances reduce the cost of LEDs, they will become the preferred lighting source.


14.        Charges in Clouds


  • Atmospheric electricity arises due to the separation of electric charges. In the ionosphere and magnetosphere strong electric current is generated from the solarterrestrial interaction. In the lower atmosphere the current is weaker and is maintained by thunderstorm.
  • There are ice particles in the clouds, which grow, collide, fracture and break apart. The smaller particles acquire positive charge and the larger ones negative charge. These charged particles get separated by updrifts in the clouds and gravity.
  • The upper portion of the cloud becomes positively charged and the middle negatively charged, leading to dipole structure. Sometimes a very weak positive charge is found near the base of the cloud.
  • The ground is positively charged at the time of thunderstorm development. Also cosmic and radioactive radiations ionise air into positive and negative ions and air becomes (weakly) electrically conductive.
  • The separation of charges produce tremendous amount of electrical potential within the cloud as well as between the cloud and ground. This can amount to millions of volts and eventually the electrical resistance in the air breaks down and lightning flash begins and thousands of amperes of current flows. The electric field is of the order of \[{{10}^{5}}\] V/m.
  • A lightning flash is composed of a series of strokes with an average of about four and the duration of each flash is about 30 seconds. The average peak power per stroke is about \[{{10}^{12}}\] watts.
  • During fair weather also there is charge in the atmosphere. The fair weather electric field arises due to the existence of a surface charge density at ground and an atmospheric conductivity as well as due to the flow of current from the ionosphere to the earth's surface, which is of the order of picoampere / square metre. The surface charge density at ground is negative; the electric field is directed downward.
  • Over land the average electric field is about 120 V/m, which corresponds to a surface charge density of \[-1.2\times {{10}^{-9}}\] C/m2. Over the entire earth's surface, the total negative charge amount to about 600 kC. An equal positive charge exists in the atmosphere.
  • This electric field is not noticeable in daily life. The reason why it is not noticed is that virtually everything, including our bodies, is conductor compared to air.


15.        Helical Motion of Charged Particles and Aurora Borealis


  • In Polar Regions like Alaska and Northern Canada, a splendid display of colours is seen in the sky. The appearance of dancing green pink lights is fascinating, and equally puzzling.
  • During a solar flare, a large number of electrons and protons are ejected from the sun. Some of them get trapped in the earth's magnetic field and move in helical paths along the field lines.
  • The field lines come closer to each other near the magnetic poles. Hence the density of charges increases near the poles. These particles collide with atoms and molecules of the atmosphere. Excited oxygen atoms emit green light and excited nitrogen atoms emits pink light. This phenomenon is called Aurora Borealis in physics.


16.        Cyclotron


  • The cyclotron is a machine to accelerate charged particles or ions to high energies. It was invented by E.O. Lawrence and M.S. Livingston in 1934 to investigate nuclear structure.
  • The cyclotron uses both electric and magnetic fields in combination to increase the energy of charged particles. As the fields are perpendicular to each other they are called crossed fields.
  • Cyclotron uses the fact that the frequency of revolution of the charged particle in a magnetic field is independent of its energy.
  • The operation of the cyclotron is based on the fact that the time for one revolution of an ion is independent of its speed or radius of its orbit.
  • The cyclotron is used to bombard nuclei with energetic particles, so accelerated by it, and study the resulting nuclear reactions. It is also used to implant ions into solids and modify their properties or even synthesise new materials. It is used in hospitals to produce radioactive substances which can be used in diagnosis and treatment.


17.        Magnetism and Matter


  • The earth behaves as a magnet with the magnetic field pointing approximately from the geographic south to the north.
  • When a bar magnet is freely suspended, it points in the north-south direction. The tip which points to the geographic north is called the North Pole and the tip which points to the geographic south is called the south pole of the magnet.
  • There is a repulsive force when north poles (or south poles) of two magnets are brought close together. Conversely, there is an attractive force between the north pole of one magnet and the south pole of the other.
  • We cannot isolate the north, or South Pole of a magnet. If a bar magnet is broken into two halves, we get two similar bar magnets with somewhat weaker properties. Unlike electric charges, isolated magnetic north and south poles known as magnetic monopoles do not exist. It is possible to make magnets out of iron and its alloys.


18.        The Earth's Magnetism


  • The strength of the earth's magnetic field varies from place to place on the earth's surface; its value being of the order of \[{{10}^{-5}}\] T.
  • What causes the earth to have a magnetic field is not clear. Originally the magnetic field was thought of as arising from a giant bar magnet placed approximately along the axis of rotation of the earth and deep in the interior. However, this simplistic picture is certainly not correct.
  • The magnetic field is now thought to arise due to electrical currents produced by convective motion of metallic fluids (consisting mostly of molten iron and nickel) in the outer core of the earth. This is known as the dynamo effect.
  • The magnetic field lines of the earth resemble that of a (hypothetical) magnetic dipole located at the centre of the earth. The axis of the dipole does not coincide with the axis of rotation of the earth but is presently titled by approximately \[11.3{}^\circ \]with respect to the later.
  • In this way of looking at it, the magnetic poles are located where the magnetic field lines due to the dipole enter or leave the earth. The location of the north magnetic pole is at a latitude of \[79.74{}^\circ \]N and a longitude of \[71,8{}^\circ \]W, a place somewhere in north Canada the magnetic South Pole is at \[79.74{}^\circ \]S, \[108.22{}^\circ \]E in the Antarctica.
  • The pole near the geographic north pole of the earth is called the north magnetic pole. Likewise, the pole near the geographic South Pole is called the south magnetic pole.
  • There is some confusion in the nomenclature of the poles. If one looks at the magnetic field lines of the earth, one sees that unlike in the case of a bar magnet, the field lines go into the earth at the north magnetic pole (Nm) and come out from the south magnetic pole (Sm). The convention arose because the magnetic north was the direction to which the north pole of a magnetic needle pointed; the north pole of a magnet was so named as it was the north seeking pole. Thus, in reality, the north magnetic pole behaves like the south pole of a bar magnet inside the earth and vice versa.
  • A compass needle consists of a magnetic needle which floats on a pivotal point. When the compass is held level, it points along the direction of the horizontal component of the earth's magnetic field at the location.
  • Thus, the compass needle would stay along the magnetic meridian of the place. In some places on the earth there are deposits of magnetic minerals which cause the compass needle to deviate from the magnetic meridian. Knowing the magnetic declination at a place allows us to correct the compass to determine the direction of true north.
  • So what happens if we take our compass to the magnetic pole? At the poles, the magnetic field lines are converging or diverging vertically so that the horizontal component is negligible. If the needle is only capable of moving in a horizontal plane, it can point along any direction, rendering it useless as a direction finder. What one needs in such a case is a dip needle which is a compass pivoted to move in a vertical plane containing the magnetic field of the earth. The needle of the compass then shows the angle which the magnetic field makes with the vertical. At the magnetic poles such a needle will point straight down.


19.        Earth's Magnetic Field


  • The earth's core is very hot and molten, and the ions of iron and nickel are responsible for earth's magnetism. This hypothesis seems very probable.
  • Moon, which has no molten core, has no magnetic field, Venus has a slower rate of rotation, and a weaker magnetic field, while Jupiter, which has the fastest rotation rate among planets, has a fairly strong magnetic field. However, the precise mode of these circulating currents and the energy needed to sustain them are not very well understood. These are several open questions which form an important area of continuing research.
  • The variation of the earth's magnetic field with position is also an interesting area of study. Charged particles emitted by the sun flow towards the earth and beyond, in a stream called the solar wind. Their motion is affected by the earth's magnetic field, and in turn, they affect the pattern of the earth's magnetic field. The pattern of magnetic field near the poles is quite different from that in other regions of the earth.
  • The variation of earth's magnetic field with time is no less fascinating. There are short term variations taking place over centuries and long term variations taking place over a period of a million years.
  • In a span of 240 years from 1580 to 1820 AD, over which records are available, the magnetic declination at London has been found to change by \[3.5{}^\circ ,\]suggesting that the magnetic poles inside the earth change position with time.
  • On the scale of a million years, the earth's magnetic fields has been found to reverse its direction. Basalt contains iron, and basalt is emitted during volcanic activity.
  • The little iron magnets inside it align themselves parallel to the magnetic field at that place as the basalt cools and solidifies. Geological studies of basalt containing such pieces of magnetised region have provided evidence for the change of direction of earth's magnetic field, several times in the past.


20.        Diamagnetism


  • Diamagnetic substances are those which have tendency to move from stronger to the weaker part of the external magnetic field. In other words, unlike the way a magnet attracts metals like iron, it would repel a diamagnetic substance.
  • The simplest explanation for diamagnetism is as follows. Electrons in an atom orbiting, around nucleus possess orbital angular momentum. These orbiting electrons are equivalent to current-carrying loop and thus possess orbital magnetic moment.
  • Diamagnetic substances are the ones in which resultant magnetic moment in an atom is zero. When magnetic field is applied, those electrons having orbital magnetic moment in the same direction slow down and those in the opposite direction speed up.
  • Some diamagnetic materials are bismuth, copper, lead, silicon, nitrogen (at STP), water and sodium chloride. Diamagnetism is present in all the substances. However, the effect is so weak in most cases that it gets shifted by other effects like paramagnetism, ferromagnetism, etc.
  • The most exotic diamagnetic materials are superconductors. These are metals, cooled to very low temperatures which exhibits both perfect conductivity and perfect diamagnetism.
  • A superconductor repels a magnet and (by Newton's third law) is repelled by the magnet. The phenomenon of perfect diamagnetism in superconductors is called the Meissner effect, after the name of its discoverer. Superconducting magnets can be gainfully exploited in variety of situations, for example, for running magnetically levitated superfast trains.


21.        Paramagnetism


  • Paramagnetic substances are those which get weakly magnetised when placed in an external magnetic field. They have tendency to move from a region of weak magnetic field to strong magnetic field, i.e., they get weakly attracted to a magnet.



22.        Ferromagnetism


  • Ferromagnetic substances are those which gets strongly magnetised when placed in an external magnetic field.



23.        Migration of Birds


  • The migratory pattern of birds is one of the mysteries in the field of biology, and indeed all of science. For example, every winter birds from Siberia fly unerringly to water spots in the Indian subcontinent.
  • There has been a suggestion that electromagnetic induction may provide a clue to these migratory patterns. The earth's magnetic field has existed throughout evolutionary history. It would be of great benefit to migratory birds to use this field to determine the direction.
  • As far as we know birds contain no ferromagnetic material. So electromagnetic induction seems to be the only reasonable mechanism to determine direction.
  • Consider the optimal case where the magnetic field B, the velocity of the bird v, and two relevant points of its anatomy separated by a distance 1, all three are mutually perpendicular.
  • This extremely small potential difference suggests that our hypothesis is of doubtful validity. Certain kinds of fish are able to detect small potential differences. However, in these fish, special cells have been identified which detect small voltage differences. In birds no such cells have been identified. Thus, the migration patterns of birds continues to remain a mystery.


24.        Important Facts


  • Why a nylon or plastic comb gets electrified on combing dry hair or on rubbing, but a metal article like spoon does not. The charges on metal leak through our body to the ground as both are conductors of electricity.
  • When we bring a charged body in contact with the earth, all the excess charge on the body disappears by causing a momentary current to pass to the ground through the connecting conductor (such as our body). This process of sharing the charges with the earth is called grounding or earthing.
  • Earthing provides a safety measure for electrical circuits and appliances.
  • You might wonder why the protons, all carrying positive charges, are compactly residing inside the nucleus. Why do they not fly away? You will learn that there is a third kind of a fundamental force, called the strong force which holds them together. The range of distance where this force is effective is, however, very small \[\sim {{10}^{14}}\] m. This is precisely the size of the nucleus. Also the electrons are not allowed to sit on top of the protons, i.e. inside the nucleus, due to the laws of quantum mechanics. This gives the atoms their structure as they exist in nature.
  • Coulomb force and gravitational force follow the same inverse-square law. But gravitational force has only one sign (always attractive), while Coulomb force can be of both signs (attractive and repulsive), allowing possibility of cancellation of electric forces. This is how gravity, despite being a much weaker force, can be a dominating and more pervasive force in nature.
  • A comb run through one's dry hair attracts small bits of paper. Why? What happens if the hair is wet or if it is a rainy day? (Remember, a paper does not conduct electricity). This is because the comb gets charged by friction. The molecules in the paper gets polarised by the charged comb, resulting in a net force of attraction. If the hair is wet, or if it is rainy day, friction between hair and the comb reduces. The comb does not get charged and thus it will not attract small bits of paper.
  • Ordinary rubber is an insulator. But special rubber tyres of aircraft are made slightly conducting. Why is this necessary? To enable them to conduct charge (produced by friction) to the ground; as too much of static electricity accumulated may result in spark and result in fire.
  • Vehicles carrying inflammable materials usually have metallic ropes touching the ground during motion. Why? Reason similar to (b).
  • A bird perches on a bare high power line, and nothing happens to the bird. A man standing on the ground touches the same line and gets a fatal shock. Why? Current passes only when there is difference in potential.
  • Current is a scalar although we represent current with an arrow. Currents do not obey the law of vector addition. That current is a scalar also follows from it's definition.
  • Electrostatic field lines originate at a positive charge and terminate at a negative charge or fade at infinity. Magnetic field lines always form closed loops.



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