Liberal Arts Blog — Water Analogies (Hoses and Rivers) and the Knife (Amps) and the Murderer (Volts)

Liberal Arts Blog — Wednesday is the Joy of Science, Engineering, and Technology Day

Today’s Topic — The Mystery of Electricity — Water Analogies (Hoses and Rivers) and the Knife (Amps) and the Murderer (Volts)

Electricity is ubiquitous in modern life, and absolutely indispensable, but it is also hard to understand intuitively. The most common analogies used to explain it are the water hose and the river. But what kills you amperage or voltage? What is the knife? what is the murderer? Who cares? who should? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE WATER HOSE ANALOGY: volts versus amps versus ohms

1. Volts = the water pressure.

2. AMPS = diameter of the hose

3. Ohms = sand in the hose

NB: Your thumb: squeezing the hose with your thumb changes the diameter of the hose (AMPS) which increases the pressure (voltage). A transformer does this by changing the number of coils wrapped around a magnet (more coils, smaller diameter, higher voltage). Transformers only worK with AC power. Batteries use DC power.


1. Voltage = steepness

2. Amps = volume of flow

3. Conclusion: it’s amperage not voltage that kills you.


1. The Amps are the knife.

2. The Voltage is the murderer.

3. And resistance matters.

NB: It is the current traveling through you that kills you but it’s the voltage that makes that current possible and resistance that determines how much current goes through you. Your resistance can vary from 1000 ohms to 100,00 ohms depending on whether you are sweating on a humid day with your feet in bucket of water or not…Under such conditions a mere 50 volts can kill you. On a very dry day with no feet in bucket it could take 5000 volts to do the job. The rule of thumb is that a current of 50 mAmps through you is lethal.

FOOTNOTES — Tesla and Edison, Power versus Energy

1. Tesla (AC power) beat Edison (DC power) in the “war for the grid” but Tesla cars use both DC power (stored in the batteries) which is converted to AC to operate the motor.

2. Power versus energy. Power is a measure of capacity, energy of delivery. Power is measured in kilowatts. Energy in kilowatt hours. You are billed monthly for energy usage.

Understanding the basics of electricity by thinking of it as water

Do Volts or Amps Kill You? Voltage, Current and Resistance

Electricity Myths — Current Kills, not Voltage


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


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This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.


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