Stories from physics booklet 3: Electricity & Magnetism

Message from author Richard Brock

Electromagnetism is an appealing topic to teach as electrical currents can seem otherworldly and carry a hint of danger. The domain contains a rich seam of stories that highlight both the power and hazards of electricity.

Find out why Henry Cavendish built an artificial torpedo fish from pieces of leather

In this booklet you can read about how Donald Trump’s uncle worked with Robert Van De Graaff (known for his static generator) to build an X-ray barbecue that saved many lives. On the theme of US presidents, you will learn about Benjamin Franklin’s shocking experiment with a turkey and his ideas for electrical pranks. Franklin’s turkey is not the only animal to appear in the booklet. You will find out why Henry Cavendish built an artificial torpedo fish from pieces of leather and how to make a voltmeter from a frog (not recommended). The animal stories also touch on magnetism and you will discover how you might use a cow magnet.

The stories describe some of the great characters in the history of physics. You will be introduced to the extraordinary French physicist, François Arago, who tried to repel invading troops with a lance at the age of seven, was punched by an archbishop and acted as a courier for two lions for Napoleon. You will read about Ritter, his ‘marriage’ to a large Voltaic pile and his subsequent self-experimentation. This booklet will allow you to find out what Georg Ohm was doing at university to make his father force him to withdraw from his course. 

So, let me tell you some stories about physics…


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