Test your knowledge of the history of electricity with this electrifying quiz!



By: Olivia Cantor

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Ah, electricity. We just can't live without it, especially now that we're in the digital age. But how much do you know about it, its history, and safety tips around it? Take this electrifying quiz and find out!

Electricity's basic particle — if you can call it that — is this building block of matter.

Electrons are a part of atoms, but electricity is not really about electrons but about how they move. When electrons interact and move across many atoms, electricity happens. Good to know!


The legendary story of Benjamin Franklin, the kite, and lightning wouldn't be complete with this object.

Most stories say that lightning hit the key, and then the shock traveled down to Benjamin Franklin. But that would have killed him. What probably happened was that as he drew his hand near the key, it gave him a spark from stored electricity. Sounds more sensible!


Aside from trying to get himself zapped while flying a kite, Benjamin Franklin invented this important tool for buildings.

Lightning rods aren't only put at the highest point of the building, they are grounded to the soil around the building with a conductive metal wire. When lightning hits the rod, the charge goes through the ground - not the building. Clever!


This inventor helped create the big boom of electrical use in our civilization, by putting up the first commercial power station.

Thomas Edison built the world's first electric power plant. It was established in 1882, and operated for eight years. Such a pioneer, this guy.


Our body uses small pulses of electricity, too. This important organ uses it to keep working with the right rhythm.

The heart uses electrical pulses to keep it pumping correctly. The electrocardiogram machine can read all these pulses. Yeah, we humans are electrifying indeed!


When you use a power switch to turn on the lights, you do this.

When you flick the light switch, the wires that lead to the light are connected to the rest of the electrical network in your house. It closes the circuit, so that electrons can move in and out of the lighting elements. Interesting, huh?


Electricity is energy. Can you create more of it?

It's the law of the universe: you cannot create or destroy energy, but you can turn mechanical energy, like spinning the turbines and generators, to make mechanical energy into electricity. In solar panels, you can turn chemical reactions into electricity.


These kitchen appliances are the most power-hungry in the home.

Refrigerators are the power hogs of the kitchen. Sure, hot plates and microwave ovens need a lot of power to zap and cook things, but refrigerators — and freezers — are on all the time. This makes the old icebox sound like a good idea sometimes, eh?


Why is it a good idea to unplug appliances and gear you are not using?

They won't suck your blood, but power vampires are devices that use a lot of power in standby mode. Even if you aren't using them, computers, TVs, and even phone chargers are putting watts on your bill when they're plugged in. Unplug and save money!


When your electric current is not moving, it is called this.

When you touch someone after walking through thick carpet, you build up static electricity in you, and the potential to release a lot of electricity through a spark. That happens when you touch someone else. All that stored electricity has to go somewhere!


Lightning, for all of its power, is really this simple thing.

Lightning happens when weather disturbances cause wind and heat to collide in the upper atmosphere. Electrons move around the atoms in the air. When the charge gets high enough... ZAP!


Before the telephone, this was the first communication network that used electricity.

The electric telegraph was a simple electronic circuit that you could turn on and off really fast. This allowed operators to tap Morse code in "dots" and "dashes." For a time, this was the way people sent messages to faraway places.


When you have a material like copper wire that lets electricity flow freely through it, this is what you call it.

Conductors are materials that let electrons pass through them easily. If materials don't allow electrons to pass through, they are called insulators.


Ideally, electricity can travel at this speed.

Electricity naturally travels at the speed of light. Any delay depends on the material in which it travels.


What is the biggest fuel source for generating electricity?

Coal is still the biggest fuel option. Many power plants across the world rely on burning it to run turbines that are hooked up to generators. Coal plants are also top polluters, but renewable energy sources have to catch up before we can stop using coal.


This dam in China is the biggest hydroelectric project in the world.

The Three Gorges Dam is big on electricity - about 20,000 megawatts. It's named after narrow valleys with small rivers running through them. And these supply water to the main river.


What do you need to transform high voltage to the right voltage for your appliances?

Transformers help change the high voltage needed for electricity to travel far. It turns that high charge into a less-deadly one with which your appliances can run. Just don't drop the radio into the bathtub!


Electricity is not seen as a primary energy source, but a secondary one. Why is that?

You have to convert the mechanical or chemical energy. Once that energy makes a chemical reaction that makes electrons move in large numbers, then you have electricity. But you can't get electricity directly. Got it?


Electricity was once used for this controversial treatment.

Shock therapy was once used to deal with many health and psychological issues.


One of the first kitchen appliances that used electricity was this breakfast regular.

Once electricity could heat up metal coils, it was easy to build a toaster. Even if you couldn't control the heat, you always had the pop-up timer. Ding!


We all live with electricity - or do we? How many people do you think have no access to electrical power?

Despite our technological advances, more than 1 billion people have no access to electricity. This is either because they are poor, or there is a lack of wiring or power plants where they live.


The traditional light bulb is the symbol of electricity, but, on average, how much electricity does it take for a bulb to power up.

Light bulbs convert at most 10% of the power they use, on average, to light. The rest becomes heat. On the other hand, new light bulb technologies make sure you use less power per bulb, at almost the same brightness, and longer lifetimes.


AC and DC are different because of this.

Alternating current (AC) changes direction in the wire in a regular beat. Direct current (DC) is like a fire hose, current only goes one way. Most appliances use AC. Batteries are a DC source of power.


We always use the term volts, but when we measure electrical usage, we use this.

Kilowatt-hours tell the electric company how much you've used per hour for the month. A watt measures how much energy was used to generate power, and that is figured over an hour. Volts measure the difference in electrical potential. Amperes are about the charge itself.


What is the one thing that you need, along with a lot of copper wire, to generate electricity in a generator or turbine?

Magnets help align and influence atoms so that their electrons also shift, creating an electric current. If you have large enough magnets and enough copper wire, you can create power plants to serve entire communities.


Electricity only happens when electrons move in an atom, so this is the natural state.

Atoms of various materials usually have a neutral charge. This means they have the same amounts of positive and negative charges in them, or the same amount of electrons and protons. You can't get a shock unless there are a lot of moving electrons.


When atoms are negatively charged, they do this.

When an atom has too many electrons, it gives these electrons out to other materials that can take them. That's what electricity is: movement of electrons between atoms. Now you know!


What happens when you have the same positive or negative charge in two atoms?

When two atoms have the same amount of negative or positive charges, they repel each other. This is why electricity is always looking for an object that has a lower negative charge to go into - like the ground.


You have a few birds sitting on a power line. They aren't dropping dead because of this.

As long as the birds don't have one foot on each wire, they are safe. This is why linemen have to be careful not to touch both wires at the same time.


Gravity and electricity are similar, except for this.

An electric field can repel things, gravity cannot. Electrical fields can repel and attract positive or negative charges, depending on their own charge. Gravity simply attracts, depending on how much mass you have.


This is the reason why we use rubber tubing for electrical wires.

Rubber tubing makes sure that electrical charges will not jump from one wire to the other. That is because rubber is an insulator. It prevents electrical charges from transferring from one set of atoms to another.


Generating electricity is now moving to a new age, like this kind of plant in Abilene, Texas.

The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Abilene, Texas is one of the largest wind farms in the world. It covers 92 square miles, and the central area has more than 400 wind turbines.


This is why some electronic parts are called capacitors.

Capacitors have many uses. Some can act like temporary batteries, while the real batteries are changed. Some can keep voltage as a steady rate. Others can even emit a small light. Most capacitors are small, and are used in electronics.


When recharging electronic devices, what is the best charge percentage before you unplug them?

Since you are not sure if your device or charger has an effective automatic cut-off when it charges, it's a good idea to unplug your device once you hit about 90% of your charge capacity. It's also a good idea to charge before you hit 0%. Your gadgets will thank you for that.


This country once had a massive blackout in 2009, cutting power off to 87 million people.

In 2009, electrical storms prompted Brazil's Itaipu hydroelectric dam to fail. The blackout was so bad that Paraguay was also affected. That power failure lasted seven hours.


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