MadSci Network: Physics

Subject: specifically, how do you obtain heat from the electric current?

Date: Thu Oct 21 14:36:51 2004
Posted by Pavel
Grade level: nonaligned School: No school entered.
City: St. Louis State/Province: MO Country: USA
Area of science: Physics
ID: 1098387411.Ph

Hi, I'm a curious amature when it comes to physics, but I like getting to the 
bottom of things. I've been trying to understand how one kind of energy gets 
transformed into heat.  I ran across an article here that attempted to answer a 
similar question, but, with all due respect, I didn't think it really explained 
what's goin on. 

So, I'd like to revisit the question posted earlier and hope to get a more 
complete insight into interworkings of matter.  In summary, how does the 
electric current heat up a resistor?  


1. Heat is the degree of atom vibration and atom/molecule round-about movement, 
which is kinetic energy.  Question: what specifically determines the atom 
vibration or excitement; is it speed of the electrons, their orbit (radius) 
around nucleus, quark spin, color charge etc. ?

2. Free electrons are what the electricity really is and they're of no concern 
here, since they keep moving along .... it's the stable, or "glued" electrons 
that are of a particular interest:

3. Those electrons don't fall into the nuclei when pushed by other electrons, 
they repel and thus absorb some kinetic energy.  And that's where the mystery 
comes in.  "Absorbing" is too abstract.  Let's be specific.  Do they change 
their orbits, as in from higher energy to lower, releasing a photon?  Or the 
other way around?  But that doesn't explain why the atoms start to move faster, 
does it?  Or is it because the electron somehow pushes the nucelus away when 
pushed itself?  But then, I always thought  that the reason an atom is neutral 
and that electrons are kept in orbit was because the nucleus is positively 
charged and electrons are negative, thus being "attracted".  And the reason why 
the electrons don't fall into the nucleus, as a result of such attraction, is 
because of the electron's angular momentum.  Well, if that's the case, then 
pushing it inward should eliminate the angular momentum and result in the 
electron's crash into the nucleus due to the attractive force.....

4. Kinetic energy on atomic level (heat) can be produced either by eating up 
mass (governed by e=mc^2), or transferred from kinetic energy of another object 
(via repulsion of electromagnetic force).  

Assuming the above premises are true, which option in 4 is it, and specifically 
HOW does it happen?   I would greatly appreciate any detailed explanation or a 
reference to it to clear up the mess in my head.

In advance, thank you!


Re: specifically, how do you obtain heat from the electric current?

Current Queue | Current Queue for Physics | Physics archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Physics.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2003. All rights reserved.