How Electricity Actually Works

How Electricity Actually Works
How Electricity Actually Works


Can you explain how electricity actually works? Modern digital age uses video content to explain physics concepts, engaging audiences more than textbooks. Veritasium, a well-known science YouTube channel, recently explored electric fields and power transmission. This blog post summarizes key video findings and discusses its implications. It highlights why physics students and enthusiasts should watch it.

A Revolutionary Approach to Electric Fields and Transmission Lines

In the video, Derek Muller offers a new view on electric fields in superconducting transmission lines. His approach upends traditional understanding. It elucidates how power is transferred instantly from source to load. This happens even before the signal finishes its full circuit journey.

Key Findings

  • The video leverages a model of a transmission line comprised of a series of capacitors and inductors, behaving as though they are superconducting. This model aids in demonstrating how current flows to the load almost immediately, without waiting for the electric field to circle the circuit.
  • This occurrence is explained by the capacitors acting as short circuits in the short time limit, thereby allowing the current to flow instantaneously. This phenomenon continues in a cascading fashion with the next capacitors in line, generating a loop of current.
  • By calculating the characteristic impedance of the transmission lines using the inductance and capacitance values (around 550 Ohms in this case), the resistance to alternating current is identified. To maximize power delivered to the load, the resistance should equal the sum of other circuit impedances.

Evidence-based Analysis

Derek provides live evidence to support his claims. Using a pulse and observing the voltage across the resistor, he shows that after just a few nanoseconds, the voltage rises to around four volts. This translates to four milliamps of current flowing in the resistor, transferring about 14 milliwatts of power. Further support for these findings comes from simulations and experiments by other YouTubers such as Alpha Phoenix and ZY.

Shifting Focus to Electric Fields: The True Power Vectors

One crucial insight this video provides is the importance of viewing electric circuits from the perspective of electric fields, not just through the lens of voltage and current. This shift in thinking allows us to understand that electric fields, not voltages and currents, carry the energy in circuits. Such understanding is critical for anyone designing or working with circuits, as Rick Hartley, a veteran printed circuit board designer, corroborates in the video.

Why This Video is Worth Your Time

The video provides a rare opportunity to engage with physics in a tangible, hands-on way. By clarifying a complex concept like electric fields and their role in power transmission, it helps students and enthusiasts alike to deepen their understanding and spark curiosity. The video uses experimental data and credible references to enhance understanding and encourage active learning. Furthermore, it opens up a pathway to explore related content from various electrical engineering YouTubers, fostering a sense of community among learners.

Looking Forward

The takeaways from this video extend beyond the realms of physics. The innovative teaching methodology used serves as an example for educators seeking effective ways to engage students in complex subjects. And the active involvement of the online physics community in contributing to the video’s insights demonstrates the power of collective knowledge sharing and validation.

The Veritasium video is more than just an explanation of how electric fields operate in circuits. It is a testament to the power of innovative teaching, evidence-based arguments, and collaborative learning in the digital age. If you are interested in learning more about these concepts, Brilliant, a website and app dedicated to math, science, and computer science education, offers interactive courses on electricity and magnetism. Visit their website at for more details.


In conclusion, this video is not just a learning resource; it is a catalyst for sparking interest in the fascinating world of physics. With more such content and active community participation, we can foster a generation of curious minds, ready to explore and unravel the mysteries of the universe.


YouTube Video: How Electricity Actually Works

How Electricity Actually Works

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