Closeup of Kuiper with Optimus Prime's foot.

Electric transformers

Autobots, roll out!

DEMOCRACY IS NON-NEGOT…wait, wrong franchise. Ahem. FREEDOM IS THE RIGHT OF ALL SENTIENT BEINGS. Kuiper and I visited Optimus at his home in Stillwater, Oklahoma outside G&M Body Shop. He is 22 ft (6.7 m) tall and weighs 5700 lbs (2585 kg.)

Yesterday in 1831, Michael Faraday inadvertently created the first electric transformer as part of a science experiment. After covering an iron ring in cotton fabric, Michael wrapped two separate copper wires around the ring (not touching each other or the ring.)

Wire 1 was attached to a battery, and Wire 2 was attached to a device called a galvanometer (which measures electric current.) When Michael switched on Wire 1’s battery, the galvanometer detected a current in Wire 2!*

How is this possible, you ask? The wires weren’t touching each other, and it’s not like they were conducting electricity through the ring because the ring was insulated with fabric. The answer: magnetism!

It turns out that electricity and magnetism are two sides of the same (electromagnetic) coin. Electrons flowing through Wire 1 created a magnetic field, which caused electrons to flow through Wire 2. SCIENCE.

This effect (called “electromagnetic induction”) is what makes electric transformers possible. You can “step up” (increase) or “step down” (decrease) voltage by “moving” a current from a wire with a lot of coils to one with fewer coils, or vice versa. And all of that is done without the two wires touching!

Transformers are the basis for: your laptop or cell phone charger, voltage regulators which protect your refrigerator and TV, (non-diesel) car ignitions, Tesla coils, and of course the doohicky on top of the power pole outside where you live.

(* And then it stopped. Faraday would have actually had to flip the switch on and off continuously like a lightswitch rave to get a constant current. But AC and DC power, as well as why Thomas Edison is surprisingly innocent of elephant murder, are beyond the scope of today’s post.)

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