Early investigation of piezoelectric effects in chicken feathers

Modern investigators of  piezoelectric effects in chicken feathers owe a tip of the beak to the people involved in this early attempt: “A preliminary investigation of piezoelectric effects in chicken feathers,” W. Van Dam, J.A. Tanner, and C. Romero-Sierra, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, vol. 17, no. 1, 1970, pp. 71-71. The authors explain: “Piezoelectric effects […]

Static electricity – we’re still (somewhat) in the dark

You might think that 2.6 millennia* of scientific study would be enough to form a thorough and complete understanding of a phenomenon as ubiquitous as ‘static electricity’. Not so, says a foremost authority on the subject, the Electrostatics Society of America. “Electrostatics is an exciting area of science, as its most basic scientific questions remain […]

Phoning during a thunderstorm – Unrecommended

“Is it dangerous to make a landline phone call during a thunderstorm?” It can be. Background is provided by Emeritus Professor Mat Darveniza, AO, FTSE, BE, PhD, DEng, Hon DSc (Eng), FIEAust (Hon), FIEEE (life), FTSE, LIVA, from the University of Queensland Australia – who is a leading authority on lightning strikes. In Australia alone […]

The Artificial Tree Electric Generator (patent)

HRL Laboratories – formerly the (Howard) Hughes Research Laboratories – have just been granted a US patent for their ‘Power generation through artificial transpiration ‘ invention. The power system – which could perhaps be described as an ‘artificial tree’ – generates power by drawing water through a turbine, driven by pressure differences caused by transpiration […]

Profiling Professor Persinger – part 1

Human brains and lightning-discharges – what might they have in common? Could there be potentially congruent scale-invariant quantitative properties connecting the two? These questions have been examined by professor Michael A. Persinger of the psychology dept. at Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada. The professor presents his findings in the May 2012 edition of the scholarly journal […]

The taste of electric currents (part 2 of 2)

Improbable recently profiled the work of the Miyashita Laboratory at Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan, where research is underway into the possibilities offered by ‘electro-gustation’. The lab has not only invented the electric chopsticks but has also investigated a possible way of encouraging diners to use less salt on their potato chips – with the aid […]

The taste of electric currents (part 1 of 2)

It was sometime around 1752 that Johann Georg Sulzer decided (for reasons best known to himself) to put the tip of his tongue between two plates of (different) metal whose edges were in contact. The results were, quite literally, shocking. He’d not only inadvertently stumbled across one of the world’s first electrolytic batteries, but it […]