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Early studies of conducting currents


V.M. Olshanskiy – Dr.Sc. (Phys.-Math), Senior Research Scientist, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of RAS. E-mail:

Henry Cavendish's early studies of conducting currents executed on electric rays Torpedo essentially changed ideas of physicists of specifics of the electric phenomena in conducting media. In his publication in 1775 “An account of some attempts to imitate the effects of the Torpedo by electricity” he was first who described the laws of decreasing electric field in the water, proposed the idea of currents lines. He was also first who described the relationship between capacity, voltage and charge. He suggested capacity measurement methodology and procedure for and the comparison of resistance of conductors. Before Cavendish's publication among professional physicists there was a popular belief that the electric phenomena in conducting media aren't possible. The results of some Cavendish’ experiments we could explain today otherwise. This applies primarily to comparing of two variants electric ray models – wooden and leather requiring accounting effects arising at the boundaries of solid materials and electrolytes. Cavendish's researches on models of electric rays caused a great interest among physicists. Their continuation led Volta to creation of his column – the first source of current. Broad electro technical practice begins with this invention as an era of great opening in the electric theory. Faraday's researches on electric eels concerned a relationships between the agent of live forces and the electricity received artificially. These researches led to a final decision of a question on the mechanism of action of Volta’ column and the power source nature in a galvanic cell. If to Faraday the physical phenomena were described as result of action of mechanical Newtonian forces, after his works physics began to consider "live" forces or energy. With Cavendish's Volta’ and Faraday’ experiments, executed on electric fishes, it would be necessary to begin electrodynamics history. However, these works remain little-known to domestic experts. Initial close cooperation of scientists with the wide interests which haven't been limited to concrete scientific specialization, was extremely fruitful for joint formation of all natural sciences – both physics, and chemistry, and biology, and also for the most different exits in practice. Today biological manifestations of electricity, even such important and interesting as the mechanism of nervous impulses propagation along nervous fibers, are completely excluded both from school and from High school programs. Various electric manifestations of live systems are actually given to so-called alternative science. The exception of the biological bases of teaching of physics is represented especially negative in engineering sciences. The development engineer is faced by questions not only like "how to make?" demanding (and that not always) strict calculations, but also questions "why from different options should be given preference to it?" or "why we want do it?". Methodologies of obtaining the answers to questions "why?" and "what for?" in physical and mathematical sciences essentially isn't present. It is in biology, in the evolutionary theory, one of which main doctrines is the utility doctrine. Attention restoration to biological fundamentals of natural sciences is obviously necessary.

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