August 14

Trivia: current follows the easiest path

A widely-quoted misunderstanding is that “[electrical] current follows the easiest path”.  This is incorrect, and destructive to a good understanding of electricity.  A simple example can demonstrate this is not true: plug a 25W light bulb into a power strip and turn it on.  Now plug a 75W bulb into the same power strip.  The 75W bulb is an easier path for current to flow (higher wattage means more current is flowing, which is due to a lower resistance, e.g. an “easier path”).  However, both the 25W and the 75W bulb stay on.

Current follows all the paths available to it, not just the path of least resistance.  However, the amount of current in each path will vary based on its electrical impedance and the energy available.


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Posted 2015-08-14 by JourneymanWizard in category "Rants and Musings

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