Electricity Poll: which way were you taught?

In What Direction Were You Taught Electricity Flows?

  1. Negative to Positive

    17 vote(s)
  2. Positive to Negative

    20 vote(s)
  1. In which direction did your physics text teach electricity flows?

    Please mention the country in which the school where you learned this was located. I think there may be differences based on location in the world.
  2. jcsd
  3. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,483
    Gold Member

    Us, positive to negative
  4. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,483
    Gold Member

    Of course with the misnomer that electrons actually travel (slowly) opposite the direction of current.
  5. Monique

    Monique 4,445
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    Well, that was taught in high school a looooong time ago. The electrons move from - to +, but the current is defined by the positive charge, so that would then appear to move in the other direction (NL). Did I learn it correctly?
  6. BobG

    BobG 2,351
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    I was taught two different methods, so I answered the first way I was taught.

    In military tech school, I was taught negative to positive.

    In college, I was taught positive to negative.
  7. In Technology we're taught conventional current and that what we use for all our electronics work. However in physics we learn about both conventional current and electron flow. However the only time you have to use electron flow is if the question specifically asks about electrons.
  8. I like Serena

    I like Serena 6,181
    Homework Helper

    Just to make sure, were you taught that "electricity" or perhaps "current" flows from the negative pole to the positive pole?
    Or were you taught that "electrons" or perhaps the "electron flow" flow(s) from the negative pole to the positive pole?

    Which word was used, exactly, on military tech school?
  9. nsaspook

    nsaspook 1,381
    Science Advisor

    I was (non school) taught electrical energy moves from source to load and that the physical effects on the medium of transmission are secondary effects caused by that movement.

    I still have my first text book on electricity "Drake's Cyclopedia of Radio and Electronics 11ed 1943" from a relative who was in the signal corp in WW2.
  10. fluidistic

    fluidistic 3,336
    Gold Member

    Same here. I'm not 100% sure but I think I've learned this in France, Canada (Qu├ębec) and Argentina.
  11. Integral

    Integral 7,288
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    US Navy tech schools teach electron flow. They let us know that some places teach the opposite but choose to teach electron flow because it is physically real. Note that this was 40yrs ago, we did spend 3 weeks on transistors so learned about holes and current flow through solid state devices.
  12. BobG

    BobG 2,351
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    Same as Integral (except only 30 years ago). They did point out the flaws with this idea (how long an electron actually takes to go from the battery to the starter using DC current, for example). Negative to positive was simply a convention they used when teaching.
  13. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    I think in high school it was mentioned that electrons flow from - to +, but current flows from + to -, as in + from the battery terminal, around the circuit to the - terminal. There was some decoupling of electrons and current, which I didn't clear up until university where finally someone explained the convention that current is the flow of + charges, whereas negative charges (electrons or - ions) flow opposite the current.

    I think in high school chemistry were referred to flow of electrons as current, which contributed to some of my confusion when I learned that current was in the direction of the flow of positive charges. I also found it confusing since I knew that electrons flow in electrical circuits and postive charges didn't flow through the circuitry. Of course, atoms can diffuse in solids, but not very quickly at low temperature.
  14. Last edited: Feb 18, 2012
  15. Are you talking about voltages? Positive charges (which indicates the direction of current) accelerates towards lower electric potentials. So I suppose positive to negative. Also, United States.
  16. The history of this problem come from way back to electrostatics. The + and - is just a notation use to designate a "charge, such that +,+: and -,- of course repelled, and unlike charges attracted. When way back when, it was said to be that + moved to - when a conductor was attached to the different charges, it was a guess.

    When later experiments showed the opposite, well this is the nature of such questions today.
  17. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,122
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    I think I would have to go back to Cub Scouts for my first exposure here. No doubt this was discussed as current [hole] flow. At any point after that, my best recollection is that I was aware of both concepts. One of my science fair projects was a Van de Graaff generator, which clearly conveys the concept of electron flow. That was in the ninth grade, but I worked from dad's college physics books, so it's hard to be sure of what was taught in class.

    Zooby, I think you needed at least a third option, so I didn't vote.
  18. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    I was self-taught in vacuum-tube electronics, and traced everything from positive to negative, for some reason. Got a power-supply circuit that is rectified and feeds a B+ rail, and trace from there. It worked.
  19. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,483
    Gold Member

    I wasn't actually taught that "electricity flows" though; I was taught current does. Electricity isn't really a quantity with units like current is, it's more like the general name for the phenomena.
  20. Yes, I didn't anticipate any situations where someone could say they were taught both.
    You're right. The word "electricity" should be replaced with "electric current". A specific direction usually has to be attributed to DC so there's some sense of what's alternating when AC is introduced.
  21. I like Serena

    I like Serena 6,181
    Homework Helper

    I think the question in which direction "electric current" flows is a bit ambiguous.
    Are we talking about "conventional current" or "electron flow"?
    I have also been taught both.

    But suppose you have the schematic of an electrical circuit.
    In which direction would you draw the arrows representing the current?
    From the plus pole (high voltage) to the minus pole (low voltage) or vice versa?
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