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How would you make usable electricity before it's invented?

  1. Dec 27, 2016 #1
    So I had a dream where I woke up in the bronze age. I wanted to create electricity (to impress the queen and that way I might be allowed into the royal castle to stay).

    So I researched and found Magnets are made of metals and an Electric Charge sent through the alloy of metals to create the Magnet (alloy of metals = copper, cobalt, Sulfur, nickel, pure iron, aluminium, and titanium),

    But Magnets are used in a generator to create an Electric Charge.

    How did this all come about if you need one to create the other? What all do you need to make usable electricity, in the bronze age, before it was invented?

    I Have These Current Theories/Hypotheses:
    1. Maybe you first need to make a battery (I don't know how you would in the bronze age) and then wrap copper around an iron nail to create a strong electromagnet. That magnet is used to create a temporary electric charge, until the battery dies, to create a permanent magnet that will be used to create a generator. After finally making my own generator I make an electric charge through hand cranking it then move onto other efficient methods.
    2. "You can generate electricity by many methods without magnetic fields: chemical (batteries and fuel cells), solar (photovoltaic cells), and thermal (thermocouples, Seebeck effect). There are many biological generators as well (nerve and muscle tissues in your body) in addition to the obvious electric eels." -marcusl
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  3. Dec 27, 2016 #2


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    Who can resist impressing Queens?

    How about a bar made of resin to rub with cat fur. You might be able to make the Queen's hair stand on end. But it might be safer to make someone else's hair stand on end, rather than make the Queen look sstupid.:kiss:
  4. Dec 27, 2016 #3
    Read some-where that if you align an iron bar North-South and hammer it, it will become weakly magnetic...

    Snag is you're in the Bronze age. There may be some meteoritic iron about; IIRC, King Tut had a dagger crafted from such...

    And you could use one such magnet to weakly magnetise an iron pin as a compass needle.

    Again, given a 'natural North Seeking Lodestone', could you collect enough high-purity copper wire to make two coils, the second making a 'compass needle' twitch ?
  5. Dec 27, 2016 #4
    Bring Michael Faraday along on your trip...
  6. Dec 27, 2016 #5


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    Not sure how "useable" it would be, but you can make electricity with potatoes and a zinc wire and a copper wire.
  7. Dec 27, 2016 #6


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  8. Dec 27, 2016 #7
    May you guys please be serious.
  9. Dec 27, 2016 #8


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    Hey, I take my potatoes very seriously.
  10. Dec 28, 2016 #9


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    Generators are usually a combination of electromagnets and natural magnets.
  11. Dec 28, 2016 #10
    I agree it was
  12. Dec 28, 2016 #11


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    In the bronze age, the concepts of electricity and magnetism, their connection and interaction had not been discovered. Trying to engineer electricity and magnetism before their discovery would be too complex for any individual.

    The lodestone as a magnetic compass has only been known for 1000 years. Maybe the best you could have done in the bronze age would be to have found two lodestones that were attracted to each other, then to demonstrate that when suspended alone they always faced the same way. (Would that not take you back to the “stone age”). On the other hand electrostatic charges, but no currents flowing in circuits were available. It is hard to see how you might advance without two different metallic spoons stuck in some acidic fruit.

    When struck by lightning, damage was attributed to the “thunderbolt” in the same way that a bolt from a sling or crossbow damaged the target. Lightning was an act of God. What makes you think that you could escape those times, to discover and control electricity and not be put to the sword (of bronze) like all the other evil wizards were before you.
  13. Dec 28, 2016 #12


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    If you try to do some of these things you will realise how very difficult they are. Even wire could not be purchased and the only "plastic" was amber. I sometimes recall how Michael Faraday's father was a blacksmith. Faraday was in an unusual position having access to iron rods, rings, steel, wire etc. I would imagine that you are not. I have noticed that progress sometimes happens suddenly when a scientist is given a new machine - like the huge battery at the Royal Institution (still there), Newton's prism, or a vacuum pump, induction coil, laser, or even fire.
  14. Dec 28, 2016 #13
    I was being serious about Faraday -- you should really look into his story if you haven't already done so. The Wiki article is a good start.
  15. Dec 28, 2016 #14


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    Electrochemical cells cells could be the way to go to produce electric current, imo. This link suggests the voltages that could be obtained using different materials in a cell. Carbon and Brass or Bronze would produce about half a volt. A stack of such cells could produce a useful voltage. You would also need to get hold of suitable material for wiring. Silver could be appropriate for drawing wire.
    There are magnetic ores all over the place and you would only need to identify and mine a suitable one.
    Snag with this is the investment in time, money and goodwill in order to get started - and before you had your head chopped off for being a Wizard!
  16. Dec 28, 2016 #15


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    Apart from voltaic cells or rubbing cat's fur against amber, the technology simply didn't exist. Iron hadn't yet been discovered (or at least the technology required to smelt and process it hadn't been developed), to say nothing of cobalt and other elements you list. You'll need to invent and reduce to practices the technologies to make wires, insulation, bearings, brushes (think springs) and magnets--technologies that involve high temperature (relative to bronze) furnaces, refining, a knowledge of metallurgy, machining and machine tools and so on. Finally why do you want electricity? Presumably to power useful devices like light bulbs (invent glass, vacuum pumps and tungsten filaments) or stoves (nichrome wire, ceramic insulators, etc.). If you are thinking of television or the like, then a whole raft of Nobel-level insights are needed. Knowledge you have from the future would give you a great head start but there's a lot to do!
  17. Dec 28, 2016 #16


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    I you can make a battery using "silver" and "copper" coins and fruit juice and then detect a current using a small swinging magnet, that would be a good achievement and good fun and would impress any queen.
  18. Jan 13, 2017 #17

    Maybe a lemon battery? You need lemons, copper, and zinc. You would not have an LED of course.


    Perhaps you can get some ideas from the so-called Baghdad battery. Note the Willard Gray experiments.


    It's also interesting to look into the earliest verified batteries and electrostatic generators.

    I like your question. I think it's interesting to see how much technology the ancients could have developed. Where would we be today if we had gone in a straight line from Archimedes to Newton, Faraday, and Maxwell with no interruptions? I think about this sometimes and the result is I become very sad. We have lost so much time, and even now we have so many anti-science and anti-progress forces in the world.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
  19. Jan 16, 2017 #18
    1. Take a big piece of iron and wind a long wire around it (several thousand turns at least). They have the materials but you might need to help them with the smelting/forming process.
    2. Connect the two ends across the primary side of a soft iron-core transformer with at least a 1000:1 ratio (again, they have the materials, but you may need to help show them what to do with them)
    3. Connect the two ends of the secondary side of the transformer to a servant the queen is dissatisfied with.
    4. Build a rotating wooden frame on a rotational platform and strap the magnets in tight pointing at the bar of iron with the wire around it.
    5. Have a cavalry rider hitch his horse to the platform and ride in as tight, fast a circle as he can manage.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
  20. Jan 16, 2017 #19
    There is a documentary called 'Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity: by the BBC. Its a good watch and it describes the methods in which charge was generated for shows and experiments in the last 4ish centuries. By watching it you can learn not only how it was generated, by the kind of stunts and presentations scientists did in live shows to impress the aristocracy, just like in your dream.
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