Why does static scatter?

1. Jun 1, 2006

Line

We all know Newtons law. An object in motion will stay in motion on straight path unless acted on by another force. Light travels straight,X-rays travel straight,Gamma Rays travels straight but electricity doesn't travel straight.

ELectrons which are relate to the radiowave part of the spectrum I guessdoesn't travel straight in Earth's atmosphere. I don't know if it travels straight space or a vacum but never have I seen it do it here. What I wanna know is why doesn't lightning or static electricity travel straight. Is it cause there are minor electric fields acting on it or because air is an insulator? Cathode rays which are electrons I believe travel straight in our TVs. And the solar wind moves,I'm not sure if it's straight though. Unless we can get charged particles to move straight we have to use Neutrons in our ray guns.

2. Jun 1, 2006

Hootenanny

Staff Emeritus
It is due to differing rates of ionisation, not all the air becomes ionised. Basically, air is a good insulator, the only way a current can flow is if a massive electric field breaks down the air. The strong electric field causes the atoms in the air to become ionised forming a plasma; I would like to emphisise that the net charge remains unchanged. This ionisation creates a large number of electrons which can then flow to earth. However, ionisation may not occur equally in all directions leading to a 'bent' path. In addition the shape of an electric field is determined by the shape of the two charges. If the thunder cloud is parallel to the earths surface, then the electric flux lines would be straight down, otherwise the electric flux lines would be curved.

How stuff works - my best friend ; http://science.howstuffworks.com/lightning4.htm

Hope this helps.

~H

Last edited: Jun 1, 2006
3. Jun 1, 2006

Hootenanny

Staff Emeritus
Actually, they usually follow a curved path, but this is due to an electric field produced by coils, see wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathode_ray_tube

~H