10 Myths Ordinary People Believe That EEs Know Aren’t True

In a world shaped by technological advancements and scientific discoveries, misconceptions about electrical phenomena persist, perpetuated by common beliefs that often lack accuracy. These myths, ranging from the properties of gold as a conductor to the perception of digital signals as superior, can impact our understanding of the world and influence our decision-making. It is crucial to dispel these myths and gain a more accurate comprehension of electrical concepts to make informed choices and embrace a more scientifically grounded perspective.

1. “Gold is the Best Conductor” Myth

Common Belief: The prevailing notion that gold outshines all other metals as the prime conductor of electricity merits closer scrutiny.

The Truth: Contrary to the common belief, while gold does conduct electricity and heat proficiently, it falls short of being the ultimate conductor. Silver boasts slightly superior conductivity. Nevertheless, gold’s unique properties make it a preferred choice for specific applications due to its resistance to tarnishing.

Though gold conducts well, it slightly trails copper and silver. Its higher resistivity dampens conductivity. Rarity and cost limit its use compared to copper’s affordability and better conductivity.

Gold’s electricity conduction stems from its free valence electrons, energized to flow. Its malleability aids intricate connectors, wires, and strips. It enhances copper solderability through electroplating and serves well in switches, relays, and microelectronics.

In summary, gold’s conductivity isn’t unmatched, but its unique attributes make it valuable for specialized applications. Juggling these features with cost considerations, gold remains an exceptional choice in electrical conduction.

2. “Switching Off an Appliance Stops Power Consumption” Myth

Common Belief: Turning off an appliance results in zero power consumption.

The Truth: Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of power even when switched off, known as “phantom” or “standby” power consumption. This phenomenon challenges the assumption that powering down eliminates energy usage.

One of the critical factors debunking this myth is the concept of “phantom” or “standby” power. Many modern devices are designed to remain in a low-power state even when turned off. This enables them to respond swiftly to user commands and maintain preset configurations, ensuring convenience while consuming a small but persistent amount of energy.

Though the energy consumption of a single appliance in standby mode might appear negligible, the collective effect can be significant. Over time, this phantom power usage can increase energy bills and environmental strain. As the world focuses on sustainable practices, understanding the implications of phantom energy becomes vital.

To genuinely save energy, more than just a simple switch is required. By unplugging devices susceptible to phantom power consumption, substantial reductions in energy usage can be achieved. Appliances that rely on external power supplies, like printers or kitchen gadgets, are notable candidates for this approach.

It’s time to dispel the notion that powering down an appliance ends its energy usage. The reality of phantom power calls for a broader comprehension of energy consumption. Through thoughtful decisions and a willingness to unplug, we can take meaningful steps towards curbing energy waste and embracing a more eco-conscious lifestyle.

3. “Higher Wattage Means Brighter Bulb” Myth

Common Belief: Many believe that a higher-wattage bulb equates to greater brightness.

The Truth: Brightness is gauged by lumens, not watts, which measure power consumption.

Contrary to popular belief, wattage doesn’t directly determine a bulb’s brightness. Instead, lumens quantify the actual light output. This misconception leads to frustration when different wattages don’t yield the expected results.

In the past, incandescent bulbs with higher wattages were associated with brighter light. However, energy-efficient technologies like LEDs and CFLs have reshaped this dynamic. These advancements produce more lumens per watt, meaning a lower-wattage bulb can deliver the same or better brightness.

When shopping for bulbs, prioritize lumens over wattage. Packaging now prominently displays lumens, allowing you to choose bulbs based on desired brightness. Tailor your lighting choices to each space’s needs, whether for focused tasks or gentle ambiance. Remember, lumens shed light on the truth: wattage isn’t the sole indicator of brightness.

4. “Surge Protectors Offer Total Protection” Myth

Common Belief: A surge protector will safeguard electronics from all electrical problems.

The Truth: Surge protectors are designed to protect against voltage spikes but not against other issues like brownouts or longer-term power surges.

One prevalent misunderstanding about surge protectors is rooted in their name, which implies an all-encompassing shield against electrical perils. While surge protectors are undoubtedly adept at mitigating everyday voltage fluctuations and minor surges that might result from remote lightning discharges, they are fundamentally unequipped to cope with the sheer magnitude of energy produced by a direct lightning strike.

Lightning strikes generate colossal amounts of energy, often reaching billions of joules. The fallout includes fires, power disruptions, and significant structural damage. The enormous energy levels released during a lightning strike surpass the operational capacity of most surge protectors. Thus, while these devices can afford some safeguarding from the residual effects of distant lightning, they inevitably need to comprehensively shield your electronics in the face of a close-by lightning bolt.

5. “Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) from Everyday Devices are Harmful” Myth 

Common Belief: EMFs from cell phones, microwaves, and other household appliances are harmful.

The Truth: While high levels of EMFs can be harmful, the levels emitted by most household devices are much too low to cause harm, as per most scientific research.

While it’s true that high levels of EMFs can have harmful effects on human health, the EMF levels produced by most household devices are minuscule and fall well within safe limits. To understand this, it’s crucial to delve into the basics of electromagnetic fields and their interaction with human biology.

EMFs are generated by the flow of electric current through conductors, such as wires. This flow of current creates an invisible field of energy around the conductor, which is what we commonly refer to as an electromagnetic field. It’s worth noting that electric fields are produced by voltage, while magnetic fields are generated by current.

In the context of everyday devices, such as cell phones and microwaves, the EMFs produced are generally categorized as non-ionizing radiation. This type of radiation lacks the energy required to remove electrons from atoms or molecules, a process known as ionization, which is what makes high-energy radiation (like X-rays and gamma rays) potentially harmful. Non-ionizing radiation, including the low-frequency EMFs emitted by household devices, does not possess enough energy to damage DNA or cells, as is often the concern with ionizing radiation.

6. “All Electrical Currents Flow from Positive to Negative” Myth 

Common Belief: Current always flows from the positive terminal to the negative one.

The Truth: Electron flow (the actual movement of charge carriers) is from negative to positive, but conventional current flow is considered positive to negative.

When an electrical circuit is active, the movement of electrons constitutes an electric current. Electrons, which carry a negative charge, flow from areas of higher electron concentration (negative terminals) to regions of lower concentration (positive terminals). This natural movement of electrons creates the flow of electric charge.

However, the standard way of describing the current direction, known as conventional current, is based on historical conventions rather than the actual movement of electrons. Conventional current is considered to flow from the positive terminal to the negative terminal, even though the negatively charged electrons are physically moving in the opposite direction.

7. “Digital Signals are Always Better than Analog Signals” Myth 

Common Belief: Digital signals provide better quality and are superior in all applications.

The Truth: While digital signals are less susceptible to noise and degradation, analog signals have their own advantages in certain applications.

Contrary to the myth, analog signals have advantages that cannot be dismissed. The ease of processing analog signals, especially in scenarios like audio and video transmission, offers a simplicity that can be more efficient in specific contexts. Analog signals can accurately represent changes in physical phenomena, preserving the nuances that digital signals might overlook. Their reduced sensitivity to electrical tolerance ensures stable operation in diverse environments.

However, it is also crucial to acknowledge the disadvantages of analog signals. The susceptibility to noise and distortion and the potential for generation loss can impact signal quality. Long-distance transmission of analog signals introduces challenges that need to be addressed to maintain the integrity of the movement.

8. “More Megapixels Mean Better Camera Quality” Myth

Common Belief: Cameras with more megapixels always produce higher quality photos.

The Truth: Image quality is determined by a combination of factors, including sensor size, lens quality, and image processing capabilities.

The misconception that megapixel count solely determines image quality needs careful reconsideration. While more megapixels can offer advantages like larger prints and cropping, true image quality is shaped by multiple factors, including sensor size, lens quality, and image processing. A camera with fewer megapixels but superior hardware and software can outperform one with a higher megapixel count. It’s essential to look beyond megapixels and recognize the intricate balance between hardware, software, and image excellence.

Moreover, the emphasis on megapixels alone can sometimes lead to overlooking the nuanced impact of factors such as low-light performance, dynamic range, and color accuracy. A camera’s ability to capture stunning shots in challenging lighting conditions and to preserve the subtlest details can’t be attributed solely to megapixels.

9. “Batteries Store Charge” Myth

Common Belief: Batteries store charge.

The Truth: Batteries store energy in a chemical form, not as an electric charge.

Batteries and similar devices store and release electricity as needed. They utilize chemistry, specifically chemical potential, to hold energy akin to familiar energy sources we encounter daily. Take logs and oxygen, for instance – they harbor energy within their chemical bonds until combustion converts some into heat. Gasoline and oxygen mixtures also house chemical potential energy until an engine transforms it into mechanical energy.

Similarly, batteries require converting electricity into chemical-like forms for efficient storage. Comprising two terminals, the cathode, and anode, batteries incorporate an electrolyte to separate them. When linked to an external circuit, they exchange energy. Electrons traverse the course, while ions (charged atoms or molecules) travel through the electrolyte. Rechargeable batteries facilitate the bidirectional movement of electrons and ions. Electrons shifting from cathode to anode amplify chemical potential energy, thus charging the battery.

Conversely, the reverse motion converts this energy into electricity for the circuit, discharging the battery. During these processes, oppositely charged ions move through the electrolyte to maintain electron balance and establish a sustainable, rechargeable setup. Once captured, the battery can be disconnected, preserving the chemical potential energy until needed as electricity.

10. “Static Electricity is Harmless” Myth

Common Belief: Static electricity is just a minor nuisance.

The Truth: While static shocks from touching a doorknob might be harmless, static electricity can damage electronic components and even ignite flammable materials.

Experiencing a static shock upon touching a doorknob might seem harmless on the surface; however, it carries the latent potential to unleash fires and explosions under specific circumstances. This fact becomes particularly apparent when we examine scenarios involving the convergence of fuel vapors and a charged object. In such cases, the seemingly innocuous contact can yield a spark that can set the mists ablaze, leading to a potentially catastrophic fire or explosion. As a result, it becomes imperative to exercise a high degree of caution and implement preventative measures when dealing with substances prone to combustion to effectively stave off the discharge of static electricity and its potential hazards.

In the realm of electricity, a fundamental distinction exists between the domains of static electricity and current electricity, both of which play critical roles in our understanding of the underlying principles of this phenomenon. In static electricity, electric charges accumulate and remain immobile, creating an electrical imbalance that can manifest as sparks or shocks. This is the kind of discharge we experience when interacting with a doorknob, for example. On the other hand, current electricity involves the dynamic movement of electric charges through a conductor, giving birth to an electric current. Unlike static electricity, current electricity is the foundation for numerous technological applications, powering devices like batteries and making our homes functional through power outlets. The flow of current electricity enables the seamless operation of our modern world, underscoring its indispensability in today’s society.


In unraveling the intricate tapestry of these ten common electrical myths, a clearer understanding of the underpinnings of electricity and its applications has emerged. We’ve dismantled erroneous beliefs that have long shaped our perceptions by dispelling misconceptions about gold’s conductivity, energy consumption, bulb brightness, surge protectors, electromagnetic fields, current flow, camera quality, battery mechanics, and the potential hazards of static electricity. Armed with accurate knowledge, we’re poised to engage more thoughtfully with the technologies and systems that define our electrified world, making informed decisions that promote efficiency, sustainability, and safety as we journey into the future.

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