Feb 12, 2012

How Electrons Were Found (It took 2 millenniums)

Some hard-to-understand principles of physics feel easier to understand once you know the history of how it was discovered. Electrons are a good example-it actually took 2 millennia to go from faint recognition of it to a complete understanding.
It started in ancient Greece- By 600 BC, it was already "discovered" that amber (you know, the rock that has bugs trapped inside it, like in Jurassic Park?), when rubbed with cloth, attracted bits of pieces of feather and dust.

But they didn't know how- so it earned the title "magic rock".

In the 16th century, William Gilbert of Britain found out that the mysterious force could be transferred to other objects. When you placed scrubbed amber close to an unscrubbed one, the latter amber acquires the former's properties, which is to attract bits of dust and stuff.