76 Illustrated Theatre Production Guide 2 ed
The hot wire is connected to the generator on the
side where electrons are being pushed because of the
inductive force. The neutral wire is used to complete
the electrical circuit, but in many ways mimics the
action of a capacitor.
In electronics, capacitors are used to store electrons.
Electrons can be “bunched up inside a capacitor in
proportion to the voltage pressure in a circuit and
released later on when the pressure drops. The neutral
conductor acts in a similar manner, allowing electrons
a place to rest temporarily. When the voltage pressure
of the sine wave increases, as it does in the positive
quadrant of the sine wave, electrons are fed into the
neutral. When the voltage pressure drops below zero,
electrons begin to move out of the neutral and back into
the hot conductor.
Touching a hot conductor will allow at least some
electrons to flow into your body, a hand perhaps. It may
be that the resistances of the various pathways are such
that you will receive only a tingling sensation. However,
if you are “grounded out” by a puddle of water or some
other method of conduction, you might receive a deadly
shock as the current passes through your heart to get to
the ions in the puddle of water.
Grounding does not guarantee safety. Normally, a
ground wire is used to make AC current safer by provid-
ing an alternate path or circuit for electrons to take that
has less resistance than the pathway through a persons
body. Because the body acts as a resistor in parallel with
a short circuit, and the ground wire has only the very
small resistance of the wire itself, it will naturally draw
off most of the current. If no ground wire is present,
the full amount of the current will pass through your
body, which can be deadly.
TRANSFORMERS, AC TRANSMISSION, AND
THE POWER LOSS FORMULA
Power on overhead lines runs at a very high voltage,
because that is the most efficient method of transmis-
sion. High-voltage electricity loses less power to resis-
tance over long-distance wires. Power loss in a circuit is
determined by the formula P
LOSS
= P
2
R/E
2
. Because the
value of E is squared in the denominator, the higher the
voltage is, the smaller the total power loss will be for a
given amount of current and resistance. The current
running through transmission lines is actually quite
tiny. The current can be small because a large voltage

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