The focus of O-T-S is the development and delivery of training programs for electric power system operations personnel.

Southwest 2011 Outage

The Dynamics of Disturbances class has been updated to include a detailed description of the 9/8/2011 Southwest outage.


Introduction to Basic Electricity

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity and where does it go after it leaves the toaster?

Here is a simple experiment that will teach you an important electrical lesson. On a cool dry day scuff your feet along a carpet, then reach your hand into a friend's mouth and touch one of his dental fillings. Did you notice how your friend twitched violently and cried out in pain? This teaches us that electricity can be a very powerful force, but we must never use it to hurt others unless we need to learn an important electrical lesson.

This also teaches us how an electrical circuit works. When you scuffed your feet on the carpet you picked up batches of electrons which are very small objects that the carpet manufacturers weave into the carpet so they will attract dirt. The electrons travel through your bloodstream and collect in your fingertip where they form a spark. The spark then leaps to your friend's filling, then travels down his legs to his feet and back into the carpet, thus completing the circuit.

Electronic fact: If you scuffed your feet long enough without touching anything, you would build up so many electrons that your finger would explode. However, this is nothing to worry about unless you have extensive carpeting.

Although we modern persons tend to take electric lights, radios, mixers, etc., for granted, hundreds of years ago people did not have any of these things, which is just as well because there was no place to plug them in. Then along came the first electrical pioneer, Benjamin Franklin, who flew a kite into a severe lightning storm and received a serious electrical shock. This proved that lightning is powered by the same force as carpets, but it also damaged Franklin's brain so severely that he started speaking in incomprehensible maxims such as "a penny saved is a penny earned". Eventually he had to be given a job running the post office.

After Franklin came a herd of electrical pioneers whose names have become part of our electrical terminology: Myron Volt, Mary Louise Amp, James Watt, Bob Transformer, etc. These pioneers conducted many important electrical experiments.

For example, in 1780 Luigi Galvani discovered (this is the truth) that when he attached two different kinds of metal to a frog's leg, an electrical current developed and the frog's leg kicked, even though it was no longer attached to the frog which was dead anyway. Galvani's discovery led to many enormous advances in the field of amphibian medicine. Today, skilled veterinary surgeons can take a frog that has been seriously injured or killed, implant pieces of metal into its muscles, and watch it hop back into the pond just like a normal frog, except for the fact that it sinks like a stone.

But the greatest pioneer of all was Thomas Edison, who was a brilliant inventor despite the fact that he had little formal education and he lived in New Jersey. Edison's first major invention was the phonograph which could soon be found in thousands of American homes, where it basically sat until 1927 when the record was invented.

Edison's greatest achievement came in 1879 when he invented the electric company. Edison's design was a brilliant adaptation of the simple electrical circuit. The electric company sends electricity to the customer through a wire, then immediately gets the electricity back through another wire, then (and this is the brilliant part) sends it right back to the customer again to repeat the process continually.

This means that an electric company can sell the customer the same batch of electricity 60 times a second, virtually thousands of times a day, and never get caught, since very few customers take the time to examine their electricity very carefully. In fact, the last time any electricity was generated in the United States was 1937. The electric companies have been merely reselling the same energy ever since, which explains why they have so much free time to apply for rate increases.

Today, thanks to men like Edison and Franklin, and frogs like Galvani's, we receive almost unlimited benefits from electricity. For example, in the last few decades, scientists have developed the laser, an electronic appliance so powerful that it can vaporize a bulldozer 2000 yards away, yet so precise that it can be used to perform delicate operations on the human eyeball, provided of course, that they remember to change the power setting from bulldozer to delicate.