How Much Do You Know About Electricity?


By: Annette

5 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Electricity is a natural phenomenon that has been around since before life itself - and was likely key to the creation of life. It's rather like the Force from "Star Wars" - even when you can't see it, it's in all of your cells, affecting the physics of your body and the world outside of it. 

Electricity appears in the natural world as static, lightning, and more. It is also the fuel of the Industrial Revolution, where it took a society that warmed and lit itself using dirty and inefficient wood and coal and literally powered the transformation to a modern world.

Having electricity isn't just about being able to see. It's about keeping food and medication refrigerated; cooling a home in a dangerously hot climate; children being able to read and study after dark. These days, it's rapidly becoming the way you make your car move, and batteries are soon set to replace jet fuel in airplanes. 

As solar and wind power reach cost parity and begin to displace oil and natural gas - which have already pretty much killed off coal as a fuel source in the developed world - electricity is evolving and changing, and becoming cleaner, more efficient, and cheaper.

But how does it all work? What are watts, amps, joules, and ohms? What's alternating current and how is it unlike direct current? What's up with voltage drop? Let's see how much you know about this vital force behind our prosperous modern society, and we'll see whether a light bulb is going off over your head, or if there's more of a blackout.

Electricity travels at the speed of _______.

Did you know that electricity travels at the speed of light? That is about 186,000 miles per second.


Static electricity is _______ of electric charges.

Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charges. A spark of it can measure up to three thousand volts.


A bolt of lightning can measure up to _____ volts.

A bolt of lightning can measure up to one billion volts. All that power comes in less than a second.


What path does lightning travel?

Lightning can travel from cloud to ground, from ground to cloud, or from cloud to cloud. In any case, it's dangerous.


True or false: Your heart runs on electricity.

Did you know that your heart runs on an electrical system, which causes the heart muscles to contract?


Who discovered the electricity in lightning?

That was a tricky one! Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity in lightning, but Thomas Edison invented the first electric lightbulb.


Where was the first commercial power plant located?

The first commercial power plant was located in New York City. It was owned and operated by Thomas Edison in 1882.


How many inventions did Thomas Edison patent?

Actually, Thomas Edison patented more than 1,000 new products. These include switches, fuses, sockets and meters.


What was the first significant energy source for humans?

Fire is considered to be the first significant energy source for humans. It was only about 5,000 years ago that we began to use other sources.


After the Industrial Revolution, each human's energy demands _______.

After the Industrial Revolution, each human's energy demands tripled to 77,000 kilocalories. One hundred years later, this demand tripled again.


When was the first natural gas light created in America?

In America, the first natural gas light was created in 1821. The first oil well was dug in 1859.


People were initially ______ electricity.

People were initially afraid of electricity. Parents wouldn't let their children get near the light!


Edison's first power plant sent electricity to how many buildings?

Edison's first power plant sent electricity to 85 buildings. It was known as the Pearl Street Power Station.


Before being known as "energy," ______ was the term used to describe it.

"Vis viva" was the Latin term used to describe energy, before Thomas Young gave it a new name. Vis Viva means "living force."


How much of the energy in a lightbulb is used to create light?

Only 10% of the energy in a lightbulb is used to create light. The remaining 90% creates heat.


Compact fluorescent bulbs use ______ less electricity.

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs use 80% less energy than a conventional bulb. They also last 12 times longer.


Enough sunlight reaches the Earth's surface each minute to power the world for _______.

Enough sunlight reaches the earth's surface to power the globe for a whole year. The sun seriously fulfills our energy demands.


The amount of energy Americans use doubles every ______ years.

The amount of energy Americans use doubles every 20 years. Between 2008 and 2030, world energy consumption is expected to increase by more than 55%.


Coal makes up ____ of the world's electricity generation.

Coal makes up roughly 2/5 of the world's electricity generation. The U.S. produces half of the electricity in this manner.


How many countries produce 2/3 of the world's oil?

There are ten countries that produce a whopping 2/3 of the world's oil. Saudi Arabia tops this list.


What is idle power?

Idle power refers to power not being actively used, while electronics are turned off. Idle power consumes more electricity than all the solar panels in America combined.


What percentage of the power consumed by our electronics is idle power?

That's right. 75% of the power consumed by our electronic devices is consumed when these products are turned off.


True or False: Water conducts electricity.

It's actually false that water conducts electricity. It's the impurities in the water that do so.


When was ocean thermal energy conversion invented?

Ocean thermal energy conversion is a technology that was invented in the 19th century. It has the power to meet twice the global energy demand.


Power stations go on standby when the Brits make a lot of what?

Fun little fact: So many Brits make tea after watching "Eastenders" that power stations go on standby. That's a lot of tea!


Nearly 6% of our electricity use in the U.S. comes from what?

About 6% of our electricity use in the U.S. comes from air conditioning. Our use of air conditioning has doubled in the past 12 years.


Selenium conducts electricity when it is met with what?

Selenium conducts electricity when light is shined upon it. In the dark, it is an insulator.


True or False: Daylight Savings saves electricity.

It's false that Daylight Savings saves electricity. It actually exists because it helps the economy.


In Sweden, ore trains are able to power what?

Ore trains in Sweden generate five times the electricity they actually use. This powers their trip to and from, and also helps to power nearby towns.


Which president enjoyed electricity in the White House for the first time?

Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president, and the first to see electricity in the White House. He was too afraid to touch the light switches.


The word "electrocute" comes from ______.

We rarely think about it, but the word electrocute comes from electro and execute. That's a horrible way to go.


Which of these uses more electricity in a microwave?

Did you know that the little digital clock on a microwave uses more electricity than the heating portion? Who even uses that darn clock?


What is the unit of electric force?

The unit of electric force is the volt. It measures the potential strength of a current.


How many volts does a taser emit?

The average taser emits 50,000 volts. Getting hit by that is the epitome of a bad day.


What voltage comes out of an electric eel?

Electric eels can produce shocks of up to 500 volts. Again, an encounter with an electric eel constitutes a bad day.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!