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Electricity in the brain and electricity in the weather

27 August 2010

At http://opa.yale.edu/news/article_print.aspx?id=7646 July 14th 2010, Yale University press release – scientists at Yale have a paper in Neuron which claims electrical fields can influence the activity of brain cells – the little grey cells of Monsieur Poirot perhaps? It is known that transcranial magnetic stimulation and deep brain stimulation are effective in the treatment of neurological disorders.

Meanwhile, at New Scientist August 26th … it suggests wet weather could be harnessed as a power source according to scientists in Brazil. In the 19th century workers at a plant in Newcastle complained of painful electric shocks when coming into contact with steam leaking from factory boilers. Faraday and Volta explored the phenomena, dubbed steam electricity, but the subject has been ignored until now – considered static electricity and too small to bother with. According to researchers in Brazil water can store an electric charge – which is controversial, an idea that violates the principle of electroneutrality. The principle that negative and positive charged particles in an electrolyte cancelled each other out is basic chemistry. However, the researchers get round this fairly cleverly by saying ‘real substances’ can display ion inbalances and produce a measurable charge. The team created an artificial humid atmosphere and produced a very tiny but detectable negative charge. They are now thinking in terms of harnessing atmospheric humidity as a renewable power source.

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