1. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    Bioelectricity

    Discussion in 'Research' started by stormcat, Apr 16, 2014.

    I'm trying to research bioelectricity, Basically, the electricity inside you and me that controls neural impulses and our brains. There's a couple things I want to focus on:

    1. The "Aura" of electricity that surrounds all living things and that can apparently be detected by sharks.
    2. Methods of measuring bioelectricity
    3. Devices that could potentially work with such ambient electricity. Maybe Tesla was on to something when he tried to give us all free energy?

    Physics was always my worst subject, and every source I find so far is either new age mumbo jumbo or an extremely complicated medical journal with charts I can't understand. Can someone help me break this all down please?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Electrical currents in your body are not a 'free' source of energy. A simplified view is that an electrical current called an action potential is generated as the ions of sodium (-) and potassium (+) move across the cell membrane. The first step is depolarization creating the electrical impulse, and then the cell's ion pumps reset the mechanism (repolarization).

    What kind of energy are you aiming for and what measurements would be needed?
     
  3. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    I'm writing a character who is blind, but can "See" electricity. She would be able to see electrified objects like a computer or a toaster, but I'm trying to figure out if she could see living things at all. Naturally, high voltage electricity would appear more clearly to her than the relatively weak impulses of the human brain.

    Now, someone is going to sneak up on her and try to kill her. But the assailant needs to disguise his "electronic signature" before he can ambush her. The first step in learning how to block it is by learning how to reduce it. For that, he'll need to find a way to measure his own electricity levels. Do such devices exist?
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2014
  4. MLM
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    MLM Banned for trolling

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    Unless you are writing some hard skiffy, most folks aren't going to question superpowers all that much. We've been conditioned to accept things like that as part of storytelling.
     
  5. AJC
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    AJC Active Member

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    Hi stormcat,

    Air doesn't conduct electricity because of its high resistivity. On the other hand, the resistivity is low in water, which is why it's easier for animals in the water to detect electric fields. I don't think any land animals have this ability. Therefore, it's not realistically possible for her to detect electric fields.

    You can always do what some science fiction authors do and take the ability for granted. No explanation for the superpower is given, which makes it easier on you.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Taking from what AJC wrote, some snakes on land detect heat, seeing in the infrared. There is one class of land animal that can detect electrical fields, monotremes. The platypus is a monotreme. But they use the ability in the water, not on land.

    Maybe you can get some useful information from these:

    12 eyeless animals

    10 eyeless animals

    A retina with at least ten spectral types of photoreceptors in a mantis shrimp

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prey_detection

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroreception

    I like the idea of a superpower, use the detection of electrical fields under water but apply it on land.
     
  7. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Biomagnetism is a known but little studied field. The human body is known to produce a magnetic field, and many living creatures can sense magnetic fields, so if you combine the two you might have a plausible explanation for the effect you desire.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Air is a poor conductor of electricity. That part is correct. However, that permits an object (including a human body) to accumulate a sizable charge. A charged body is surrounded by an electric field (electrostatic field), and the greater the potential, the stronger the field. That field attracts opposite charges, and repels like charges. Put another way, two like-polarized electrostatic fields repel as they overlap, and opposite polarized electric fields attract.

    Attraction and repulsion are another word for a force, and a force can be measured. The normal electric fields around people are generally pretty low intensity, but conceivably, someone could be particularly sensitive. Even normal people can feel their hair stir in response to electric fields, which is why your hair can stand up near an electrostatic generator or as a thunderstorm approaches.

    Incidentally, a lightning discharge is what occurs when the electrostatic field surrounding a cloud grows to sufficient intensity to ionize the air, making it conductive long enough to permit the charge to rapidly drain to another cloud or to the ground. This drains the charge, the electric field collapses, until the charges build up again for the next strike.

    Hopefully this will help with the mechanics of electrosensitive perception, although it's generally a poor idea to explain too much in fiction.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014
  9. AJC
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    AJC Active Member

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    The human body, or, more accurately, the surface of the body, doesn't do a very good job of accumulating charges by itself. That's because the body can be approximated as having an infinite number of positive and negative charges. The best way for the surface of the body to accumulate charges is to wear certain materials when the air is dry. That's something stormcat should take into account.

    Your suggestion to make the character sensitive to weak electric fields is something I hinted at when I said that stormcat should treat this ability like a superpower. In my opinion, that's the best way to tackle this issue.
     
  10. desert rat
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    desert rat Member

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    I really like the ide of the electrical field for your character :). And you have plenty of physics in these posts to work with. But there is also a behavioural issue. Fish like electrical eel, electric catfish and knifefish, which have electric detectors along the length of their body, must keep their body straight when using that sense (moving or curving the body interferes with the generated electrical field). These are fish that do "see" their enviroenment using the electric field (i.e. they actively generate an electrical field around their body). Fish like sharks that have localaized electrical detectors (concentrated on snout and head) can detect an electric field but they don't "see" it (they passively receive electrical signals froma prey item). An analogy would be our hearing, we can locate something by sound but we cannot describe it and its surroundings. So if you were to stick completely to scientific priciples, your character generating an electrical field (assuming she is using it to detect others) would have to walk around stiff as a board. And if she is only detecting their electrical signature she would not be able to "see" it as a whole aura or person. This is why we use poetic (or scientific) licence :) I agree with previous posts of not worrying about the details of it. The reader will believe it if you and your characters do.... And this reader thinks it is an intriguing idea with tons of potential....
     
  11. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Yes, they're called e-meters and are used to detect the souls of dead aliens that cling to your body.

    But I feel that they could be re-purposed for a less realistic use.
     
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