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Thread: Path of least resistance

  1. #1 Path of least resistance 
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    As a programmer, I have been wondering.... How do electric arcs find the path of least resistance towards the opposite charge, without trying all alternate possible paths ? Has this question been answered already by science ?
    The only possible answer that springs into my mind, is that all points in space are somehow linked directly, through hyperdimensional space. I know it's rather science fiction than actual science, but it does provide a somehow logical and mathematically valid answer.


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  3. #2  
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    The electric field isn't a digital thing, it's all through space between the charges.
    Even before there is an arc, there will be a certain amount of current flowing. It is not following the path of least resistance, it is following all paths simultaneously wherever there is a field. But the current will be greater where the higher field strength is, just because the free ions are moving faster there.

    The highest field strength between the charges will occur at a certain point and that is probably the point where the air or other dielectric material will ionize and an avalance of ions will occur. When this happens, the field strength is reduced because the electrons have an easier path to follow. This still doesn't mean all the electrons will only follow that path, just that the current will be much higher.


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  4. #3 Re: Path of least resistance 
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    Quote Originally Posted by moon4pie
    As a programmer, I have been wondering.... How do electric arcs find the path of least resistance towards the opposite charge, without trying all alternate possible paths ? Has this question been answered already by science ?
    The only possible answer that springs into my mind, is that all points in space are somehow linked directly, through hyperdimensional space. I know it's rather science fiction than actual science, but it does provide a somehow logical and mathematically valid answer.
    They don't. Take a look at a bifurcated lightning bolt.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning
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  5. #4  
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    Thanks for clearing it up !
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