BBC Learning Zone Clips

CLIP 14301

Lightning and the Wimshurst machine

Lightning and the Wimshurst machine
Key Info
  • Lightning and the Wimshurst machine
  • Duration: 03:20
  • Jim Al-Khalili describes how a Wimshurst machine generates electricity and uses this to explain how lightning and the aurora are formed. The high voltages (nearly a million volts) cause small electrical sparks to jump from his fingers. These are coloured purple as a result of the nitrogen in our atmosphere. Jim Al-Khalili then puts on a metal suit and uses a Tesla coil. This time the sparks that jump from his fingers are huge – reminiscent of a famous character in a science-fiction film. First broadcast in 'Shock and Awe: the story of electricity' on BBC Four in October 2011.
  • Subject:



    Phys: Electricity - Generation

  • Keywords: ShockandAwe, Jim AlKhalili, Jim Al Khalili, Wimshurst machine, lightning, aurora, Tesla coil, Nikola Tesla, Northern Lights
Ideas for use in class
  • Could be useful to explain to students how both lightning and the aurora are formed and the historical significance of the experiments that were undertaken to deduce this.
Background details
  • Clip language : English
  • Aspect ratio : 16x9

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