Random findings

EMF—a 19th-Century mistake
DOI: 10.1049/ir:19930068
Iee Review ◽
1993 ◽
Vol 39(4) ◽
pp. 146
Michael V. Worstall
19th century

I don’t even know what the paper is about. I mean, really, not a clue. At one point father was doing a lot of editing of papers about train signalling systems. Is this one? Don’t think it’s about the band from the Forest of Dean – unlikely really. Electro-magnetic, umm, summat? It coincides with his time at U of Bath but other than that, no idea…..

Aha! Via Ken at Oxford:

EMF – a 19thcentury mistake
University of Bath, UK
12 May 1993
Presumably it is well known to all
IEE Review readers that electromotive ‘force’ is not a force at all?
Volta (or was it Faraday) got the
name wrong in the first place.
To reduce confusion for new
students of electrical engineering,
I am searching for a better name
for this voltage, an entity vital to
all our theory and practice.
Others have proposed ‘source
voltage’ in the past. Can any discerning reader come up with a
more memorable yet precise
name for this scalar?

Did this ever get done?

10 thoughts on “Random findings”

  1. Did this ever get done?

    I dunno about academia and pedagogy these days but I don’t think I’ve used ‘EMF’ since uni. We just talk about voltage. There’s a subtle point to his comment too. Force is a vector whereas voltage is a scalar.

  2. I think it did fall by the wayside, only seen emf in older textbooks way back. Definitely a name needing retiring, like ‘high tension’.
    Potential difference took over as the name of the driving force behind current flow, much better explanation of the theory.
    Those who don’t need the theory, just use the results refer to ‘voltage’.

  3. huh. my pops an eff in that institution. I asked him once how he got it, he said publishing articles and socialising.

  4. Just in case you’re serious, electronvolts are used for working out the physics energy levels in atoms. I was hoping at the time that it would lead to a physics led mechanism describing which chemical reactions are viable, ie most metals are liberated from oxides via reduction using carbon, but not aluminium, which could reduce co2 to carbon.
    Teaching didn’t go that far, and chemistry remained a study in learning recipes…

  5. I just had a vague memory of how different disciplines have their own different concepts and measures of energy levels that all have to be related back to joules.

  6. @G2: “I was hoping at the time that it would lead to a physics led mechanism describing which chemical reactions are viable”

    There is. Modern biology runs on it. And at that level there is no difference between physics and chemistry. Just Math and Quantum.

    And Dio has it. Almost every (applied) science has their own “units of convenience” when it comes to force/energy. For biology it’s eV, because it’s a handy unit measure to tell when the rabbit will jump, amongst others. Makes life ( pun intended ) a lot less complicated. And so we don’t need to muck about with EMF to begin with, since it’s a compound phenomenon anyway that’s purely dependent on your method of measurement of ion gradients.
    (In real biology the Math has electrons move, the physical work is actually done by ions. Nifty trick, if you can get your head around it..)
    Still has to be converted to Joules if you want to do cross-discipline comparison though.

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