# A question about electrons, charges and current

Let's talk about DC, a very simple circuit: a light bulb and a battery.

Some authors say that electrons move from negative to positive and current from positive from negative.

I always thought electrons moved in a wire at the light speed, but this video says that charges move very slow in a wire, about 5 centimeter per hour (2 inches per hour).

If electrons are charge carriers, is this video saying that electrons move at 5 cm/hour????

If electrons are that slow how can circuits work?

The video says that electric fields move at light speed.

So, I am not understanding anything.

I aways thought the whole magic were dome by electrons...

What is the correct explanation for this?

Charges, electrons and current?

Is the effect similar to a newton cradle, where one ball knocks the first one and the force is transmitted through the chain?

• One of these days I'll have to write a canonical answer, but see electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/245610/… : basically your intuition that it's like the Newtons cradle is correct. For almost all purposes you should ignore electrons. Dec 31, 2018 at 16:15
• The Newton's Cradle is a very good analogy. It's not exactly accurate, but it's a good way to conceptualize it. Note the "current" flowing from positive to negative is not based on any physical principle -- it would make more sense for it to flow the same direction as electrons. But "positive" and "negative" were defined before the electron was discovered, and they got it wrong. Jan 1, 2019 at 4:31

In a metallic wire, electricity propagates as a field, effectively. Electrons move quickly and literally bump into other atoms which (usually) dislodges another electron. This continues down the conductor so the effects of electrical current are seen very quickly.

This is not how electric currents propagate in a superconductor, though.

In that sense, the velocity of electrical propagation is very fast (in a wire it is typically about 63% of the speed of light for reasons I won't go into here. It is known as the velocity factor).

Electric fields (or more accurately electromagnetic fields) propagate at the speed of light in free space.

Any given electron does not travel very far in each of these short hops, but they do move, and a specific electron will move quite slowly. This is known as drift velocity.

• Superconductors do allow small magnetic fields through known as fluxons. Dec 31, 2018 at 20:47