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Video: 15,000 volts of electricity into a plywood board

What happens when you apply 15,000 volts of electricity to a wooden board? Something quite spectacular.

In today’s video, Melanie Hoff lets loose 15,000 volts of electricity into a plywood board. The result is, in some way, the course of electricity captured – an electric imprint. It’s equally entertaining as it is fascinating, thanks to Melanie’s terrific presentation.

The patterns actually develop quite slowly in the plywood, according to Melanie.

The grain of the wood influences the pattern and direction. The layers of veneer and the glue that holds them together causes the growth to progress much slower than in non-plywood. This is sped up hundreds of thousands of times.

Watching this brings to mind the branching systems of our own body’s respiratory and circulatory systems, an illustration of nature’s ability to design with the greatest amount of efficiency. In the plant kingdom, too, we see similar patterns. The next time you’re outside take a look at the leaf of a tree and you’ll find a totally optimized water transport network. Nature is just that awesome.

To see how designers and engineers are taking inspiration from nature to solve human problems – a field of science known as biomimicry – check out this EarthSky video featuring biomimicry pioneer Janine Benyus.

Bottom line: In a video both artful and insightful, Melanie Hoff shows us what happens when 15,000 volts of electricity flow through a wooden board.

Chris Comfort

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