Flip That Switch and Watch the Electrons Dance

A light switch is essentially an electrical relay, transmitting power to your light fixture. Two wires – one from the power source and the other connected to the fixture – meet at the switch.

Two wires meet at the switch to create light.

The spring behind the light switch completes a connection between the lamp and power source.    

Connection complete

When you flip a light switch, a spring-loaded mechanism behind the switch cover is triggered, completing the electrical connection.

Electrons crashing against atoms in a zigzagging fashion.    

Dance fever

With the connection complete, the electrical current triggers trillions of electrons (the actual stuff your electric company provides you) to move through the wire, crashing against atoms in zigzagging fashion.

Flipping the switch to lighting your fixture happens almost at the speed of light.    

Speed of light

Even though individual electrons move relatively slowly, the entire process – from flipping the switch to lighting your fixture – happens almost at the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second.

Turning the light switch off breaks the connection between the lamp and the power source.    

Circuit broken

When you turn a switch off, it breaks the circuit, thus reversing the process. For just a brief time, photons, or particles of light, continue to blanket the area around the light bulbs. But they're quickly absorbed by the room's walls.

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