Jeopardy! category: SCIENCE & GEOMETRY (19-10-2015)
$1200 clue: Two batteries connected in a simple series circuit combine their voltage to produce a bright light; when they’re connected in this type of circuit with a geometric name, they have a longer life but produce a dimmer light
The gist: Even electrical charges need to make choices.In a series circuit, the components are connected such that there’s only one path for the electricity to run along. In a parallel circuit, on the other hand, some components are located on different “branches” of the circuit, meaning there are multiple paths for the electricity to take. Without getting into the complicated math and physics of it, this is actually pretty intuitive. In a series circuit, every bit of electrical charge from every battery (or other source) passes through the light bulb (or whatever is being powered). In a parallel circuit with, say, three light bulbs in parallel, only every one out of three bits of charge “chooses” to go through each light bulb – hence, each light bulb is 1/3 the brightness that one light bulb would have with the same power source. The same is true for batteries – if there are three batteries and one light bulb in a parallel circuit, only one battery gets to send its charge through the bulb at a time, lighting it up just a little. In a series circuit with three batteries, they all get to go through the bulb on each pass, lighting it up a lot.
The clue: This is really a high-school physics question – the two types of circuits are series and what? Admittedly, I couldn’t remember it, even though the writers have given the helpful hint that it has a geometric name.
In Jeopardy!: “Parallel” is in about 170 clues in the J!Archive, yet again too many for me to go through. And in reference to circuits, this is the only one that shows up in the J!Archive. In terms its geometric meaning, two lines that will never meet, it’s often used to talk about perspective in art and lines of latitude.