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[–]magnora7 6 insightful - 1 funny6 insightful - 0 funny7 insightful - 1 funny -  (8 children)

Electrons move through a wire at about a centimeter an hour. The signal travels in the empty "holes" where electrons can go, and the holes can travel at 1/3 the speed of light. But the electrons only move 1 cm per hour. That still blows my mind.

[–]pitterpatterwater 4 insightful - 1 funny4 insightful - 0 funny5 insightful - 1 funny -  (7 children)

I remember being like what when my phys teacher told me that in high school. It's like if you move a 1 meter long stick the atoms don't move 1 meter, but the signal does. http://wiki.c2.com/?SpeedOfElectrons

Edit: Edited for clarity.

[–]d3rr 4 insightful - 1 funny4 insightful - 0 funny5 insightful - 1 funny -  (5 children)

Thanks this part did it for me:

Wondering how electrons can be so slow and still have electricity go so fast? Imagine a long plastic tube filled with ping-pong balls. You gently press on the ball at one end so that a different ball falls out the other. Both the information that you had pressed, and the energy to dislodge the ball, travel much faster than the ball you pressed.

[–]pitterpatterwater 3 insightful - 1 funny3 insightful - 0 funny4 insightful - 1 funny -  (3 children)

Want something which will really screw with your mind? https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/21122/if-i-move-a-long-solid-stick-can-i-send-message-fastest-than-light.

Turns out that the atoms in the stick move as a matter wave with a speed limited by the speed of light, with the surprising consequence that the rigidity of a material is limited by the speed of light.

[–]magnora7 1 insightful - 1 funny1 insightful - 0 funny2 insightful - 1 funny -  (2 children)

Yeah the shock wave moves down the stick at the speed of sound in that material. In extremely rigid materials the speed of sound approaches the speed of light, but can never surpass it.

[–]pitterpatterwater 2 insightful - 1 funny2 insightful - 0 funny3 insightful - 1 funny -  (1 child)

It's why a perfectly rigid material is impossible.

[–]magnora7 1 insightful - 1 funny1 insightful - 0 funny2 insightful - 1 funny -  (0 children)

Good point. I suppose anything that's "material" and has rest mass can't travel at the speed of light by definition

[–]magnora7 1 insightful - 1 funny1 insightful - 0 funny2 insightful - 1 funny -  (0 children)

Yes exactly. I like the analogy of a row of movie seats. If there's an empty seat at one end of the row, if everyone stands up and moves one seat over, the empty seat moves to the other end, but the people only moved one seat. So the hole moved quickly while the people moved slowly.