What Is The Difference Between an Amp, A Volt, and a Watt?


Friday night, High-Voltage dance party at the Curve! That’s high voltage, dude. Everybody knows that means flashing lights, a wild dance floor, and a live deejay. A high voltage party means the atmosphere is wild, but in the world of science, voltage is a bit more complicated. How do volts relate to amps and watts? Energy can be difficult to conceptualize because in our daily lives we only see the effects of energy and not the energy itself. To understand, it helps to put yourself in the shoes of an electrical conductor and really “feel the current,” as a deejay might say.

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This is the force that drives energy through a circuit. If you imagine yourself as a circuit, and you walk into a dance club, you experience a voltage change from the atmosphere in your car and on the street. In science, voltage is a property of electromagnetic fields´┐Żin this scenario, the club is the electromagnetic field. The more exciting the club, the higher its “voltage” and the more energy you experience.


Remember: in this analogy you are an electrical circuit, like a power cord. You’ve now been “plugged in” by entering the club, and you have energy surging through you. That energy would be measured in amps. Depending on your personality or how much you have had to drink, you may attempt to resist the energy of the club. The higher your resistance, the less amps of energy you have flowing through you. This resistance is measured in ohms. If you are very stoic, you may have enough ohms of resistance in you to cancel out all the voltage your body is experiencing at the club. On the other hand, if you have had a few drinks, your resistance is likely to plummet, many amps of energy will surge through you, and you probably will hit the dance floor and produce a few watts of power yourself.


Watts are the amount of power produced by a circuit-the volts multiplied by the amps. When you release your energy by yelling, dancing, or jumping, you are producing watts. If the club provides enough volts and your resistance in ohms is low enough, you will be converting that internal energy in amps to external results in watts, and you’ll have a great time doing it.

Of course, you are not, in fact, a power cord, and technically, you do not experience an electrical charge from the nightclub. On the other hand, the sensation of energy that you feel when you go out on the town is in many ways relatable to the way electrical energy works within a circuit. That’s why “voltage” is such a popular slang term-because it actually makes sense. So the next time your physics teacher is putting you to sleep explaining the difference between amps and watts, just click your heels and imagine that you’re on the dance floor.


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Oliver Gauss
Oliver has a degree in physics and mathematics and has completed all but his dissertation for a Ph.D. in Physics. He believes actual science should decide scientific disagreements, and that most people who use "science" to defend their emotion-based opinions have no idea what science actually is. Oliver is the editor of WeWantScience.com and has two new sites coming out soon. Stay tuned!