# Signals on a single wire

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Could someone please explain how a signal can be transmitted on a single
wire? I have always been taught that a signal, or current, needs a circuit
to work. But then I see cases that when only one wire is used to carry a
signal.

eg. You touch the input on an audio amplifier, and you get a buzzing
noise, even when you only touch the positive wire.(the power supply used
doesn't have a grounding pin)

Is the second "wire" a path between you and the negative via your legs,
the ground, the table, then the casing or something? Or is it that there is
a path between negative and positive within the amp with some resistance,
which has a voltage drop, creatinge a potential difference between the
positive an negative? Am I even on the right track? :D

Another example, which probably has a different explanation, is antennas
on radio transmitters. How do they transmit anything, when there is only a
single wire?

Thanks,
Andrew Howard

Re: Signals on a single wire

>  Could someone please explain how a signal can be transmitted on a
> single wire? I have always been taught that a signal, or current,
> needs a circuit to work.

> Is the second "wire" a path between you and the negative via your
> legs, the ground, the table, then the casing or something?

Yes. And there is a capacity in big bodies, a buffer of charges, both
positive and negative which usually are in balance, and it works as a
kind of fixed point voltage-wise.

If we think of a short piece of water pipe, not connected to anything
at the ends, just air outside. A small amonut of water inside the pipe,
and a pump in the middle of the pipe.

Then if we start the pump it will pump the water in one direction,
but after a very short time there is no more water to pump. If the
amount of water from beginning in the pipe is only a nanoliter and the
pump pumps 1 liter per second the water will be gone in one nanosecond.

If the water from the beginning is a million liters, if the pipe is
connected to a swimmingpool, the pump can pump water for a million
seconds in one direction before the water stops coming.

The capacity is very different in these cases, but there is a certain
capacity
for delivering current in both cases.
The capacity determines how strong AC currents we can create if there
is no DC connection which completes the circuit.

Even if you body does not touch the ground, and you touch the probe to
an oscilloscope you can see a strong signal on the scope. That is
that is enough to deliver AC current, as the AC current goes forth and
back. And because magnetic noise induces a voltage in your body.

If you touch the probe with a much smaller object, like a 1mm piece of
copper wire, you will not see much difference on the scope screen.
Because that little object cannot deliver much as much AC current as

>     Another example, which probably has a different explanation, is
> antennas on radio transmitters. How do they transmit anything, when
> there is only a single wire?

The higher the frequency the easier it is to use these small
capacitances of the neutral parts of the antenna as virtual ground
planes.

At lower radio frequencies the earth itself forms the neutral part of
the antenna.

The antenna converts electric signals into electromagnetic waves which
can travel through space.

Well, the signal is actually an electromagnetic wave already when it
travels through the antenna wire. The antenna is just a bridge between
electromagnetic waves in conductors and electromagnetic waves in space.

--
Roger J.

Re: Signals on a single wire

> Well, the signal is actually an electromagnetic wave already when it
> travels through the antenna wire. The antenna is just a bridge between
> electromagnetic waves in conductors and electromagnetic waves in space.

Sounds like a variation on the explanation a Ham operator once gave me -
Boiled down from a conversation that lasted about half an hour, I came
away with the understanding that a transmitter and receiver operate in a
similar-in-result, although very different in actual mechanism, way to a
physically huge, ultra-tiny-rating capacitor, with each set's antenna
acting as one plate of the cap, and the "universe between them" as the
dielectric. It makes sense on one level, but on others, it kinda falls
apart. I've still never managed to wrap my head around the details of
"why" radioo works, even though I like to think I have a reasonable
grasp on the "how" part.

--
Don Bruder - snipped-for-privacy@sonic.net - New Email policy in effect as of Feb. 21, 2004.
Short form: I'm trashing EVERY E-mail that doesn't contain a password in the
We've slightly trimmed the long signature. Click to see the full one.
Re: Signals on a single wire

> Sounds like a variation on the explanation a Ham operator once gave
> me - Boiled down from a conversation that lasted about half an hour,
> I came away with the understanding that a transmitter and receiver
> operate in a similar-in-result, although very different in actual
> mechanism, way to a physically huge, ultra-tiny-rating capacitor,
> with each set's antenna acting as one plate of the cap, and the
> "universe between them" as the dielectric. It makes sense on one
> level, but on others, it kinda falls apart. I've still never managed
> to wrap my head around the details of "why" radioo works, even though
> I like to think I have a reasonable grasp on the "how" part.

If we think about photons we usually think of visible light photons,
like extremely small particles or small bundles of electromagnetic
waves.

It is more difficult to image the photons created by the 1440 kHz MW
radio transmitter in Luxembourg, (it is still exists).

It creates photons which are in the kilometer size range.

It may not help but rather make it all even more strange :-)

But we have to piece together all these aspects of electromagnetic
waves into one mental concept.

Electromagnetic waves as mainly magnetism, as mainly electrical forces,
as photons.

It is like we are blind people trying to find out what an elephant is.
We touch different parts of the elephant and see different pictures,
but to understand the whole elephant we need to put all the pictures
together. And try to make some sense of it.

--
Roger J.

Re: Signals on a single wire

>
> > Well, the signal is actually an electromagnetic wave already when it
> > travels through the antenna wire. The antenna is just a bridge between
> > electromagnetic waves in conductors and electromagnetic waves in space.
>
> Sounds like a variation on the explanation a Ham operator once gave me -
> Boiled down from a conversation that lasted about half an hour, I came
> away with the understanding that a transmitter and receiver operate in a
> similar-in-result, although very different in actual mechanism, way to a
> physically huge, ultra-tiny-rating capacitor, with each set's antenna
> acting as one plate of the cap, and the "universe between them" as the
> dielectric. It makes sense on one level, but on others, it kinda falls
> apart. I've still never managed to wrap my head around the details of
> "why" radioo works, even though I like to think I have a reasonable
> grasp on the "how" part.
>
> --
> Don Bruder - snipped-for-privacy@sonic.net - .html> for full details.

"a transmitter and receiver operate in a  similar-in-result, although very
different in actual mechanism, way to a  physically huge, ultra-tiny-rating
capacitor, with each set's antenna
acting as one plate of the cap, and the "universe between them" as the
dielectric."

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! Radio energy is electomagnetic energy like light, just
lower in frequency. Physics tells us that any charged particle will radiate
electomagnetic energy when it accelerates or decellerates. Electrons in a
wire or antenna moving at high frequencies are under acceleration by their
motion they therfore radiate EMR. Likewise a EMR field will cause a current
in a wire of its same frequency. You can't get away from it. It's a matter
of physical principles. Look up Maxwell, Maxwell's equations and Hertz.
These guys figured this stuff out in the 19th century. It does not require a
return circuit, capacitance between antennas, eather or any other such
things, just empty space.
Bob

Re: Signals on a single wire

Andrew
You are invoking at least two phenomena, open-circuit AC conduction and
reception.
The earth plane has a lot to do with it in some cases. Don't forget the
neutral wire in a power line is earthed and that there are stray
inductances, capacitances and resistances, deemed as some of the losses, in
transmission. You are a huge capacitor and humidity plays some part. You
cannot  touch something and send DC, well, only a static discharge.

In portable radio (covers radio, bluetooth, mobile phone, Tvs, etc) Txs and
Rxs, the chassis plane is unwittingly the 2nd wire.
Antennae and tuned capacitive circuits are responsible for conveying to/from
the frequency band/s concerned through the ether, in air or not in air.

>    Could someone please explain how a signal can be transmitted on a
> single wire? I have always been taught that a signal, or current, needs a
> circuit to work. But then I see cases that when only one wire is used to
> carry a signal.
>
>    eg. You touch the input on an audio amplifier, and you get a buzzing
> noise, even when you only touch the positive wire.(the power supply used
> doesn't have a grounding pin)
>
>    Is the second "wire" a path between you and the negative via your legs,
> the ground, the table, then the casing or something? Or is it that there
> is a path between negative and positive within the amp with some
> resistance, which has a voltage drop, creatinge a potential difference
> between the positive an negative? Am I even on the right track? :D
>
>    Another example, which probably has a different explanation, is
> antennas on radio transmitters. How do they transmit anything, when there
> is only a single wire?
>
>
> Thanks,
> Andrew Howard
>

Re: Signals on a single wire

>    Could someone please explain how a signal can be transmitted on a
> single wire? I have always been taught that a signal, or current, needs a
> circuit to work. But then I see cases that when only one wire is used to
> carry a signal.
>
>    eg. You touch the input on an audio amplifier, and you get a buzzing
> noise, even when you only touch the positive wire.(the power supply used
> doesn't have a grounding pin)
>
>    Is the second "wire" a path between you and the negative via your legs,
> the ground, the table, then the casing or something? Or is it that there
> is a path between negative and positive within the amp with some
> resistance, which has a voltage drop, creatinge a potential difference
> between the positive an negative? Am I even on the right track? :D
>
>    Another example, which probably has a different explanation, is
> antennas on radio transmitters. How do they transmit anything, when there
> is only a single wire?
>
>
> Thanks,
> Andrew Howard
>

Andrew,

Guess you do not mean an antenna. The so called single wire divices use one
wire for power and signal *and* a common ground. Long signal lines,
telegraph lines for instance, used old mother earth as a common. An example
of the Dallas (Maxim) single wire thermometers can be found on:
http://pdfserv.maxim-ic.com/en/an/app162.pdf

petrus bitbyter

Re: Signals on a single wire

Thanks for all the responses! Now I have the general idea, so I can find