He sat behind the wheel a moment, staring stupidly down at the red idiot lights. He threw the transmission into Park and turned the key. The motor didn’t crank. Hell, the solenoid didn’t even click.

Battery cable came off, maybe.

It wasn’t a battery cable. If it had been, the OIL and AMP lights wouldn’t be glowing. But that was minor. Mostly he knew it wasn’t his battery cable just because he knew it.

Stephen King, The Tommyknockers, 1987

solenoid n
1) a coil of wire, usually cylindrical, in which a magnetic field is set up by passing a current through it
2) a coil of wire, partially surrounding an iron core, that is made to move inside the coil by the magnetic field set up by a current: used to convert electrical to mechanical energy, as in the operation of a switch
3) such a device used as a relay, as in a motor vehicle for connecting the battery directly to the starter motor when activated by the ignition switch
Etymology: C19 from French solénoïde, from Greek sōlēn a pipe, tube [CED]

solenoid. An electromagnetic coil of insulated wire that produces a magnetic field within the coil. Most often it is shaped like a spool or hollow cylinder with a movable iron core that is pulled into the coil when electric current is sent through the wire. It then is able to move other instruments, for example, relay switches, circuit breakers, automobile ignitions. [Robert E. Krebs, Encyclopedia of Scientific Principles, Laws, and Theories, vol. 2, Greenwood Press, 2008, p.608]

Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone. The microphone and receiver are identical; both consist of a magnet surrounded by a solenoid and placed close to an iron membrane. Vibrations in the membrane induce currents in the solenoid. These currents cause the membrane at the receiving end to vibrate.

Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, The History of Science and Technology : A Browser’s Guide to the Great Discoveries, Inventions, and the People Who Made Them from the Dawn of Time to Today, Houghton Mifflin, 2004, p.1876.

ARAGO’S WAVE THEORY OF LIGHT AND ARAGO’S DISK: Physics: Dominique Francois Jean Arago (1786–1853), France.

After discovering chromatic polarization of light in 1811, Arago investigated the idea proposed by the French physicist A. J. Fresnel that light was a wave. This was contrary to the theory of other physicists of the day, including Pierre de Laplace and Jean-Baptiste Biot, that light was of a corpuscular nature and required a medium (the aether or ether) through which to travel. Arago set up an experiment to prove the theory that light travels through air and media with different densities in waves. He did this by measuring the speed of light in air and water. Later, after Arago’s death, Jean Foucault and Armand Fizeau proved his theory correct. Today, light is considered both a wave and particle (photon), and there is no aether in space.

Robert E. Krebs, Encyclopedia of Scientific Principles, Laws, and Theories, vol. 1, Greenwood Press, 2008, p.15.

The best-laid plans of mice and men, as the Scottish poet might have said, sometimes end up looking like a dog’s breakfast. The Polish Airlines flight from London back to Warsaw via East Berlin was due for takeoff at three-thirty. But when the pilot switched on his flight systems, a red warning light glowed. It turned out to be just a faulty solenoid, but it delayed the takeoff until six. In the departures lounge, Major Ludmilla Vanavskaya glanced at the televised departure information, noted the delay “for operational reasons,” cursed silently, and returned to her book.

Frederick Forsyth, The Deceiver, 1991.

With the little time he had left, he had to make a number of stops, a number of acquisitions. At a roadside flea market, he bought an electric eggbeater, though all he wanted was the solenoid motor. A strip-mall Radio Shack sufficed for a cheap cell phone and a few inexpensive add-ons. At the Millington grocery store, he bought a large round container of butter cookies, though all he wanted was the steel can. Next was the hardware store on Main Street, where he bought glue, a canister of artist’s powdered charcoal, a roll of electrical tape, a pair of heavy-duty scissors, a compressed-air atomizer, and a locking extensible curtain rod. “A handyman, are you?” asked the blonde in denim cutoffs as she rang up his purchase. “My kinda guy.” She gave him an inviting smile. He could imagine the counterman across the street glowering.

Robert Ludlum, The Janson Directive, 2002.


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