How does an electron travel through a circuit?

Electronics school taught me that electrons don’t travel from their starting point to the end of a wire like a runner in an athletic race. It’s more like having a row of billiard balls, with each ball touching the other. The cue ball hits the first ball, then “pushes”, the next ball. The cue ball strikes the first ball, and then it “pushes” the next ball which in turn “pushes” the next ball.

This is only theory. When a negatively charged electron in an atom is bound to its positively charged nucleus via a centrifugal force equal to the electromagnetic force, then that stable atom (as in a wire of copper) can be considered. By using an external force (such as a battery) that is greater than the electromagnetic/centrifugal force relationship that keeps the electron in its orbit around the nucleus, we can knock the electron out of the atom. The electron “bumps” another atom, knocking out an electron. The billiard ball effect is thus achieved.

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