amber

(resin to amber stone to electricity)

amber
In about 600 B.C., the Greek philosopher Thales rubbed amber with silk, causing it to attract dust and feathers.

This static electricity was believed to be a unique property of amber until the sixteenth century, when English scientist William Gilbert demonstrated that it was characteristic of numerous materials.

He called it "electrification", after elektron, the Greek word for amber.

amber colophony and lacquer
Inferior amber and amber processing waste that can be made into amber colophony or rosin and amber oil, which are both raw materials for the production of high-quality amber varnish.
amber pine
A reference to the coniferous trees from which resin was extruded.
amber varnish, amber lac
Amber decomposes when heated below 300 degrees Celsius, yielding oil of amber, and a black residue called amber pitch.

When dissolved in oil of turpentine or linseed oil, it forms amber varnish or amber lac.

amberoid, ambroid
Synthetic amber which is made by heating small scraps of amber under pressure.
oil of amber
Brown essential oil distilled from amber.

It is miscible (mixable) with alcohol which has a balsamic (aromatic resin) aroma.

The source of the term for electricity

Amber, or, technically, resinite is fossilized tree resin (not sap), which has been admired for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Good quality amber has been used for the manufacture of ornamental objects and jewelry for many decades.

The Greek name for amber was ηλεκτρον (electron) and was connected to the Sun God, one of whose titles was Elector or the "Awakener". It is discussed by Theophrastus, possibly the first to ever mention the material which took place in the 4th century B.C.

Another version regarding who Electra was, suggests that "she was the sparkling light of electricity, a daughter of Oceanus, and the wife of Thaumas, god of the surface of the sea, which reflects light. Electra had amber-colored hair of rare beauty and, when she wept, her tears, being too precious to be lost, formed drops of amber."

—According to Dictionary of Mythology Folklore and Symbols
by Gertrude Jobes; The Scarecrow Press, Inc.; New York; 1962; page 500.

The modern term "electron" comes from the Greek word for amber (which was then translated as electrum), and was chosen because of the material's electrostatic properties that attracted wool and other materials. It was coined in 1891 by the Irish physicist George Stoney while he was analyzing elementary charges for the first time.

Heating amber will soften it and eventually it will burn, which is why in Germanic languages the word for amber is a literal translation of "burn-Stone". In German, it is Bernstein, in Dutch it is barnsteen.

Heated above 200°C, amber will decompose, resulting in an "oil of amber", and leaving a black residue which is known as "amber colophony", or "amber pitch". When it is dissolved in oil, in turpentine, or in linseed oil this forms "amber varnish" or "amber lac".

Amber from the Baltic Sea has been extensively traded since antiquity and in the main land, from where amber was traded 2000 years ago, the natives called it glaes, referring to its see-through similarity to glass.

The Baltic Lithuanian term for amber is Gintaras and Latvian, Dzintars. They and the Slavic jantar are thought to originate from Phoenician jainitar, "sea-resin"; however, while most Slavic languages, such as Russian and Czech, retain the old Slavic word, in the Polish language, despite still being correct, jantar is used very rarely (it is even considered archaic) and was replaced by the word bursztyn which is derived from a similar form of the German word, Bernstein.

—Compiled from excerpts of a presentation
located in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber.

How do we know about some of the creatures that lived millions of years ago?

Amber is actually hardened tree resin, a thick saplike substance, that is found mostly around the Baltic Sea.

It is yellow to reddish brown and can be clear to opaque. Amber has been known for over 2,000 years, because of its plroperty of producing an elecric charge when rubbed.

More recently, it has been used for gemstones, but the real interest in amber comes from what is often encased inside.

Some of the ancient resin trapped whole anthropods and plant pollens. Besides extracting DNA from the pollen of a 25 to 40 million-year-old now extinct tree, scientists have extracted some of the oldest fossil DNA from what was inside one of the chunks of hardened resin; a 120 to 135 million-year old weevil.

—Compiled from The New York Public Library Science Desk Reference
by Patricia Barnes-Svarney, Editorial Director;
A Stonesong Press Book, MacMillan; New York; 1995; page 132.

Extend your knowledge regarding this topic by going to this list of electro- or "electricity" words and also note the related units at the bottom of this electronics page.