Throwback Thursday: A Static Electricity Surprise (Synopsis)

“Electricity can be dangerous. My nephew tried to stick a penny into a plug. Whoever said a penny doesn’t go far didn’t see him shoot across that floor. I told him he was grounded.” -Tim Allen

Static electricity is often the first exposure to physics beyond gravity that we encounter in our lives. Simply rub a balloon against a piece of fabric, and you can stick it to almost anything (or anyone) you like, possibly to their chagrin.

No idea where this image came from. But it’s maybe the best one I’ve ever seen. No idea where this image came from. But it’s maybe the best one I’ve ever seen.

But the way you probably learned that it happens -- rub two materials together, one picks up a positive charge and the other gets a negative charge -- is not only a little naive, it turns out not to account for the static electricity effects we observe at all. And oddly enough, we only determined this back in 2011 for the first time, for a physical phenomenon as old as this one!

Image credit: H. T. Baytekin et al., 2011. Image credit: H. T. Baytekin et al., 2011.

Go find out what causes static electricity, and how we know, on today's Throwback Thursday.

Tags

More like this

"Electricity can be dangerous. My nephew tried to stick a penny into a plug. Whoever said a penny doesn't go far didn't see him shoot across that floor. I told him he was grounded." -Tim Allen I know what you're thinking. "Of course I know what static electricity is!" Oh, really? Let's go through…
“We are a singularity that makes music out of noise because we must hurry. We make a harvest of loneliness and desiring in the blank wasteland of the cosmos.” -Jack Gilbert This past week at Starts With A Bang saw five new stories about the Universe, from our own home planet to topics about the…
"The law of the conservation of momentum is the basis of the static thrust equation, the law of the conservation of energy is the basis of the dynamic thrust equation. Provided these two fundamental laws of physics are satisfied, there is no reason why the forces inside the resonator should sum to…
"The origin and evolution of life are connected in the most intimate way with the origin and evolution of the stars." -Carl Sagan The Crab Nebula is one of the most interesting and compelling objects in the entire night sky. In the year 1054, a supernova went off in the constellation of Taurus,…

Now that is hair-raising.

I remember having to give the ream of photocopier/typing paper a good whack before using it. That was to stop the sheets clinging to each other. :)

IIRC. the speed with which clouds generate a potential has been an unresolved puzzle. Perhaps this result will provide the key to solving it.

By araybould (not verified) on 29 Jun 2015 #permalink