Two girls are “electrified” during an experiment at the Liberty Science Center “Camp-in”, February 5, 2002. America’s Story, Library of Congress.

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Have sầu you ever walked across the room to pet your dog, but got a shoông chồng instead? Perhaps you took your hat off on a dry winter’s day và had a “hair raising” experience! Or, maybe you have sầu made a balloon stiông chồng on the wall after rubbing it against your clothes?

Why vị these things happen? Is it magic? No, it’s not magic; it’s static electricity!

Before understanding static electriđô thị, we first need lớn understvà the basics of atoms và magnetism.

Young man seated next to lớn a Holtz electrostatic influence machine, Dickinson College, 1889. Prints và Photographs Catalog, Library of Congress.

All physical objects are made up of atoms. Inside an atom are protons, electrons & neutrons. The protons are positively charged, the electrons are negatively charged, và the neutrons are neutral.

Therefore, all things are made up of charges. Opposite charges attract each other (negative lớn positive). Like charges repel each other (positive to lớn positive or negative khổng lồ negative). Most of the time positive sầu & negative sầu charges are balanced in an object, which makes that object neutral.

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Static electriđô thị is the result of an imbalance between negative sầu & positive charges in an object. These charges can build up on the surface of an object until they find a way lớn be released or discharged. One way lớn discharge them is through a circuit.

Group of young women studying static electrithành phố in normal school, Washington, D.C. Frances Benjamin Johnston, photographer, c.1899. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The rubbing of certain materials against one another can transfer negative charges, or electrons. For example, if you rub your shoe on the carpet, your toàn thân collects extra electrons. The electrons cling khổng lồ your body until they can be released. As you reach and touch your furry friover, you get a shock. Don’t worry, it is only the surplus electrons being released from you to lớn your unsuspecting pet.

And what about that “hair raising” experience? As you remove sầu your hat, electrons are transferred from hat khổng lồ hair, creating that interesting hairdo! Remember, objects with the same charge repel each other. Because they have the same charge, your hair will st& on end. Your hairs are simply trying to lớn get as far away from each other as possible!

A Marine uses a static discharge wand to discharge excess static electricity before attaching an M777 howitzer to a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during integrated slingload training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, April 12, 2017. Cpl. Frank Cordoba, photographer. U.S. Department of Defense Image Gallery

When you rub a balloon against your clothes & it sticks to lớn the wall, you are adding a surplus of electrons (negative sầu charges) khổng lồ the surface of the balloon. The wall is now more positively charged than the balloon. As the two come in tương tác, the balloon will stick because of the rule that opposites attract (positive khổng lồ negative).

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For more static electricity information and experiments, see the các mục of Web Resources and Further Reading sections.

U.S. Navy issue powder flask, made out of brass khổng lồ prsự kiện any accidental ignition of powder due to sparks or static electricity. Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, 2010. U.S. National Park Service, NP Gallery