Static electricity is amazingly fun to play around with. Remember the shock on everyone’s faces in primary school, where the teacher magically raised the hairs on classmates heads by harnessing the power of science? I thought to celebrate Static Electricity Day I would enlighten you on exactly watt static electricity is, as well as ample examples of revolting puns.
In case you didn’t already know, atoms, which make up everything contain neutrons, protons and electrons. Protons have a positive charge, and electrons a negative charge. Protons and neutrons don’t move, as they are held together very tightly (the square crowd) , but electrons can move, as they are more loose (The skanks of the atom, basically :P) . So if an atom loses has more protons than electrons it is positively charge, and if the situation is reverse, negatively charged.
Some materials are more clingy than others when it comes to holding onto their electrons – these are called insulators. These work well to demonstrate static electricity as once you do manage to transfer electrons, they’re not going to jump back straight away.
An easy way to move electrons is to rub two of these objects together – this is what you’re doing when you are rubbing a balloon (plastic) against a shirt (cloth). In this example, the balloon ends up having a negative charge. Like with magnets, opposites attract and so the protons (positively charged) in your hair are attracted to the electrons (negatively charged) in the balloon. This is why your hair sticks to the balloon.
What about when you experience the unexpected shock from static electricity? Remember what I said above about insulators? Conductors are sort of the opposite to insulators, as electrons come and go from them easily. The shock factor occurs when and insulator, e.g. you, gains extra electrons by doing things like shuffling along a carpet in your socks chasing your younger sibling….and then when you touch a conductor, e.g. the person you were chasing, and the electrons jump from one object to another. This fast transfer of electrons is what gives you a shock.
Static electricity is quiiiiite a bit more in depth than what I have explained…you could say I’ve ohmitted a lot of things. What? Did you expect me to conduct myself in a serious manner? You can try and press charges but you’ll join me eventually…resistance is futile, so wire bother?
If you want to understand it a bit more, I’d check out this page. It has it explained basically and then more in depth.