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Static Shock



Yesterday, as I climbed into bed, bundled up in blankets and a heavy sweatshirt, I reached across by bed to grab a final blanket.  All of the sudden, out of the darkness I saw a spark, which was followed by a stinging feeling in my finger.  Had I not learned about electrostatics, I probably would have screamed and thought that there was something wrong with me or that the house was on fire.  However, physics helped me to understand that I was not dying and that what had happened was simply an attempt of two objects to reach electrostatic equilibrium.  As I was bundling up, I was unknowingly rubbing my heavy sweater against my blankets; as a result, electrons were transferred from that blanket onto the sweater (and therefore me), causing me to become a charged object.  When I reach for another object, in this case the other blanket, which was uncharged, some of the electrons on me "jumped" onto the blanket in order to reach equilibrium.  This transfer of electrons was both seen in the milisecond spark and felt through the hand that I had used to grab the blanket.


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