The shocking truth about
static electricity gives you more
power at your fingertips than
you ever imagined.
All materials are made up of
atoms, and most of the time an
atom is neutral with the same
number of protons and electrons. When an atom’s proton and
electron numbers are uneven, electrons begin to dance.
If you place two different materials next to each other, electrons
will start jumping from one to the other. Conductors – metals
and carbon – hold onto their electrons tightly, whereas insulators,
like plastic, can be charged because they easily gain or lose
When you walk across a wool carpet in leather shoes, you pick
up extra electrons from the carpet with each step. By the time
you lift your foot off the ground, the electrons will have spread
around your entire body, giving you a negative charge. The next
time you put your foot on the carpet, your shoe doesn’t have any
extra electrons, so more can make the leap to your foot.
Eventually you end up with a charge of about 20 to 25 thousand
volts, but electrons are always looking for a way out, so when
you reach for a positively charged doorknob, electrons flee and
you get zapped.
Electrons build up more easily in dry places, so humidifying the
air helps cut down on static electricity. Water molecules allow
electrons to flow more freely and make almost everything conductive
and static-free. Dryer sheets work by coating clothes
with a conductive substance and keep you from being so negative
all the time.