All of it starts with one tiny thing called an Atom. Every part of the universe is made up atoms, from your pencil to your nose.
Every tiny atom is made of even smaller things:
- Protons (pronounced PRO-tahnz), are positive charges that have an atomic number.
- Electrons (say: Ih-LEK–trahnz), have a negative charge
- Neutrons (say: NOO trahns), are free of charge.
Most atoms contain the same number protons and electrons, and the atom charge (not positive nor negative) is neutral. Static electricity is formed when the positive and negative charges don’t balance. While protons and neutrons aren’t mobile, electrons love to move all over the place.
A negative charge is an object or person that has more electrons. Contrasting charges attract things to one another, so negative charges seek out negative charges and positive ones seek out positives. Whew! Did you get it?
Be wary of conductors
You can pick up electrons from your living room rug by scuffing your feet. Conductors are materials that allow electrons to move through metals more easily. If you touch a metal doorknob or other metal object, you feel an extra electron jump from it to you.
The rapid movement of electrons is what causes the tiny shock you feel. A shock can be described as a river of millions upon millions of electrons moving through the air. Pretty cool, huh? Because the air is dryer, static electricity occurs more frequently in colder seasons. It’s also easier to accumulate electrons on the skin’s surfaces. Because of the warmer temperatures, electrons are able to move faster in warm weather.
You’ll soon realize that the next time you feel a shock when you touch a doorknob you are just getting electrons jumping around. It’s like a spark to your life.