If you’ve ever walked across a carpeted floor in socks and then touched a doorknob—bzzt!—you’re almost certainly familiar with static electricity. And, while that practice alone is enough to acquaint kids with how static electricity is created, it’s not practical for the classroom for several reasons:
A) Not a lot of school rooms have carpet. 2) Encouraging kids to take their shoes off is a recipe for one funky smelling classroom. D) Letting kids zap each other with electricity, no matter how low the voltage or how harmless the actual shocks themselves are, is just inviting a lawsuit in this day and age of stupidly overprotective parents and their precious, precious little snowflake children.
Instead, try this simple and far less problematic experiment.
Get A Leg Up on Learning About Science
All you’ll need for this one is a nylon stocking (think nylons) and a plastic grocery bag. Oh, and a wall. And two functioning hands/arms—sorry, Jaime Lannister.
Hold the toe of the stocking against the wall, with the rest of it hanging loose below. With the plastic bag in your other hand, quickly rub the nylon in an up and down motion anywhere between ten and four thousand times.
Take the nylon away from the wall and hold it by the toe. If you did it right, the nylon should balloon out and appear “filled,” as if there were an invisible leg inside it. If it doesn’t fill up quite right, simply repeat the “hold it against the wall and rub it with a plastic bag” part.
Something Something Leg Pun
So, what causes this effect? It’s possible you accidentally conjured a ghost. It is far more likely, however, that science happened.
Atoms and molecules with like charges (not “like, charges”) repel each other—by rubbing plastic against the nylon, you “charged” the whole durned thing with static electricity. The static charge in the nylon caused the material to essentially repel itself, hence the balloon-like effect.