Science experiments: static electricity

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By John Davisteacher and freelance writer

Conduct three simple science experiments to show how static electricity is produced when two things rub together.

Static electricity

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a very clever scientist. However, because of some of the experiments he carried out, he was lucky to survive until the age of 84. In 1752 Franklin wanted to show that lightning was a form of static electricity. In order to do this he decided on a very risky experiment that involved flying a kite during a thunderstorm. Attached to the end of the kite string was a metal key on a short silk thread. As the storm raged the electricity flowed down from the clouds along the string and the silk thread to the key. When Franklin put his hand close to the key he received a shock and he could see sparks fly. He survived the ordeal but other scientists were killed trying similar experiments. Soon afterwards Franklin made an iron rod which could be attached to the highest point of a tall building and wired it to the ground. When lightning struck the building now it was discharged harmlessly through the rod into the ground. The first lightning conductor had worked successfully.

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