Re: Electrical fleas

From: On-line Snack discussion (snaktalk)
Date: Wed Feb 16 2000 - 17:46:38 PST

Here is more information on problems with the Electrical Fleas Snack:

"Sorry you had problems with the Electrical Fleas. The most likely
culprit is the weather. Static electricity demonstrations are infamous
in physics for being affected by moisture in the air. Very dry days
radically improve the chance for success, and damp days almost gurantee
failure. Another thing to watch for is whether the "wool" you used is
really wool. 100% wool works notably better than part wool.

Since the Electrical Fleas activity was originally published, we've
found that spices such as Dill Weed, Basil, Oregano, Pepper, etc. give
better results than the styrofoam, or other materials in the original
version. Also, the cover of a plastic CD case usually works well for the
plastic -- and you can even do away with the plastic entirely and use a
ballon which has been charged by rubbing with wool, or rubbing against
your clothing or hair. Just sprinkle the spice on a piece of paper, and
hold the charged balloon a couple of centimeters above the spices.

Sorry for your original frustration, and hope this helps. Also, for
whatever comfort it's worth, and just to let you know that you're not
alone, theres an old saying that goes something like this: "If it
wiggles it's biology, if it smells it's chemistry, and if it doesn't
work it's physics." Lots of physics students, physics teachers, and
physicists have experienced the same frustration you obviously felt --
but hopefully this may lead to learning and insight that ultimately
proves interesting."

--Don Rathjen

Nina Thayer
Snacktalk Moderator

> I found this to be an intriguing experiment. However, it only worked after
> initially assembling it. The day of the fair the plexiglass wouldn't take a
> charge. I even went out and got another piece of plexiglass which worked at
> first and then ceased taking a charge. Do you have any thoughts as to why
> this failed. Thanks for any help you can provide. Sharon

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