SEP 14, 2017 6:46 PM PDT

Ouch, you shocked me!


Don't you hate it when you brush up against someone by accident and all of a sudden get a quick, sharp shock? But what's the science behind this zap factor? Have you ever heard of the triboelectric effect? This effect refers to what happens when you rub two electrically neutral things together, which builds up a static charge, positively charging one of the objects and negatively charging the other. Let's look at an example.

When you rub your feet on the carpet you create a reaction between an electron-receiver and an electron-giver, resulting in negatively charged shoes on a positively charged carpet. Those extra electrons can move from your shoes onto your skin and up your body because we as humans are good conductors. But you know what is an even better conductor? Metal. So guess what happens when you go to open the door...? The electrons on your body jump toward the doorknob, creating a tiny lightning bolt, the heat of which you feel as the pain of a shock. Want to know why this happens more frequently in the winter than in the summer? Watch the video to learn more!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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