June 25th, 2018

Praxis: Shocking science

By Medicine Hat News on January 7, 2017.

I do not know about you, but it seems that no matter what I do lately I am shocking myself. My hair literally stands on end no matter how much I brush it; when people walk by, it feels as if they are shocking me. What is going? Let’s investigate this further!

*Remember to ask an adult before doing this experiment.


– a variety of plastic combs (different sizes and shapes)

– brush

– tap

– water


1. Take one of the combs and brush your hair for a few minutes. Stop.

2. Turn on the water tap to a very light stream of water.

3. Hold the comb very close to the stream of water.

4. Observe what happens.

5. Hold the comb farther away from the water.

6. Observe what happens.

7. Repeat with other combs or brushes.

8. What happens?

What is going on?

In this experiment, you experienced static electricity. Static electricity is what causes the water to bend back and forth, depending on where you hold the comb.

Did you know that static electricity is the accumulation of an electrical charge in an object? This electrical charge is formed when two objects (your hair and the comb) are rubbed together, causing some electrons (which are the charged components of atoms) to jump from one object to the other.

The charge on the comb attracts the small molecules of water, and because the small molecules can be moved easily the stream bends towards the comb.

In the winter, you may experience the same problems as I did. Static electricity tends to be more of a problem in the winter because the humidity in the air is lower. When the humidity is high there is a thin coat of water on everything, and the water prevents the electrons from moving from one object to the other, thus making it harder to build up a charge.

Patty Rooks is Senior Scientific Consultant at PRAXIS, “Connecting Science To The Community.” Contact Praxis at praxis@praxismh.ca, http://www.praxismh.ca, Tweet or follow us @PraxisMedHat, or friend us on Facebook.

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