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 ~ National Lightning Safety Institute ~

General Interest #1

Fun with Lightning!

Lightning isn't all Doom & Gloom. In fact, the father of modern experiments, Benjamin Franklin, became intrigued with static electricity parlor tricks early in his life. You can do them too. The theory of electrification lies within static charge. The junior version of lightning is static.

You can:

- make an electric lemon. Lemons contain citric acid. Put two wires of different metals (one of steel like a nail, and one of copper) into a lemon. Attach them to meter. What happens? Electrochemical action is forcing electrons to flow from one metal to the other. -  "mouth lightning"...Get your eyes accustomed to the darkness, pop a "Wint-O- Green" or "Pep-O-Mint" lifesaver into your mouth. Break it up, opening your mouth while doing so. See the bluish flashes of light? Nitrogen in the air is activated by the fracturing of (electric charges) sugars in the candy.
 - create electricity.
Scuff your leather-soled shoes across the carpet and sneak up on your older brother's ear with a "static buzz" on your finger.
 Balloon3.wmf (14594 bytes)-"magnetize" a balloon.
Inflate an ordinary balloon. Rub it briskly on your wool sweater. Now watch it "stick" to a wall. What is happening? Atomic theory says that when you pull electrons off an object (rubbing the plastic), that object will attach to any uncharged (neutral) substance, like the wall.

Lightning is a transient incident;
however, one's interest in the phenomenon is not transient.

Get it?

Try these Recommended Readings:

George Leon, The Story of Electricity.

Rudolf Graf, Safe and Simple Electrical Experiments.

George Barr, Science Tricks and Magic for Young People.

Elizabeth Wood, Science from Your Airplane Window.

William Corliss, Lightning, Auroras, Noctural Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena

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National Lightning Safety Institute
Providing expert training and consulting for lightning problems