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Just Another Static Monday – May the Force be with you

This post is part of a series of static electricity activities. Check out the whole series! For a brief discussion of static electricity basics, check out the first post.
Have you ever wished you could control the motion of objects with your mind like Luke Skywalker?

Well that might not be possible (yet), you can control the motion of objects with static electricity.

Grab a water bottle (with the lid on), and a straw. Rub the straw on your hair, or a wool sweater, or the dog, or something else fuzzy. Put the straw on top of the bottle cap.
Clear your mind and focus your thoughts on the straw. Move one hand slowly towards the straw. Do you feel the force flowing through your fingers and attracting the straw?

Lead the straw so that it spins in a circle. Can you turn it around and make it spin the other way?

So how does this Jedi mind control REALLY work?

Rubbing the straw on your hair scrapes electrons off of your hair and puts them on to the straw so that it’s negatively charged.

Opposites attract and likes repel.

The extra electrons on the straw repel the electrons in your fingertip so that it becomes just a tiny bit positively charged. This tiny positive charge is just enough to attract the negative straw and make it spin around the bottle cap!

Supersize it!
You can do a similar, jumbo size version of this experiment with a 3-4 foot piece of 2×4 lumber balanced on an upside down bowl with a round bottom. Instead of rubbing the 2×4 on your hair to charge it, charge a balloon (or piece of PVC pipe) instead. The wood will attract the balloon just like your fingers attract the straw.

Try out other objects in place of the straw like a metal spoon, plastic spoon, pencil, pen or any other long thing objects you have lying around. Try charging the object or use a balloon.