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Thread: The history of static electricity - when did it start?

  1. #1
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    Question The history of static electricity - when did it start?

    Hello,

    This morning I have been wondering what people attributed static electricity shocks to, before electricity was formally discovered. What would our early ancestors (the Egyptians, the Romans, the Neanderthals etc.) have made of the spark, crack and pain of a static discharge to a fingertip? Dark magic? Some kind of evil power?

    But when I thought about it some more I realised that maybe static electricity didn't even exist in those days. The static shocks I get are usually something to do with man-made materials like plastics and artificial fibres; scuffing my shoes along a carpet, taking off my polyester thermal top, rubbing a plastic comb in my hair etc. So has everyday static electricity always existed? Or is it something that suddenly popped into existence with the advent of polymers? If so, it must have been a fair blow to the marketing campaign for nylon.

    clop

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    Amber rubbed with fur: known to the ancient Greeks. In fact, our word "electricity" comes from the Greek ηλεκτρον (elektron), meaning "amber".

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by clop View Post
    So has everyday static electricity always existed?
    For a goodly length of time, yes. It's generally known as lightning, though.

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    Interestingly, one could argue the Greeks (I think it was the Greeks) invented the "electric light", though not a very practical one. It involved a sphere of sulfur turned by crank with a silk cloth rubbing against it. The static electricity made it glow faintly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    For a goodly length of time, yes. It's generally known as lightning, though.
    Yes I know about lightning but if I were a Neanderthal I don't think I would make the connection between lightning and a balloon sticking to my wallpaper after I rub it in my hair.

    clop

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    If I were a Neanderthal in that situation, I would be wondering about this strange sticky substance that adheres to walls, and the squishy light ball like thingy.

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    I wonder if a Neanderthal rubbed a chicken bone in his hair, then used it to pick up down and small feathers.

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    Probably not. Before the days of shampoo, people had really greasy hair.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdvance View Post
    I wonder if a Neanderthal rubbed a chicken bone in his hair, then used it to pick up down and small feathers.
    Did Neanderthals have hens?

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    Quote Originally Posted by clop View Post
    Did Neanderthals have hens?

    No, but they had an overabundance of roosters.

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    the earth has a natural static electric field, which deteriorates with height.

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    Quote Originally Posted by What Max View Post
    the earth has a natural static electric field, which deteriorates with height.
    which, of course, was common knowledge 10,000 years ago.

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    Quote Originally Posted by novaderrik View Post
    which, of course, was common knowledge 10,000 years ago.
    I'm not sure I would associate lightning with a balloon sticking to the wall.

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    Well, the OP said:
    (the Egyptians, the Romans, the Neanderthals etc.)
    You guys have scientifically covered the Neanderthals already so...

    The Greeks also were covered (some), I'll add that for the Egyptians, they were well aware what lightning and static electricity was, if not formally. In fact, the ancient Egyptians made batteries using acid from ( I THINK!) grapes and also electro-plated objects with gold. Many Egyptian artifacts from over 2000 years ago are gold plated.

    But then again, they were also practicing successful brain surgery back then too.

    The Romans were also aware of static electricity as normal stuff and not demonic powers. But they were not as scientific in pursuing electricity as other cultures.

    Ok now to cover cavemen... again.
    When I was in the Army, we were taught how to march in the desert. You see, when a person walks forward, they normally don't go in a straight line even if they think they are. Variations in leg and stride length cause most people to have a tendency to veer left or right.
    When marching across a desert where you have little if any markers to keep your path straight, you must walk in such a manner as to ensure you go in a straight line. After a couple miles of walking(and veering) in a plain, you can miss your mark by a very large margin.
    What does this have to do with Cavemen? Well they had similar problems.
    Now, if a caveman's first response to walking across a plain and missing his mark was the suspicion that belligerent spirits had played tricks with his feet... He would never learn how to cross a plain. Yet, the technique for walking a straight line is older than twenty thousand years.
    Some cavemen had to have crossed the plain, saw that they were off and sat down to think about why. After much thought that heated up their skulls to where the fleas jumped off with hot-feet, they concluded that it was because they had not walked in a straight line. They then developed techniques to correct it. Much of the things in our past demonstrate that there have always been skeptics and thinkers and there have always been suspicious and superstitious folks.
    Much of what wasn't understood, was simply just accepted, like the clouds in the sky, or rain, or fog... Some folks had superstitious theories and some folks didn't. But I think that it was probably about the same ratio as today. It's just that today- we have public education.

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    what is the technique--focus on something in the distance? (i've walked through woods in a straight line by looking for the farthest tree I could see, though that is probably not as accurate as say, heading toward some mountain peak miles off).

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdvance View Post
    what is the technique--focus on something in the distance? (i've walked through woods in a straight line by looking for the farthest tree I could see, though that is probably not as accurate as say, heading toward some mountain peak miles off).
    The technique is cadence in your stride and checking oneself against your own stride.
    That's why the "desert" example was used, because you cannot assume there is anything in the distance to focus on, plus shifting sand dunes.
    You Literally walk a straight line. Not move forward toward a point that keeps your path straight even though you need to meander...
    So you need to 'measure' your steps to ensure that your stride remains in a constant cadence with each leg striding the same distance. You also need to do the same with your arm swing because that Can throw you out of whack.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    The technique is cadence in your stride and checking oneself against your own stride.
    That's why the "desert" example was used, because you cannot assume there is anything in the distance to focus on, plus shifting sand dunes.
    You Literally walk a straight line. Not move forward toward a point that keeps your path straight even though you need to meander...
    So you need to 'measure' your steps to ensure that your stride remains in a constant cadence with each leg striding the same distance. You also need to do the same with your arm swing because that Can throw you out of whack.
    Neverfly. If you're headed for San Felipe...just keep your feet on the white line at the edge of the road... see:http://perljam.net/wandering_pics/me...-cocos-corner/

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