Why do I sometimes get a 'shock' from touching the doorknob?

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Bbzzzzap! Sometimes the doorknob or the car door might give you a little shock when you touch it! Or maybe you’ve tried the funny trick where you rub a balloon against a sweater and then hold it above your head to make your hair stand up! The name for what causes these funny and strange phenomena is static electricity.

Did you know that objects carry special “charges”? It’s true! While most objects are neutral and have no charge (which is why you don’t get shocked ten times a day), some objects carry either a positive or negative charge. The charge of an object can also sometimes change, like when two objects rub against each other. (Some positive or negative units will transfer from one object to the other, although you can’t know it’s happening because the units are too tiny to see.)

Static electricity is what happens when an object builds up an extra positive or an extra negative charge. When an extra charge has built up on an object, it’s constantly waiting to be released! – Zap!! The little shock you feel when you touch a doorknob, a metal chair, or even sometimes just your friend’s hand is the release of that extra charge!

by   (whyzz writer)
  • Further information

    The reason why objects carry a charge is because of what they’re made of! All things are made from tiny little units called atoms, which are too small to see without a special microscope. These atoms are made from even tinier units that carry either a “positive” or “negative” charge, or a “neutral” charge (no charge).
  • Exploration

    Oh Snap!

    Have you ever noticed that you get a little static electricity shock over and over again from the same thing, like walking down the hallway and then touching the knob on the bedroom door? A neat trick that can help you avoid the shock is to snap your fingers right before you touch the surface that shocks you! (Try it out!)

    Based on what you’ve learned about how static electricity works, why do you think this trick works so well?

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