WHEN I had finished writing the (now) first part of "The Finer
Workings" of Static Electricity, I felt that a limited treatise on
the most vital phases of this particular form of electricity may
not only help the beginner or uninitiated to gain a clearer
conception of what is demonstrated by the preceding experiments,
but also considered it worthy the effort to lay down in an easily
understandable manner the principal actions of this natural,
electrical element, as I found them by experimentation.
Static Electricity has been my special Research-object, off and on
during the past twenty odd years; and altho I had, during that
time, observed many of its phenomena, both dim and pronounced in
character. I venture to say, that numerous surprises are still
waiting for those, who care to invade this wonderful region. The
"Trail" has been carefully "Blazed" all the way to it long ago, has
been kept open by ardent followers and added to, but a great
portion of what lies on either side of it is well beyond; is as yet
more or less engulfed by a tangle of doubts!
CHARGE AND CHARGING.
The various means by which a static charge is effected are found in
any book on the subject and, consequently, need not be gone into
any further here. The peculiar and unique action of this charge, in
whichever way produced, however, embodies highly interesting
phenomena, unclear if not wholly unknown to the beginner:
A static charge travels in any direction thin space; its natural
trend being, of course, down and up, that is from the clouds to the
earth or vice versa, forming its path by seeking whatever
conducting body comes handy.
In order to retain such a charge for any length of time, a
supporting insulator is absolutely imperative. Lightning, as it
strikes a human being, an animal, a tree or a house does the damage
during the instant while the charge is delivered, but loses its
force a moment after it reaches the earth (a mammoth conductor). A
probable exception from this is "ball lightning" and only us so
far, that it has the peculiar trait of hovering over or moving
along near the earth's surface for a fraction of time before its
sphere of electric "fire" explodes. (All in all, a very rare
Any one of these electro-static charges is of a Unipolar character.
There are three ways of charging: direct charging (by contact) ;
indirect charging (by induction, which is charging at a distance.)
See Expts. No. 1-3-4, Part 1; and circumstantial charging (by
superinduction) which embodies contact charging with an insulating
body interposed between charge-source and conductor. See Expt. No.
2, Part 1.
But considering the peculiar nature of Static electricity there are
ever so many exceptions from such fundamental, general rules, which
(the exceptions) are some of the things that exemplify its "Finer
Workings." And so it happens that contact charging at times becomes
inductive charging (electrified insulator as charge-source!) and
the same in reverse.
Likewise, charging by superinduction does not always include the
contact-element; and a series of insulated conductors may be
charged in this manner by having them separated by air-gaps. (See
As I have hinted at before: a conductor can only be charged, that
is without losing its charge right away, as long as it is supported
by am insulator of some kind: the air, silk thread, insulating
stand, etc. (It so becomes a charge-source!)
It can be directly charged in this manner and will retain its
charge for a certain, short time and also indirectly (Inductively)
charged under the same conditions.
In the latter case, however, it will not retain its charge any
longer than it is kept under the influence of the waves emanating
from the charge-source or removed from contact with the same, which
of necessity, has here to be an insulator. (Charged ebonite plate
and electrophorus cover, for instance, if the latter is removed
from the former without first grounding the repelled electrons!)
The only exception from this is furnished by "In-between-objects,"
like pith balls, which are neither good conductors nor good
Insulators cannot be charged directly by the application of a
charged conductor, but may be "electrified" by the friction method,
a thing impossible to accomplish with a conductor, unless well
insulated (which applies also to the part with which it is in
They may so become charged on one end while the other One stays
neutral, or charged evenly all over, as the case might he; and they
will retain their charge for quite a little while.
However, they can be inductively charged (as well as by
superinduction. Note: Glass plate in experiment No. 2, Part 1) but
only as long as they are in contact with the charge-source, which
here may be either an insulator or otherwise insulated
True, inductive charging (distance charging) of insulating bodies,
such as a sheet of glass, is also not so remote a possibility, as I
found out, when such insulators are coated with a film of moisture
(atmospherical dampness), which serves as a conductor. This is only
one instance of the many circumstances which enter unbidden into
static experiments and which, not seldom, overthrow time tested
Proof, that an electro-static charge does not penetrate thin an
insulator (sheet of glass, etc.) of a thickness, corresponding
naturally with the value of the potential of such charge, is
contained in the following experiment:
EXPERIMENT NO. 5.
An electrophorus cover (tin box employed in the previous
experiments) is charged in the usual way and, after removing it
from the hard rubber sheet, placed on a plate of glass or other
(neutral) insulating sheet. (Fig. 5-A.)
Altho this glass plate is grounded on the table and so should offer
quite an inducement for the electrons residing on the cover to find
a way thru, they can not accomplish this, but are retained on the
cover. They gradually diminish, however, in value, which is the
consequence at natural "leakage"; and this not more so than had the
cover been suspended in space by a silk thread. In fact, its
capability of holding a charge should now rather be increased, with
the superinduced earth-force acting upon it, ("Bound" Charge!) Fig.
SPARKS AND POLARITY.
It takes two opposite poles to produce a spark. A "unipolar"
electro-static charge cannot do it.
When a lightning bolt cuts thin space, its blinding glare and
tendency to branch out and to "Zigzag" are the consequences of its
striking and reaching for oppositely charged waves of electricity
in its path and is also the result of its tremendously high
potential. For, these ether-waves need, of necessity, not primarily
be charged, may be neutral even, but will become inductively
electrified -and pretty high at that!- when this happens. There is
nothing changed in the unipolar element contained in the bolt of
lightning, except that it loses some of its force; on the contrary,
this only substantiates the fact that a charge can only be of a
As such, when insulated and approached by another insulator it is
as tame as a dove. Nothing happens. A somewhat different aspect is
offered, when - to give an example- (serving as Expt. No. 6.) a
metal object, in neutral condition and held by an insulating
handle, is brought near one of the electrodes of a static machine
Sparks will jump over, naturally, and they will continue to do so
as long as they find a complement of electrons of opposite sign
upon that object. These have partly existed and are in addition
induced there (on the object being approached) and taking
atmospherical conditions into consideration - are nourished to it
more or less from the air (a metal body is a first class conductor
and acts like a sponge in respect of properties of attraction,
especially under pressure of induction!) so that the sparking often
continues for a long time. If everything was just right or as it
should be, the sparking would cease after a few moments; for, with
the opposite electricity consumed by the "neutralizing" spark, all
further attraction on the part of the metal body stops. All that is
left upon it is a charge, which it has acquired during the process,
and which is of the same sign as that of its erstwhile repelled
electrons (but of a higher potential) as well as that of the
charge- source (see Fig. 6).
A pronounced effect is, quite naturally, gained when the unipolar
charge is permitted to reach a grounded conductor, in which it
finds all the opposite electrical properties that it is longing
for, it then and only - really manifests all the "Earmarks" of a
charge and in proportion to its potential becomes dangerous to a
lesser or higher degree. That is the basic principle of the spark
discharge, the rushing together of opposite polarities; that forms
The entirely opposite character of a positive (+) and negative (-)
pole, the two signs of electricity is in so far still further
enhanced, that the positive element is an excess of charge while
the negative is a deficit.
According to the manner of charging an object as well as according
to the potential of the charge-source and its own polarity. so will
the respective polarities, naturally vary in their arrangement upon
The experiments and illustrations furnished with Part 1 of this
paper show this quite clearly, which eliminates a repetition here,
while Fig. 6 demonstrates the polar-distribution as nearly so as
when direct charging is resorted to (not touched upon in Part 1.)
with the only difference, that by actually direct (contact)
charging, induction and neutralization follow one another so
rapidly, that the induced, oppositely polarized element exemplifies
another case of "Spurlos Versenkt"! No evidence of it nor even
time enough for such!
In any and whatever kind of charging of a neutral body, induction
takes place first, followed by attraction and ended by
Neutralization embraces everything in Static Electricity. It is
there at the beginning and at the end; and the visible or otherwise
perceivable action that lies between is nothing but the evidence of
its recreation, or the manifestation of the process in
re-establishing the electrical balance.
Normally, everything on earth is static electrically balanced, that
is positive and negative electrons are evenly distributed upon the
things around us. Both polarities are conglomerated - so well mixed
- that, as is self-evident, polarization cannot exist in such a
case. The condition of such objects is then called "Zero," which
As a natural consequence of the disturbance of this electrical
balance under the effects of friction, heat, motion, etc., their
potential becomes abnormally raised, which constitutes a charge or
polarization. Some objects become positively polarized, others
negatively, but only the neutralizing action furnishes proof of the
existence of a charge, either directly or in a round-about way.
For, it is well to remember that even like charged bodies, which
ordinarily repel one another and plainly show this wherever
possible, are such only temporarily and that they seek either a
neutral or an oppositely electrified object by way of compulsory
attraction. And attraction as such is neutralization at a distance,
with the naturally "forerunning" induction. This shows, on the
other hand, that they need not come in actual contact with a
neutral or an oppositely charged body, but will become neutralized
thin the air in due time, if there is no way open for making
Neutralization is simply the electrical law of the earth and
nothing can get around it.
While oppositely charged conductors neutralize their charges almost
instantly on contact, or thin a spark at the proper distance,
insulators do so unperceivably slow as well as only to a limited
degree and, invariably, without thy manifestation of a spark. This
is partly due to the low potential to which only they can be
raised, partly, and in the main, the result of their make-up, which
characterizes them as insulators.
So it is possible. as I have already pointed out, that a hard
rubber rod may become charged on one end and stay neutral on the
other. But not only that; an electrified glass rod (+) may he
rolled to and fro over a charged sheet of ebonite (-) and yet both
will retain their respective polarities. No doubt, their charges
lose some of their former strength, but unprovable little of it
under this process. The insulating properties are so excellent,
that by bringing a charged conductor and oppositely electrified
insulator in contact there is no noticeable evidence of
All this becomes greatly changed, when atmospherical conditions
(dampness) transform an otherwise good insulator suddenly into a
fairly good conductor, which has also been hinted at in the
foregoing. And under such circumstances neutralization works
EXPERIMENT NO. 7.
This experiment demonstrates the process of neutralization in as
near a prolonged manner as it seems possible to accomplish with
such simple apparatus. Fig. No. 7 refers to the instruments and
their arrangement and shows the pith balls hanging very close
together, almost in contact, as they should hang. This is
important, Of further importance is that the charged El-cover and
electrified hard rubber sheet are slowly and simultaneously
approached from either side (each one facing only one side of each
separate ball!) with the potentials of the two charge-sources given
individual consideration. That means, the more strongly charged
El-cover should at no stage of this experiment approach as near to
its ball as the electrified ebonite plate be permitted to close in
on its own.
Contrary to the expectation of the uninitiated or to the general
law of attraction these light objects will not fly toward their
respective charge-sources, but will join and cling together. When
this happens their inductively repelled "inner" charges neutralize,
and all action of the operator should stop here for the time being;
for if he brought the charge-sources any closer he would simply
accelerate the process and spoil the experiment.
In fact, the feeble element of attraction existing between the two
balls overcomes the powerful attractive properties exerted upon
them by the charge-sources only by. reason of their - the balls -
close proximity. to one another and the greater distance that lies
between them and the charge-sources.
However, as I have stated before, induction takes place first, and
that is what we have here to do with. Then follows attraction.
After the short while occupied by neutralization of their
"in-between" charges, the light objects retain only their induced
"outer" charges (naturally opposite to those of their respective
sources!) and upon separation fly, stronger than ever over to
these and make contact with them (See Fig. 7-a).
The behavior of the balls during neutralization evidences in this
as well as in experiment No. 4, Part 1, very graphically what I
have said in reference to their properties as conductors and
insulators. They are a mixture of both; they are the "Guinea pigs"
of the electrostatic-research worker, for they respond to anything
belonging in that sphere.
Whenever an object susceptible to an electrostatic charge is
subjected to the neutralizing process while under the influence of
an inductive (outside) force, such object will invariably become
charged (in this case oppositely!) to the extent of holding the
charge for a given period. In other words: if neutralization is
followed instantly by induction, a charge will be effected without
the usual resort to contact (with the charging body!). This is
clearly demonstrated by the action of the gold leaves of an
electroscope, when the latter is inductively charged. The
neutralizing process is the magic factor, which makes this possible
and, to emphasize again, it must take place "just ahead" of (almost
simultaneously with!) the inductive action. This magic factor was
made use of by the author in the successful workout of Experiments
Nos. 3 and 4, of Part 1.
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