What is static electricity? Why do we get a tiny spark when we’ve walked across a carpet and touched a doorknob? Or have you ever pet a cat and then picked up something metal, like a spoon to stir up cat food? Zap! (A tiny one.)

Find out what’s going on in this TED Ed by Anuradha Bhagwat, with animation by Artrake Studio: The science of static electricity. Then dig deeper:

Human body tissue is composed of 60% or more of water. Human body is a good conductor of electricity! But dry human skin is a different story. Static electric charges can occur when you rub your feet or hand against an insulating material such as wool or plastic. It is important to remember that static charges, wherever they get accumulated, even on a human skin, lasts only for a short while. If these charges are not zapped off, then they leak off, as nature does not like charge imbalances. For all of us the best practice to avoid a static zap is to touch the Earth, or a wall, or a wooden door, before touching anything metallic.

Related reading via TED Ed: The TriboElectric Series, materials ranked by the order in which they lose or gain electrons, and at KidsHealth.org: How to Stay Safe in a Thunderstorm.

And for some static electricity experiments, try these.

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