Flashers!: What Causes Lightning? (page 2)
- Produce static discharge another way. Cut a 1-by-8-inch (2.5-by-20-cm) strip from a plastic report folder. Stand a paper clip upright in a piece of clay on a table. Darken the room and then rub the plastic strip with a piece of wool cloth, such as a wool scarf. Immediately hold the plastic near, but not touching, the top of the paper clip. Look for the flash of light between the plastic and the clip. Display a drawing of the results along with a drawing of a lightning flash.
- Can other materials be charged enough to produce a static discharge? Repeat the above experiment replacing the plastic strip with other materials, such as an inflated balloon, paper, aluminum foil, and cellophane.
Check it Out!
- It is not fully understood how clouds become charged. One theory is that as strong winds toss raindrops around, the drops rub against each other and exchange electrons. The drops that gain electrons have a heavier, negative charge and fall to the bottom of the cloud. The drops that lose electrons have a lighter, positive charge and are swept to the top of the cloud. Use a chemistry or physics text to find out more about charged particles, or talk with a chemistry or physics teacher. Ask if the difference in the weight of a negatively charged drop and a positively charged drop is enough to cause the charge separation in clouds.
- Find out more about lightning. What are the maximum volts of potential energy contained in a lightning stroke? To what temperature is the air around lightning heated? What causes the color of lightning?
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