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The Elastic Properties Of Static Electrical Fields


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#1 gsmonks

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 02:16 AM

I live in an area where static electricity is a fact of life. It gets cold and dry, everything becomes electrically charged. You even get zapped when you put your hand in running water.

The amusing little spark aside, there is something else entirely that has caused me to wonder, for a very long time, what the elastic properties of the electrical field are.

Elastic properties? Is he daft?

When you've been zapped umpteen bazillion times, there comes a point when you notice patterns in the zappage. For example, other than the visible blue spark, there is a physical sensation like an elastic band being shot off the end of your finger that's not restricted to the area of the spark. It's a physical sensation other than the electrical sensation.

You know those little finger-condoms doctors sometimes wear? Imagine something stronger and tighter that pops off your finger tip with palpable force.

I remember showing this to other members of my physics class in university back in 1974. "What is that?" I asked. They all felt it. No one had an answer for it. There was nothing in the literature.

Apparently there still isn't.

There's a thesis in this for someone. If only someone would look into it.
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#2 Orpheus

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 11:52 PM

It's just a guess, but I'd imagine that you may be experiencing diffuse muscle contraction in the terminal segment of your finger, triggered by the shock. It would fit what you describe: it would feel qualitatively different than the direct shock, and would be delayed by sufficient milliseconds to be readily distinguishable in other ways, too.

A static shock will immediately stimulate sensory nerves/endings, and will also trigger some motor nerve/endings, which will lead to a diffuse twitch that you'll feel milliseconds later (when the twitch activated other sensory endings). The motor effect is much more striking at higher currents (low milliamps), even at less than 100 volts. A static spark is necessarily thousands of volts to break down air resistance. but is typically millionths of microamps for a fraction of a millisecond. This is why you only experience casual sparks in the winter: cold, relatively dry, outside air heated to room temperature has so little absolute moisture that a relative handful of electrons (millions, compared to 6 million million million in a coulomb) can build up enough energy to have 1000s of volts of potential without leaking away.

For sake of numbers:
1 coulomb = 6.2 x 10^18 electrons.
1 ampere of current is 1 coulomb per second. An ampere is how much current flows (continuously) though a 120W lightbulb in the US, but less than 100th what it takes (briefly) to start a car in winter.
1 volt is the force required to push one ampere across one ohm of resistance.
Dry Air has a high resistivity (megaohms/cm) but that drops dramatically once you ionize it

so a static spark may start at a few hundred kilovolts to break air resistance, but the actual spark may be only an microamp (or nanoamps) for a millisecond, moving just a few million actual electrons. By contrast, a single gram of hydrogen contains 602,214,086,000,000,000,000,000 electrons (over 602,214 million million million electrons)

Without going through the chemical stoichiometry of a synapse, it's actually possible to trigger a synapse with just a few thousand electrons with ~100 millivolts (1/10th volt) AT THE SURFACE of the neuron membrane. I'm sure you can imagine that how a few million high energy electrons can turn into a cascade of low energy electrons, some of which end up at a neu

#3 gsmonks

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 03:35 AM

View PostOrpheus, on 16 January 2017 - 11:52 PM, said:

It's just a guess, but I'd imagine that you may be experiencing diffuse muscle contraction in the terminal segment of your finger, triggered by the shock. It would fit what you describe: it would feel qualitatively different than the direct shock, and would be delayed by sufficient milliseconds to be readily distinguishable in other ways, too.

A static shock will immediately stimulate sensory nerves/endings, and will also trigger some motor nerve/endings, which will lead to a diffuse twitch that you'll feel milliseconds later (when the twitch activated other sensory endings). The motor effect is much more striking at higher currents (low milliamps), even at less than 100 volts. A static spark is necessarily thousands of volts to break down air resistance. but is typically millionths of microamps for a fraction of a millisecond. This is why you only experience casual sparks in the winter: cold, relatively dry, outside air heated to room temperature has so little absolute moisture that a relative handful of electrons (millions, compared to 6 million million million in a coulomb) can build up enough energy to have 1000s of volts of potential without leaking away.

For sake of numbers:
1 coulomb = 6.2 x 10^18 electrons.
1 ampere of current is 1 coulomb per second. An ampere is how much current flows (continuously) though a 120W lightbulb in the US, but less than 100th what it takes (briefly) to start a car in winter.
1 volt is the force required to push one ampere across one ohm of resistance.
Dry Air has a high resistivity (megaohms/cm) but that drops dramatically once you ionize it

so a static spark may start at a few hundred kilovolts to break air resistance, but the actual spark may be only an microamp (or nanoamps) for a millisecond, moving just a few million actual electrons. By contrast, a single gram of hydrogen contains 602,214,086,000,000,000,000,000 electrons (over 602,214 million million million electrons)

Without going through the chemical stoichiometry of a synapse, it's actually possible to trigger a synapse with just a few thousand electrons with ~100 millivolts (1/10th volt) AT THE SURFACE of the neuron membrane. I'm sure you can imagine that how a few million high energy electrons can turn into a cascade of low energy electrons, some of which end up at a neu

We ruled out muscle contraction at the time.

It's a rubbery field that has physical properties. It's related to the spark, but it is not the spark itself.

The closest we could come up with is a sympathetic magnetic field that transfers itself from body to ground. If we'd had the tools to study it properly at the time, our suspicion, and what we were intending to look for, is a quantised field that is proportional to and much larger than the spark.

As a magnetic field, it's only able to interact with the body while the body is charged in that specific area. The charge is what transfers the force of the field to the finger.

To put a name to it, I would say that the physical sensation is that of being able to briefly feel a magnetic field, the static charge being the facilitator.
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#4 Omega

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 07:57 AM

If there's a spark that means you and the metal object have different electric charges. That means there's an electromagnetic force pulling you towards the object. When the charge equalizes, that force goes away. So that's consistent with your description.

My guess is that it's separate from the spark in the same way that a leader is separate from a lightning bolt. There's electrical activity going on ionizing the air in the moments before the visible bolt appears.

#5 gsmonks

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 02:17 AM

It's funny you should mention that, because high-speed cameras that take up to a billion frames per second are being used to study lightning in slow motion, in order to nail down all the stuff that happens when lightning strikes. Then there's all the stuff that's non-visible.

When I lived in T'ronna, Ontario, we used to watch electrical storms over the lake, from the side, and watch the glowing regions in clouds during discharges. I forget the proper name for this phenomenon, but it's a cascade of electrons passing through the cloud which shows up as an orangish/reddish glow. Absolutely fascinating to watch.

There is also all the collateral radiation created during lighting strikes, X-rays especially.

I remember reading the words "improperly understood phenomenon" regarding lightning in my high-school physics text in the 1960's. I guess there's still stuff to be discovered.

What I wanted to test, where the spark discharge was concerned, was discharging sparks into small sheets of super-thin foil, which we didn't have access to at the time. It's a simple test: just scuff your feed on a carpet and touch different cuts of very thin metal foil, in order to see if there are patterns of movement other that what you'd normally expect.
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#6 gsmonks

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 02:20 AM

Lightning also produced gamma ray bursts:

https://en.wikipedia...gamma-ray_flash
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#7 gsmonks

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 02:25 AM

And this:

https://en.wikipedia...heric_lightning

I'm thinking there are micro versions of these same phenomena.
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#8 gsmonks

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 08:53 AM

When you hold a static-charged balloon inches from your face, you can also feel the charged field. Part of it is the small hairs of your face reacting, but you can unmistakably feel it against your skin as well. Opposed charges are one thing, but this is something else that has to do with fields.

It has to be remembered that touch itself is a matter of interacting fields, that you're not actually touching anything. Physical touch is made confusing by our own makeup, which interprets what's happening instead of providing us with accurate information. All of the senses are like that- indirect interpretations that were handy for our survival when we were mere animals acting purely on instinct, instead of the the sentient creatures we are now.

But there are grey areas like this one, which illuminate our understanding of sensory actuality vs biological phenomena.

Very strong static fields have a rubbery feel to them, what might be characterised as a yielding resistance. Scientists used to theorise that such fields could be strengthened to the point that they could become impenetrable "force fields".

"Shields up, Captain?"

This is an area that M Theory attempts to address. String Theory, too.
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#9 Omega

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 08:47 PM

The problem with that theory is that electric fields only operate on charged particles. If you're electrically neutral it doesn't help, and if you're electrically opposite charge as the field it's going to attract, not repel.

#10 gsmonks

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 09:47 PM

How is that a problem?

Ions are only understood in the old-fashioned Periodic-Table sense, which is dated in terms of modern physics. They're more a matter of chemistry than of physics, which has moved well beyond that model, yet is hampered by all that 19th-century-and-earlier understanding and methodology.

An example of this is quasiparticles:

https://en.wikipedia..._quasiparticles

The thing is, all particles are quasiparticles. It's a matter of stability and resolution. But- Stability and resolution of what? remains the question.

For example, speaking of ions is irrelevant when you consider that ions themselves are still atoms and molecules, regardless whether they have an electric charge or not. The energies involved are there regardless. All we're doing is manipulating matter in such a way as to make certain aspects apparent to us.
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#11 Orpheus

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 12:33 AM

Electric fields operate perfectly well on neutral objects, where "object" can be as small as a hydrogen atom in a molecule. I'm not sure about isolated hydrogen atoms).

It's called an induced dipole. In short strokes, the opposite charges are attracted somewhat closer, the similar charges repelled somewhat farther -- the average distance remains the same but since force decreases with the *square* of the distance, not the distance itself, the closer 'attracted' charges exert more force than the slightly more distant 'repelled' charges, instead of cancelling out.

This is why a charged rubber balloon will (stick to) a neutral rubber balloon, even though rubber is an insulator, whose charges can't really move.

Induced dipoles are vital in biology. For example, induced dipoles and related weak forces, like Van der Waal's and London dispersion forces, hold human cell membranes together.

#12 gsmonks

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 11:29 AM

Which makes our cells astonishingly complicated little buggers, doesn't it?

Cell walls probably developed in some form before DNA, and probably played a role in the early formation of DNA, plus giving it a place and an environment in which to happen. Plus cell walls are what seem to have caused life to happen in the first place. Cell walls themselves no doubt began as chemical membranes.

My personal suspicion is that chemical membranes were the facilitators and enablers of Life, and may in themselves be the first forms of Life on this planet.
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