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start:physics:general:static_electricity

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Static electricity

Static electricity has been investigated for more than 2 thousand years1) however, explanations of the physical mechanisms behind the phenomenon are still under dispute.

(The term 'electricity' comes from ἤλεκτρον [ ēlektron ] meaning 'amber' - which was used to generate electrostatic charges by rubbing on cloth.)

“Electrostatics is an exciting area of science, as its most basic scientific questions remain unknown and highly controversial … and yet its consequences are widespread. For example, the identity of the species transferred to generate charge when materials rub is being hotly debated in the leading scientific journals – some researchers argue that it is electrons, others that it is ions, and yet others that it is bits of material.”
Source: Electrostatics Society of America

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1) The earliest written scientific accounts of 'static electricity' are believed to be those of Thales of Miletus c. 600BC. He thought (correctly, but for the wrong reasons) that it was linked in some way to magnetism.

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