Welcome to Five Minute Science, where we offer up cool science experiments you and your kids can do together using everyday household items, in about five minutes! In this installment you get to make water bend and learn some science too, from the experts at Let's Talk Science.

Purpose:

To show how static electricity affects running water. Be sure to ask your child what he or she thinks might happen before you do the experiment - what result is expected when a comb that has been run through hair 10 times is placed near a stream of running water?

The Experiment

 

Materials:
  1. A dry plastic comb
  2. A faucet with running water
  3. A head of clean dry hair
bending.jpgProcess:
  1. Turn on the faucet slowly until you have a VERY thin stream of water flowing.
  2. Run the comb through your hair 10 times.
  3. Slowly bring the comb close to the water, without actually touching the water. What do you see?
Explaining the Science:

Did you see the water bend when you placed the comb near it? Why do you think it did? The scientific explanation is that when you ran your comb through your hair several times, tiny, invisible parts of the atoms in your hair, called ELECTRONS, collected on the comb. These electrons are negatively charged, and when they are attached to the comb, they make the comb negatively charged. The scientific laws of attraction say that opposites attract and likes repel, so the negatively charged comb is attracted to things that are positively charged. The running water is a POSITIVE force. The attraction is strong enough to pull the water towards the comb as it is flowing.

 

Curriculum Connection:

This experiment is simple, safe and appropriate for any age. In the Ontario Science and Technology curriculum, Forces in Nature is taught in Grade 3, Static and Current Electricity is taught in Grade 6.

 

Extra Credit!
  • Tear up pieces of tissue until they are as a small as possible.
  • Then charge your comb again by combing it through your hair, and bring it close to the tiny pieces of tissue. What do you observe?
  • Observe static electricity in other places- rubbing balloons on your head and sticking them to the wall with the charge - use a timer to see how long it sticks to the wall!
  • Go under the covers so it's dark, put socks on your feet and rub them back and forth quickly under the blankets - do you see the static electricity?