Here's why you've been getting zapped by static lately

 

THE cool weather brings out a variety of things from scarves to slow cookers and even something we can not see - static shock.

Not everyone is prone to getting a little zap but as the air thins and the temperature drops it is more likely to occur.

Bundaberg-raised Ruben Meerman - AKA the Surfing Scientist - said several factors were behind the phenomenon, including humidity and temperature.

Mr Meerman said all physical objects were made up of atoms. Inside an atom are positively charged protons, negatively charged electrons and neutrons, which are neutral.

Opposite charges attract and like charges repel, he said.

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Most of the time positive and negative charges are balanced in an object, making it neutral.

"We never get to see what is driving the show here because the particles we are talking about are called electrons and there the tiny little negatively charged particles which you'll never see but they whiz around atoms," he said.

"They can be bumped off the host atom and end upon another atom and when that happens these things hate each other, which is a weird way of saying they repel each other."

He said the force behind the bump is billions of billions of times stronger than gravity and because of the size of the electron people only felt it as a zap.

Mr Meerman said as people walked around, electrons would be coming off them, especially if they were wearing rubber-soled shoes on carpet - which has the same effect as rubbing hair against a balloon.

While building up this charge won't jump to ground easily but if you touched something metal the electrons would flow through your finger into the metal as they tried to spread out.

He said the same happened when you touch someone else in this environment.

"If you're charged up more than your friend is ... the electrons want to get away from each other," he said.

"By spreading out into your friend, if you have more than your friend, as you touch then they'll end up having the same as you and you'll end up with the same voltage.

"The flow is where you feel the little zap."

The Surfing Scientist said the weather, what people were wearing, skin types and the environment all influenced the process.

But, he said, the number one factor was dry, cold air which why people felt the shock mostly in winter.