I just had to share the science experiment that the kids and I did for our homeschool group's monthly "theme day" today.
We're currently in the middle of a cold snap, so we've been experiencing a lot of static electricity - our hair stands on end, and we get a zap every time we touch a door knob. We decided to do a little research into what causes static electricity, also hoping that we'd find some fun ways of demonstrating its power.
This website provided a pretty clear description of what causes that annoying crackle, as well as some fun, easy experiments to do.
The best one promised that we'd be able to light up a compact flourescent light bulb using a balloon that had been rubbed on someone's hair to build up static. We tried this in a dark/windowless room, and I'm happy to report that it worked!! The bulb flickered on and off, occasionally letting off a larger blast of light if the balloon was particularly well charged. The kids had a ball with it, taking turns holding the bulb over their heads and pretending that they'd just thought of something brilliant. I tried to capture it on film, but sadly, that proved impossible with my limited equipment.
The other fun thing that we did was to hold the well-rubbed balloon next to a thin stream of running water, which would then bend in the direction of the balloon, trying to connect. The kids were pretty sure it was magic, not science.
Now, if only I could figure out how to power my house using static cling and shocks from the carpet!