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WHEN I had finished writing the (now) first part of "The Finer Workings" of Static Electricity, I felt that a limited treatise on the most vital phases of this particular form of electricity may not only help the beginner or uninitiated to gain a clearer conception of what is demonstrated by the preceding experiments, but also considered it worthy the effort to lay down in an easily understandable manner the principal actions of this natural, electrical element, as I found them by experimentation.

Static Electricity has been my special Research-object, off and on during the past twenty odd years; and altho I had, during that time, observed many of its phenomena, both dim and pronounced in character. I venture to say, that numerous surprises are still waiting for those, who care to invade this wonderful region. The "Trail" has been carefully "Blazed" all the way to it long ago, has been kept open by ardent followers and added to, but a great portion of what lies on either side of it is well beyond; is as yet more or less engulfed by a tangle of doubts!


The various means by which a static charge is effected are found in any book on the subject and, consequently, need not be gone into any further here. The peculiar and unique action of this charge, in whichever way produced, however, embodies highly interesting phenomena, unclear if not wholly unknown to the beginner:

A static charge travels in any direction thin space; its natural trend being, of course, down and up, that is from the clouds to the earth or vice versa, forming its path by seeking whatever conducting body comes handy.

In order to retain such a charge for any length of time, a supporting insulator is absolutely imperative. Lightning, as it strikes a human being, an animal, a tree or a house does the damage during the instant while the charge is delivered, but loses its force a moment after it reaches the earth (a mammoth conductor). A probable exception from this is "ball lightning" and only us so far, that it has the peculiar trait of hovering over or moving along near the earth's surface for a fraction of time before its sphere of electric "fire" explodes. (All in all, a very rare occurrence!)

Any one of these electro-static charges is of a Unipolar character.

There are three ways of charging: direct charging (by contact) ; indirect charging (by induction, which is charging at a distance.) See Expts. No. 1-3-4, Part 1; and circumstantial charging (by superinduction) which embodies contact charging with an insulating body interposed between charge-source and conductor. See Expt. No. 2, Part 1.

But considering the peculiar nature of Static electricity there are ever so many exceptions from such fundamental, general rules, which (the exceptions) are some of the things that exemplify its "Finer Workings." And so it happens that contact charging at times becomes inductive charging (electrified insulator as charge-source!) and the same in reverse.

Likewise, charging by superinduction does not always include the contact-element; and a series of insulated conductors may be charged in this manner by having them separated by air-gaps. (See Fig. 5.)

As I have hinted at before: a conductor can only be charged, that is without losing its charge right away, as long as it is supported by am insulator of some kind: the air, silk thread, insulating stand, etc. (It so becomes a charge-source!)

It can be directly charged in this manner and will retain its charge for a certain, short time and also indirectly (Inductively) charged under the same conditions.

In the latter case, however, it will not retain its charge any longer than it is kept under the influence of the waves emanating from the charge-source or removed from contact with the same, which of necessity, has here to be an insulator. (Charged ebonite plate and electrophorus cover, for instance, if the latter is removed from the former without first grounding the repelled electrons!)

The only exception from this is furnished by "In-between-objects," like pith balls, which are neither good conductors nor good insulators.

Insulators cannot be charged directly by the application of a charged conductor, but may be "electrified" by the friction method, a thing impossible to accomplish with a conductor, unless well insulated (which applies also to the part with which it is in friction.)

They may so become charged on one end while the other One stays neutral, or charged evenly all over, as the case might he; and they will retain their charge for quite a little while.

However, they can be inductively charged (as well as by superinduction. Note: Glass plate in experiment No. 2, Part 1) but only as long as they are in contact with the charge-source, which here may be either an insulator or otherwise insulated charge-source.

True, inductive charging (distance charging) of insulating bodies, such as a sheet of glass, is also not so remote a possibility, as I found out, when such insulators are coated with a film of moisture (atmospherical dampness), which serves as a conductor. This is only one instance of the many circumstances which enter unbidden into static experiments and which, not seldom, overthrow time tested theories.

Proof, that an electro-static charge does not penetrate thin an insulator (sheet of glass, etc.) of a thickness, corresponding naturally with the value of the potential of such charge, is contained in the following experiment:


An electrophorus cover (tin box employed in the previous experiments) is charged in the usual way and, after removing it from the hard rubber sheet, placed on a plate of glass or other (neutral) insulating sheet. (Fig. 5-A.)

Altho this glass plate is grounded on the table and so should offer quite an inducement for the electrons residing on the cover to find a way thru, they can not accomplish this, but are retained on the cover. They gradually diminish, however, in value, which is the consequence at natural "leakage"; and this not more so than had the cover been suspended in space by a silk thread. In fact, its capability of holding a charge should now rather be increased, with the superinduced earth-force acting upon it, ("Bound" Charge!) Fig. 5-B.


It takes two opposite poles to produce a spark. A "unipolar" electro-static charge cannot do it.

When a lightning bolt cuts thin space, its blinding glare and tendency to branch out and to "Zigzag" are the consequences of its striking and reaching for oppositely charged waves of electricity in its path and is also the result of its tremendously high potential. For, these ether-waves need, of necessity, not primarily be charged, may be neutral even, but will become inductively electrified -and pretty high at that!- when this happens. There is nothing changed in the unipolar element contained in the bolt of lightning, except that it loses some of its force; on the contrary, this only substantiates the fact that a charge can only be of a "unipolar" character.

As such, when insulated and approached by another insulator it is as tame as a dove. Nothing happens. A somewhat different aspect is offered, when - to give an example- (serving as Expt. No. 6.) a metal object, in neutral condition and held by an insulating handle, is brought near one of the electrodes of a static machine in action.

Sparks will jump over, naturally, and they will continue to do so as long as they find a complement of electrons of opposite sign upon that object. These have partly existed and are in addition induced there (on the object being approached) and taking atmospherical conditions into consideration - are nourished to it more or less from the air (a metal body is a first class conductor and acts like a sponge in respect of properties of attraction, especially under pressure of induction!) so that the sparking often continues for a long time. If everything was just right or as it should be, the sparking would cease after a few moments; for, with the opposite electricity consumed by the "neutralizing" spark, all further attraction on the part of the metal body stops. All that is left upon it is a charge, which it has acquired during the process, and which is of the same sign as that of its erstwhile repelled electrons (but of a higher potential) as well as that of the charge- source (see Fig. 6).

A pronounced effect is, quite naturally, gained when the unipolar charge is permitted to reach a grounded conductor, in which it finds all the opposite electrical properties that it is longing for, it then and only - really manifests all the "Earmarks" of a charge and in proportion to its potential becomes dangerous to a lesser or higher degree. That is the basic principle of the spark discharge, the rushing together of opposite polarities; that forms the spark!

The entirely opposite character of a positive (+) and negative (-) pole, the two signs of electricity is in so far still further enhanced, that the positive element is an excess of charge while the negative is a deficit.

According to the manner of charging an object as well as according to the potential of the charge-source and its own polarity. so will the respective polarities, naturally vary in their arrangement upon such objects.

The experiments and illustrations furnished with Part 1 of this paper show this quite clearly, which eliminates a repetition here, while Fig. 6 demonstrates the polar-distribution as nearly so as when direct charging is resorted to (not touched upon in Part 1.) with the only difference, that by actually direct (contact) charging, induction and neutralization follow one another so rapidly, that the induced, oppositely polarized element exemplifies another case of "Spurlos Versenkt"! No evidence of it nor even time enough for such!

In any and whatever kind of charging of a neutral body, induction takes place first, followed by attraction and ended by neutralization.


Neutralization embraces everything in Static Electricity. It is there at the beginning and at the end; and the visible or otherwise perceivable action that lies between is nothing but the evidence of its recreation, or the manifestation of the process in re-establishing the electrical balance.

Normally, everything on earth is static electrically balanced, that is positive and negative electrons are evenly distributed upon the things around us. Both polarities are conglomerated - so well mixed - that, as is self-evident, polarization cannot exist in such a case. The condition of such objects is then called "Zero," which means neutral.

As a natural consequence of the disturbance of this electrical balance under the effects of friction, heat, motion, etc., their potential becomes abnormally raised, which constitutes a charge or polarization. Some objects become positively polarized, others negatively, but only the neutralizing action furnishes proof of the existence of a charge, either directly or in a round-about way. For, it is well to remember that even like charged bodies, which ordinarily repel one another and plainly show this wherever possible, are such only temporarily and that they seek either a neutral or an oppositely electrified object by way of compulsory attraction. And attraction as such is neutralization at a distance, with the naturally "forerunning" induction. This shows, on the other hand, that they need not come in actual contact with a neutral or an oppositely charged body, but will become neutralized thin the air in due time, if there is no way open for making contact.

Neutralization is simply the electrical law of the earth and nothing can get around it.

While oppositely charged conductors neutralize their charges almost instantly on contact, or thin a spark at the proper distance, insulators do so unperceivably slow as well as only to a limited degree and, invariably, without thy manifestation of a spark. This is partly due to the low potential to which only they can be raised, partly, and in the main, the result of their make-up, which characterizes them as insulators.

So it is possible. as I have already pointed out, that a hard rubber rod may become charged on one end and stay neutral on the other. But not only that; an electrified glass rod (+) may he rolled to and fro over a charged sheet of ebonite (-) and yet both will retain their respective polarities. No doubt, their charges lose some of their former strength, but unprovable little of it under this process. The insulating properties are so excellent, that by bringing a charged conductor and oppositely electrified insulator in contact there is no noticeable evidence of neutralization.

All this becomes greatly changed, when atmospherical conditions (dampness) transform an otherwise good insulator suddenly into a fairly good conductor, which has also been hinted at in the foregoing. And under such circumstances neutralization works overtime!


This experiment demonstrates the process of neutralization in as near a prolonged manner as it seems possible to accomplish with such simple apparatus. Fig. No. 7 refers to the instruments and their arrangement and shows the pith balls hanging very close together, almost in contact, as they should hang. This is important, Of further importance is that the charged El-cover and electrified hard rubber sheet are slowly and simultaneously approached from either side (each one facing only one side of each separate ball!) with the potentials of the two charge-sources given individual consideration. That means, the more strongly charged El-cover should at no stage of this experiment approach as near to its ball as the electrified ebonite plate be permitted to close in on its own.

Contrary to the expectation of the uninitiated or to the general law of attraction these light objects will not fly toward their respective charge-sources, but will join and cling together. When this happens their inductively repelled "inner" charges neutralize, and all action of the operator should stop here for the time being; for if he brought the charge-sources any closer he would simply accelerate the process and spoil the experiment.

In fact, the feeble element of attraction existing between the two balls overcomes the powerful attractive properties exerted upon them by the charge-sources only by. reason of their - the balls - close proximity. to one another and the greater distance that lies between them and the charge-sources.

However, as I have stated before, induction takes place first, and that is what we have here to do with. Then follows attraction. After the short while occupied by neutralization of their "in-between" charges, the light objects retain only their induced "outer" charges (naturally opposite to those of their respective sources!) and upon separation fly, stronger than ever over to these and make contact with them (See Fig. 7-a).

The behavior of the balls during neutralization evidences in this as well as in experiment No. 4, Part 1, very graphically what I have said in reference to their properties as conductors and insulators. They are a mixture of both; they are the "Guinea pigs" of the electrostatic-research worker, for they respond to anything belonging in that sphere.

Whenever an object susceptible to an electrostatic charge is subjected to the neutralizing process while under the influence of an inductive (outside) force, such object will invariably become charged (in this case oppositely!) to the extent of holding the charge for a given period. In other words: if neutralization is followed instantly by induction, a charge will be effected without the usual resort to contact (with the charging body!). This is clearly demonstrated by the action of the gold leaves of an electroscope, when the latter is inductively charged. The neutralizing process is the magic factor, which makes this possible and, to emphasize again, it must take place "just ahead" of (almost simultaneously with!) the inductive action. This magic factor was made use of by the author in the successful workout of Experiments Nos. 3 and 4, of Part 1.

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