Shocking Students

Reason #85 that I’m excited to be teaching Physics instead of Math: The Van de Graaf generator. You’ve probably seen it before, but basically it’s this big thing that creates a large static charge with which you can do a lot of electricity demonstrations (see hair standing on end in the picture on the left as Case #1).

We had a lot of fun with this, but probably the most fun involved the fluorescent bulbs from our ceiling lights. If you bring it close to the person touching the Van de Graaf generator, it will light up very brightly due to electrons coming from the … but it also gives the person a nice little shock.

I didn’t tell my volunteers about this before they put their hands on the generator, so I surprised them all by shutting off the lights and giving them a nice little zap. Then they were all mad at me and decided they wanted to get me back, so I offered to let anyone zap me whom I zapped. To the left is someone coming at me with a bulb, ready to inflict physics torture on me. I have a very nice relationship with my students.

PS If you were expecting a post about Damascus, hold your camels, I wanted to get all my photos uploaded first!

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Posted on February 15, 2010, in Physics, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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