Monthly Archives: December 2012


Why does a party balloon stick to the wall after you rub it on your head? Static electricity, of course!  But why does it really happen?  It occurred to me while researching electric machines from the 1740s (like Abbé Nollet’s machine featured in Ep. 1) that aside from vague recollections from Physics 101 of glass […]

Posted in Extra Credit

In honor of the Geminids

Last night marked the peak of the annual Geminid meteor shower, a light show courtesy of 3200 Phaethon, which has the orbit of a comet and the rock fraction of an asteroid and passes, at its closest approach, only 20 million kilometers (13 million miles) from the Sun (much closer than the planet Mercury).  In […]

Posted in Extra Credit

Now with more monks!

Nollet’s famous demonstration of the Leyden Jar in 1746 for King Louis XV, in which he lined up 180 royal guardsmen and sent an electric shock through the human chain, was afterward repeated with even more people – this time with Carthusian monks.  Sources disagree on the actual number involved – some say 900 people […]

Posted in Extra Credit

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Posted in News