3-6 Static Electricity

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Everything is made up of tiny things called atoms.  An atom contains three different kinds of even smaller particles.  These tiny particles are too small to be seen.  They are called protons, neutrons, and electrons.  Look at the picture of the atom below.

Notice the neutrons and protons are found in the center, and the electrons move rapidly around it.  Protons and electrons have a property we call charge.  Protons have a positive charge and electrons have a negative charge.  Protons and electrons have opposite charges of equal size.  The plus units are called "positive" and the minus units "negative."  Neutrons have no charge.  They are neutral.

It is a basic law of nature that similar charges repel each other.  Repel means push each other away.  Opposite charges attract each other.

Usually, atoms have an equal number of protons and electrons.  There are cases when this changes.  Take for example when you comb your hair.  As you comb your hair some of the electrons are transferred from your hair to the surface of the comb.  Now the comb has more negative (electrons) than positive (protons) charges.  If you take the comb and place it near small bits of paper you notice the bits of paper are attracted to the comb.  The attraction between the positive charge of the paper and the negative charge on the surface of the comb is so strong they stick together.  This is called static electricity.  Another example of static electricity is socks sticking together when they come out of the dryer.

Directions: Answer the questions below about static electricity.

1. Everything is made up of tiny things called .


2. Protons have a charge.


3. (+) units are positive.


4. Neutrons have no charge.  They are .


5. Electrons have a charge.


6. (-) units are negative.


7. Where are the protons and neutrons found in an atom?

outside center


8. Which of the following means to "push away?"



9. Which of the following statements is true?

Similar charges repel each other.
Similar charges attract each other.


10. Which of the following statements is true?

Opposite charges attract each other.
Opposite charges repel each other.


11. Static electricity occurs when

things are rubbed together
things are wet


12. Static electricity occurs because

the number of protons and electrons are the same
the number of protons and electrons are different



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Parts of the Atom