Friday, February 08, 2013

Electric Personality


It was during my visit to the US in 2007 that I experienced ‘static’ for the first time. I would get down from cars at the end of the ride and close the door and oooooh! my fingers hurt from the shock upon contact with the door.
Why, one day, it was late in the night, quite dark and I saw sparks at the tip of my finger.

My habit, of avoiding all contact with the door of a car, after getting down, and closing it instead by gently pushing the glass window of the door, persists even to this day. If the glass window is completely down and not available, then I touch the door with fear.

They said it was because of the cold weather.

But then, why did I not experience it during the cold weather in India before?
And, why did it not stop after my return to India?

It was almost as if ‘the shock’ was something I brought back with me from the US.

In the last few months, I received a few shocks every day. In fact, I knew beforehand when I was going to receive one.
I suffered the ‘inevitability’ for sometime and then, one day, I figured it all out.
Commonsense added to observation out of a compelling necessity, brought me to the following discovery.

Our body produces electricity or electric charges continuously.
When we come in contact with the ground or other good conductors of electricity, these charges are released - we get ‘discharged’.

When we release charges continuously as we produce them, we don’t feel a shock because we release small amounts of them.

But when we haven’t come in contact with the ground for a long time, then what happens is, the electric charges produced by our body get accumulated over a period of time. And then, when we suddenly come in contact with a metal or a surface that absorbs electricity, these accumulated charges get released suddenly and that’s when we feel a shock.
I would feel the shock even when my elbow or outer arm touched the wall as I walked through the narrow passage leading to the bathroom. Even the kitchen platform gave me a shock. For the wall, the kitchen platform are all extensions of the ground, which is a conductor.

Why is this ‘static’ problem unknown in India? Everyone seems to know about it in the US.
Is electricity partial towards certain people, races or nations?
Not really : )

In the west, people hardly come in contact with the ground, I mean with earth.
They are never barefeet, their floors are carpeted and even beneath the carpet, the floors are wooden – with the result that they continuously accumulate charges and shocks are a commonplace.
In India, people don’t wear footwear at home, the floors are not carpeted and they are continuously ‘in touch with earth’. Most of them have never felt a shock ‘just like that’. Only if they have had an accident with an electrical appliance, a plug point or a live wire…

But surely, even in India, this ‘static’ must have chances to express itself. What about times when a person is sitting on a couch for hours with legs folded (no contact with the ground) and then suddenly gets up to open the door? Shouldn’t they feel a shock? What about the people who go to office in shoes, sandals and take off their footwear after 8 hours of wearing them? Shouldn’t they feel a shock?
Even when people walk on earth, releasing charges continuously, shouldn’t they feel some ‘tingling’ if not a shock?

That train of thought lead me another discovery.
In all the above cases, we discharge through the soles of our feet.
Perhaps, our soles are made of special tissue, perhaps the epidermis (outer most skin layer covering our whole body) that is made of dead cells is very thick on our soles and therefore, when we discharge through our feet we don’t feel a shock.

Hmmmm….

I tested my theory.

When I got off my plastic chair, to fetch water, for instance, I slid one of my feet off the slipper and touched it to the ground and then touched the tap. Surely, I did not feel a shock. For, I had just released all the charges through my heel. And, though I discharged accumulated charges through my heel, I did not receive a shock at my heel.

Since that day, it has become a habit to slide my foot off my slipper and touch it to the ground before touching anything. It’s only when I forget to do this, once in a way, that my finger tips recoil from shock, upon contact with taps and tumblers. And this forgetting is also because of confusion caused by duality in my electric personality.
When I use my computer chair that’s mostly metal and some cushion, I don’t produce or accumulate much electricity. But when I use my plastic chair, I am all charges…

What a waste that this mind should be deployed in IT!
I should have been a scientist. No?

1 comment:

Anoop Madhusudanan said...

Very ironic that I saw this post today. It is very cold and snowing now in NJ, and for few days I'm now feeling the static a lot of times when I'm in office or travelling.

But when I'm in the hotel room, I mostly don't wear my boots, and hence not prone to static. So, I second your theory :)