Sock science

Ever slipped off those silk socks at the end of the day and noticed a slight crackle? Perhaps a small spark or smell of ozone?

Robert Symmer did and in 1759 published the results of some detailed sock static science.

“the simplicity of the apparatus and the great facility in making the proper experiments put it in my power to begin and carry my enquiry at pleasure.”

After a period of trial and error and presumably rather sweaty feet he settled on two pairs of socks, wool and silk. Wearing one pair on top of the other he would then remove the socks and quickly pull them apart.

He was no fool and soon worked out that the same effect could be acheived without the need for feet.

“Having found it troublesome to electrify the stockings, by putting them on my legs as was requisite in making experiments, i have quitted that methos entirely, and saitsfy myself with the degree of electricity which is excited by drawing them upon the hand.”

He found the charged socks would be attracted to each other and had, presumably, inadvertently  invented the stocking electroscope.

ref New Experiments and Observations concerning Electricity; By Robert Symmer, Esq; …Phil. Trans. 1759 51:340-393
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