For 80 years, scientists have puzzled over a strange phenomenon in static electricity: Why does the charge on a spark discharge sometimes flow in the opposite direction to what they expect? Now, they may finally have an answer.
In a paper published in the journal Nature, researchers in the US and China report that they have solved the mystery using a simple mathematical model.
The phenomenon, known as the “anomalous Hall effect”, was first observed in the 1930s. It occurs when a spark discharge is produced in a material with a strong magnetic field.
The researchers say that their model can explain the anomalous Hall effect and could also be used to study other strange phenomena in physics.
Until recently, static electricity was one of the great unsolved mysteries of the natural world. But now, after more than 80 years of research, scientists have finally cracked the case.
It all started in the 1930s, when German physicist Heinrich Hertz noticed that when he rubbed certain materials together, they would create sparks. But Hertz didn’t know what was causing this strange phenomenon.
For decades, scientists debated what was responsible for static electricity. Some thought it was due to a build-up of friction between atoms, while others thought it was caused by a transfer of electrons from one atom to another.
But the mystery was finally solved in 2016, when a team of physicists from the University of California, Berkeley, published a paper in the journal Nature.
Using a technique called “atom laser cooling,” the scientists were able to slow down atoms to near-rest and then observe their behavior. What they found was that when two atoms rub together, they create a tiny electrical current that generates static electricity.
This discovery is a major breakthrough in our understanding of static electricity, and could have important implications for the way we use and store energy in the future.