One night recently my friend and I were walking under a large power line. We then noticed that when I touched my friend's arm a static tingling sensation was felt by both of us. The sensation was limited to me touching her; when she touched my arm the static tingle was not experienced.

I had no shoes on and was standing in grass, whereas my friend had thick rubber-soled sandals on. We tried swapping so I was wearing the sandals to see if the tables would turn but it was not so - she was still static when I touched her but not the other way around. When both of us had bare feet on the ground the effect seemed to weaken. But how could this be ? Why was my friend affected by a static tingling and not myself ?

Could it be that the static charge was preferentially building up in one of us for some reason?


1 Answer 1


High voltage power lines have electric (and magnetic) fields around them which ionise the air around then and you get what is called a corona discharge which you can sometimes hear when you walk under power lines. At night, particularly if the insulators from which the power lines are hung you can see the discharge. As the air is ionised it is now a relatively good conductor and your friend with a "pointed" head would act as a reasonably good collector of charges emanating from the power lines.
Your good contact with the ground might have meant that any charge collected by your head would have flowed down to the ground whereas your friend stored that charge because of being insulated from the ground.
However the amount each of you were sweating, the dryness and material of your clothing, etc all might contribute to a difference.

It might well take time for the charge to build up and that is perhaps the effect was not as noticeable second time around.

Some people are much more sensitive to static charge. I cannot vouch for the information on this website but it does go into electrical sensitivity in some detail as do many others.

If you take the trouble to insulate oneself from the ground (eg stand on a dry plastic (ptfe) sheet of several millimetres thickness and wait a while there is a possibility of collecting enough charge to actually get a spark which you can hear as a finger close to the other body.

One last point which I think is important - how did you which of you had the charge stored on them?

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    $\begingroup$ This could be interesting. A man, popularly known as the electric man of India, can conduct electricity when a high voltage is applied across his body. His body shows very low resistance. You can use him as a wire to light a bulb. Electric man of India $\endgroup$
    – Yashas
    Mar 11, 2017 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ Wow ! What an amazing observation by @Danny and very amazing answer. Particularly amazed by the noise of the corona dischrage. It puts air into vibration. Its that strong ? Heard of things like not to take photographs with flash below a power line. I guess it's again light n electricity $\endgroup$
    – Shashaank
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:55

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