Go Ask Your Father: Static Electricity, Space Deaths, Metallurgy, Seasons

“Day three. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.”

Thanks, A Momma’s View for the challenge


I don’t know if your weather is acting all wonky, too, but ours is a bit off its rocker. The temps are reaching 20-22 degrees (C) (70-74F). Once upon a time snow suits were worn under Halloween costumes. I’m really hoping this isn’t the calm before the storm. I’m really hoping that winter isn’t going to be as long and cold as summer was long and hot. This week has been the ideal perfect temperature. Sunny. A little breeze. No sign of hurt-your-face-cold. No sign of that four letter bad word s-n-o-w. Though it’s not bad to me, I like s-n-o-w.

1. What’s static electricity and how does it make a balloon stick to the wall?

Static electricity is a great way to study electricity without getting hurt. Mostly. It’s hilarious to watch kids go down a plastic slide and get to the bottom and see their hair standing on end. Or shock each other after jumping on the trampoline in sock feet. It’s even worse in the winter when the air is dryer. Speaking of dryer, we laundry doers have a great time battling static. All those dry clothes rubbing together can make a lightning bolt of it. The easiest way to think of it is as shell. On the shell are electrons and different elements have a different number of electrons. When two object rub against each other, like your butt going down the slide, some electron swapping occurrs. The atoms that have space on their shell take electrons from the other surface that doesn’t have room for more. The thug surface that stole electrons is not negatively charged while the victimized surface that lost electrons is positively charged (it now has more protons than electrons). Thank to your butt you are negatively charged, too, no matter how optomistic you are. Since like charges repel each other (just like magnets) your negatively charged hair stands on end as each strand repels all the others. Mine doesn’t do that. Then you go and touch something that is grounded and you release your negativity and are shocked to feel it happen. What you are feeling is all the electrons moving to the neutrally charged surface. It can be upwards of 25,000 volts! So when you rub a balloon on your head, electrons transfer from your hair to the balloon. Now the balloon is negatively charged and those electrons are attracted to the protons on the wall and the balloon sticks.

2. Has anyone ever died in space?

There have been four space vehicular accidents since 1967 that has killed four cosmonauts (Russian astronauts) and 14 astronauts. The first cosmonaut actually died when his space capsule hit the ground at roughly 150 mph when the capsule’s parachute failed to open upon reentry. On June 30, 1971 3 cosmonauts died after detatching from the space station, Salyut 1. A pressure valve accidently opened and they suffocated. Georgi Dobrovolski, Viktor Patsayev, and Vladislav Volkov are the only three to have ever died in space (above 62 miles). In January of 1986 seven astronauts died when the Challenger space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after lift-off. A faulty O-ring caused a fuel leakage and the demise of a great crew, among them, teacher Christa McAuliffe. In 2003 seven more astronauts died upon reentry when damage to teh thermal protection system caused structural damage and the shuttle broke apart over Texas and Louisanna. Many more have given their lives during training and testing. Without any of them we would not be where are today as we explore the cosmos.

3. How do you build metal? With wood or something?

Poor Bang is slightly confused on the production of metal. No wood goes into the making of any metal. Copper was first discovered around 9000 BC. Since then many alloys (metal mixtures like tin and copper to make bronze) have been created. To make metal you first need to mine it. Vast amounts of rock and dirt need to be excavated to collect the ore (raw metal, like bread is raw toast). Excavating is relatively the same for all metals. Refining and producing specific metals requires different processes. To make copper an added chemical binds to the copper and is then submerged in water. Air is pumped in from the bottom and the coated copper clings to the bubbles and rises to the surface. Then it’s put in a smelter and gets melted at 2,000 degrees. Not your normal oven temperature. Silica is added and any iron in the ore mixes with it and rises to the surface and is skimmed off, leaving the copper at the bottom. Simply put, this copper mixture is only 95% pure, still impure enough to leave deformities. An electric current is run through it copper is deposited on cathodes while the impurities (gold, silver, selenium, and tellurium) form a slime on the bottom and are process separately to be recovered. This is very simplified. To learn more visit your friendly, local blacksmith. Thanks to 12,000 years of science we have metal for everything.

4. Why do we have seasons?

So we don’t have too much summer or too much winter.

Just kidding. You didn’t believe me, did you?

This answer is easy compared to making metal. The Earth is tilted at a 23.5 degree angle. So instead of spinning perfectly upright it spins more like this thing…

But it’s not the spin of the Earth that gives us the seasons. That rotation gives us night and day. The tilt of the axis changes the angle of the sun’s rays as the Earth travels through its orbit around the sun. When the northern axis points toward the sun, the northern hemisphere experiences baseball, beach days, and long hot, days. When the southern end points to the sun the north gets football, skiing, and long, cold nights. The southern hemisphere gets the exact opposite. I still can’t comprehend Christmas being in the summer time. Y’all down there are weird. I’m surprised you haven’t fallen off the Earth yet, being upside down all the time.

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My Least Favorite Season


I love winter. We’re still in the throws of it. The ground is still white. Last week had 3 days of school cancellations due to snow. We’re getting more snow tomorrow afternoon and night. I enjoy making snowmen and igloos and going sledding and pelting the kids with snowballs. I love skiing, though I haven’t done that since my university days a few hundred years ago.

I love Spring, too. The snow finally melts and the grass turns green. Flowers emerge and color our world with something other than white. The trees bud. Birds come back to our feeder and sing their praises. We can put away the cumbersome winter jackets. Baseball season gets underway (my favorite).

I love summer. Hikes through the woods and visits to waterfalls. Beach days and lazy days kayaking up the river. The continuation of baseball season. Jumping on the trampoline. No school. Late nights and bonfires. Running barefoot through the yard. Listening to DW freak out when she hears June Bugs.

I love autumn, too. Warm days and cool nights. Hoodies by the bonfires. The best weather for running. Mother nature wearing her brightest colors. The World Series. Pumpkins and trick-or-treating. Bouquets of newly sharpened pencils.

Do you know which season I hate the most?

Tax season.

Once upon a time we used to get a refund. Not any more. I know the government needs their share to keep the country running and money in the politicians pockets. Do they really need so much? To make matters worse and thanks to the US government, I still have file taxes in the US even though we don’t live there any more. Usually it works to our advantage. We get money in return for letting the US government know how much we made in Canada.

Six years or so ago we opened an RESP (Registered Education Savings Account) for the boys. We put a bit of money into it and government puts a little money into it and over the years it adds up and then when it comes time the boys can withdraw it to use for University.

Turns out the US wants us to pay tax on it because they think it’s a foreign trust fund. The little bit of tax the US would collect off it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal. However, the forms that need to be completed and filed with IRS will cost us at least $1,000. Every. Single. Year. Here we were being all responsible, planning for our children’s future and instead we get robbed because of taxes. And not even Canadian taxes.

So now we’ll close those accounts, take the penalty for closing them early, pay the bit of back tax on it and then find another way to save for the future.

For now, I’ll get back to enjoying the strong hold Old Man Winter has on Nova Scotia and curl up under a blanket in my pyjamas and watch The Voice with DW.