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Celebrate Tesla with Static Electricity

This article appeared in the July 8, 2016 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Celebrate Tesla with Static Electricity

Nikola Tesla reading by the light of a Tesla coil. Photo by Tonnele and Co. 1896


By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise


This weekend marks the 160th birthday of a most influential scientist, Nikola Tesla. Born to an Orthodox priest in the Serbian village of Smitjan in what is now Croatia, Tesla immigrated to the United States and through his experimentation with electricity has become a symbol of scientific genius and accomplishment.


After starting his career with a telegraph company in Budapest, Tesla moved to New York City in 1884 and began working with Thomas Edison at Edison Machine Works, making improvements to Edison’s direct current (DC) electricity generators.


But Tesla’s professional relationship with Edison was short lived, and after they parted ways, Tesla went on to hone an alternating current (AC) electrical system, patenting several related inventions including a functioning AC motor. His work continued to impact electrical applications from x-rays and remote control to wireless technology.


You can celebrate Tesla and his contributions to science by doing your own experimentation with electricity and invisible fields at home this weekend with a couple of fun and safe static electricity explorations.


If you’ve ever shuffled across the carpet in just your socks and snuck up behind somebody and zapped them, you’ve used static electricity! Static electricity is built up by things rubbing against each other.


Discover some for yourself by rubbing an inflated balloon on your hair. Can you get your hair to stand up? Now lay an empty aluminum can on its side and hold the balloon near it, but not touching. Can you get the can to move?


Try a static electricity race with packing peanuts, bits of tissue paper, or other light-weight items. How far can you move them with just the static on your balloon? What else could you use your static electricity for?


Explorit’s coming events:


  • Explorit’s Exploration Gallery is open to the public every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and every Friday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free. Come check out the new Nano Mini Exhibition!
  • Save the date—Sunday, August 28 for Final Blast! More details to come!
  • Join us on Wednesday, September 7 at DMG Mori’s auditorium at 7:00 p.m. for a free public lecture with Thor Hanson, author of Feathers: Evolution of a Natural Miracle.
  • Save the date for Explorit’s Major Fall Fundraiser with Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature: How Alexander von Humboldt Revolutionized Our World at the Veterans Memorial Theater on Friday, October 28. Ticketing information to follow.
  • Summer Science Camp registration is open now! Visit for all the details.
  • Interested in helping out the community through board membership? Explorit is currently seeking individuals in the community to serve as members of our volunteer board. Please call or email for additional information on how to apply.
  • Interested in membership?  Think your Explorit membership may have lapsed?  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 to check or sign up!
  • Birthdays are back at Explorit!  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 for more information or to book your party.



Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or “like” us on Facebook at

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