Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mystery of the Brooms Defying Gravity

REGINA, CANADA — When one Regina man’s broomstick stood straight up by the bristles for 45 minutes without any support this week, he felt there must be some advanced force at work.

“We were in shock when it actually stood there,” 76-year-old Leo Deis said. “I took a lot of physics and chemistry at one time in my life and this is new to me.”

Lately, it is actually a common phenomenon. People have gone to the Internet, posting pictures of their brooms standing with no support. Watch a video, read a common-sense blog, or check out a photo gallery.

Deis wasn’t even the first one in his family to experience the phenomenon. On Thursday night, his wife’s sister from North Dakota called and said it had happened there.Later that night, around 10 p.m., Deis stood his straw broom up on tiled floor in his house and it remained standing with no support. Later, he tried the same thing with a paintbrush and got the same result.

 Deis felt this may have been caused by a solar flare, which is an opinion shared by others.
A solar flare, which occurs when magnetic energy built up in the solar atmosphere is released, has the potential to cause trouble with satellites, power grids, airplane routes, GPS systems and simple technological devices.

But, apparently making brooms stand up cannot be added to the list.

George Lolos, a physics professor at the University of Regina, said it all has to do with static electricity, the buildup of electric charge on the surface of objects. For example, if somebody was doing work on a carpet and then touched the broom, static electricity would circulate between the bristles and make the broom stand straight up.

“In order for that level of static electricity to be created by a solar flare, we would have a heck of a lot of problems,” Lolos said. “For that to have come from a solar flare, it would have fried every satellite in the planet.”

To test if it was indeed static electricity causing the phenomenon, Lolos suggested Deis touch the bristles of his broom to see if he would get a shock.

But Deis said he received no shock from the broom and he also noted the broom was still standing by itself for a couple of minutes at a time as of Friday.

“It’s just fascinating,” Deis said.

While Lolos is confident static electricity is the cause of this unique situation, he suggested another possibility.

“When he says stand up, I hope he doesn’t mean like the Walt Disney movies where the broom is obeying the wizard and is standing up on its own,” Lolos said with a laugh.

Source: Calgary Herald

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