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What is a pithball?

Updated: 9/15/2023
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14y ago

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It is a very light, nonconducting, substance that is used to demonstrate electrostatic forces. Typically a small amount is hung at the end of a string. When a charged rod is brought close to the pithball it polarizes the pithball molecules. That is, it attracts charges that are opposite the charged rod and repels the like charges. This causes the molecules in the pithball (which has zero net charge) to slightly rotate so the unlike charges are nearer the surface and closer to the rod. When this happens, there is a net attractive electric force on the pithball which causes it to swing (slightly) toward the rod. If the pithball touches the rod it will pick up some charge from the rod. All of a sudden it now has a net charge, which is the same sign as the rod's charges and the pithball will swing (strongly) away from the rod because like charges repel. The pithball was originally made from dried pith, a soft spongy material found in the stems of plants. Nowdays, lots of materials will work; dried corn cob, styrofoam etc. The requirement is that it be lightweight (so it will easily swing when subjected to the electric forces described above).

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How does a substance become temporarily charged by induction when a charged object is brought near?

I'm not 100% sure because were just starting this in class today. Let's say you have a negatively charged ebonite rod and you brought it toward a neutral pithball (if you don't know what that is just picture a shere). Before you brought the rod near the pithball, the protons and electrons in the pithball are spread out evenly. When u bring the negatively charged rod towards the pithball the electrons in the pithball move to the otherside of the ball. The protons never move but are now closer to the negatively charged ebonite rod. So technically, it reacts like a positively charged object would and attrcts to the negative ebonite rod ( unlike charges attract). But once the ebonite rod is moved away from the pithball, the pithball is neutral. The pithball is always neutral because there's no transfer of electrons but I guess it is technically temporarily charged. I'm not sure if that's what your looking for but I hope it helped a bit.


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