Levitating orb

Spook your friends out with this LEVITATING orb!

A fun science trick that explores electricity - all you need is 5 minutes and a few dollars!

Suitable for kids aged 5+

You Need:
  • 2.5cm wide PVC Pipe about 60cm long.
  • Thin Mylar tinsel for Christmas trees. (l millimeter wide)
  • A head of clean, dry hair
  • Scissors

What to do:
  1. Arrange 6 strands of mylar together and tie them together in a knot at one end.
  2. Tie them together again about 6 inches (15cm) from the first knot.
  3. Cut the loose mylar strands off just past each knot.
  4. Charge the PVC pipe by rubbing it back and forth through your hair for 10 seconds.
  5. Hold the mylar orb (by the knot) above the charged pipe and let it drop and touch the pipe.
  6. It should repel away and start floating.
NB: If the tinsel keeps sticking to the pipe, the tinsel is probably not thin or light enough, and you will need to try another kind of tinsel.

Why is it so?

So simple and so cool this levitating orb is all about static charges. Similar static charges repel away from each other. When you rub the pipe against your hair, you give the pipe a negative static charge. This causes the orb to be initially attract to the pipe, as the orb starts off with a fairly positive charge. But, as soon as the orb touches the pipe, it will pick up the negative charge. Now that both materials have like charges, they'll repel!

Say what? Let me go over that again, so, the pipe is now negatively charged and the tinsel orb now too is negatively charged. Opposite charges repel so this causes the tinsel orb to levitate! It looks like magic but it's simply like charges repelling, we just can't see it!

You'll also notice that the 6 tinsel strands immediately puff out into an orb shape. This is because each tinsel strand is now negatively charge, so each strand repels away from each other!

Do more cool experiments with the science kits available on this website.