The not-so-stupid question: why do we take juice shots when it’s cold?

Why do we get chestnuts in winter when we greet someone or open a door? (©Illustration/Adobe Stock)

He does cold outside and when you open the door of your house, your car or even when you kiss someone (before Covid-19 existed), you take some kind of Electrocution, also known as “Chestnut”, very uncomfortable. But what happens then? Why do we do “juice shots” in winter?

It is here not that stupid question the day we saw Diane Duval, Professor of Physics at theINSA (National Institute of Applied Sciences)) from Rouen (Seine Maritime).

News: How can we explain these electric shocks that we get in winter?

Diana Duval: It’s a static electricity problem. We ourselves are made up of positive and negative charges and when we rub against certain materials, electrons or negative charges can move from one material to another. At that moment you get a “shot of juice”, a small electric shock.
In winter, when it’s cold and dry, this happens more easily because the air is less humid. Water conducts electricity, so moist air is more conductive than dry air, which is more insulating.
So in winter, under the influence of dry air, we tend to retain and store more of those electrical charges that circulate less well in the air.

Finally those “juice shots” as if we discharged our electrons onto another surface or onto someone?

DD: In fact, electrons or negative charges can move from one atom to another to regain electrical neutrality. Unlike positive charges, they move around a lot. The nucleus of the atom, made up of positive charges, does not move.

Avoid dry skin

Why do some materials cause more chestnuts than others?

DD: Some materials are more conductive while others are more insulating. If you wear rubber sneakers, wool or synthetic sweaters, or insulating materials, you are more likely to get juice splash than if you wear leather shoes or clothing, which are a more conductive material. If you also have dry skin you are more likely to get electric shocks because as I said before water is conductive… Finally there is also a higher risk if you touch a sharp object as there will be a spike effect. This is the basis for explaining the lightning rod, each pointed object holds more charges.

What materials cause electric shock?

DD: Metals (aluminum, iron, copper, steel, gold, silver) and graphite are good conductors of electricity, so they won’t give you chestnuts. Wood, plastic, glass, paper… on the other hand, they are insulators and can therefore produce these “juice hits” in winter when the air is dry. Note that these small electric shocks, while unpleasant, are not dangerous to your health.

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