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[TCML] Spark dynamics on Jacobs Ladder

I hope this isn't viewed as too off-topic - I'll argue that the same physics apply to TC sparks ;-)

I was giving a demonstration of various HV toys to a 4th grade class yesterday.  Among the devices was a Jacobs ladder, powered by a 15/30 NST.  The two 1/8" x 3 ft steel electrodes appeared to have been excited into a mechanical oscillation, bouncing towards and away from each other, at very roughly ~ 1Hz.  One of the students asked my why they were moving, and I had to admit that I didn't know the source of the force that was moving them.

The period of the oscillation was much faster than the arc travel time up the electrodes.  It's clear that the period was that of the free-standing rods, and that the exciting force between them varies as a function of their separation, but I don't see the source of the attraction or repulsion between them.  Any theories?

Gary Lau
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