Kiwi research opposes ‘opposites attract’ rule

“Everything you thought you knew about electrostatics is probably wrong”  declares the first line of a Nature News article examining recent research from MacDiarmid Physics Professor John Lekner.

Prof Lekner’s research appears on the international science news site by virtue of it’s findings – which seem to go against the classic physics adage, ‘opposites attract’.

An excerpt from the Nature News Article (read in full here):

Like attracts Like?

Make two metal spheres positively electrically charged, bring them close together, and what happens? They’ll repel one another, because like charges repel – right?

Wrong. According to physicist John Lekner at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, they will most probably attract one another, violating the intuitions of basic physics. The counterintuitive result was published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

Even experts are surprised. “The phenomenon was not known to me, but after reading the paper, it makes sense,” says chemical engineer William Ducker at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, a specialist in measuring the forces between microscopic particles.

Another expert in that field, David Grier of New York University in New York city, admits that at first it seemed “a wild result” that left him and his colleagues scratching their heads until they thought about it carefully.

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