6 Replies Latest reply on Jan 13, 2021 1:13 PM by DAB

    Can unharnessed electricity/static affect the environment surrounding the source? If so, can it be managed?


      Hello experts, I'm struggling with an issue that's been difficult and puzzling to address; I hope I've come to the right place for help.


      I live about 20 yards from an AC/Diesel freight train line (2 tracks and a sizable station a 1/2 mile away.) A main arterial river is 100 yards away, and the immediate environment is a flood zone.

      I experience strange things in my apartment, and over nearly a year of confusion and occasionally sheer horror, I believe the signs point to electricity and/or static- ionically charged particles(? not sure of the correct terminology here, forgive my ignorance). It has a visual aspect. If I were to describe it, I'd say it *looks like* current, flowing medium that doesn't fall on the visible light spectrum. But, the light that passes through it is refracted; there is clearly a medium involved.

      It appears fluid and affects my textiles in a way that they exhibit a fluid-like movement. Also, many of my things, primarily textiles, appear to off-gas... all. the. time. I witnessed a whitish gas vaporize from a sweatshirt once.

      When I try to record the activity with my phone, the video looks very grainy, but I can capture my bedding's legitimate movement, for example.


      I don't own any measurement devices to verify my guess, and I can't think of anyone, or anywhere I could borrow from.


      Oddly, I've very rarely been shocked, and it seems only to happen while I'm attempting to eliminate it. Hah!

      I've sprayed my entire place - everything, with 50/50 water/fabric softener on 2 occasions, and it doesn't seem to alleviate the activity, although it doesn't worsen it either. I tried a humidifier, albeit before I concluded an ionic charge. The occurrences that followed were terrifying - without getting into detail, specifically, the things that got out of hand involved my several indoor plants.


      As long as my dog (first) and me (2nd) won't be harmed in the short or long term, I suppose it's okay. It's annoying and kind of creepy, though; it weirds me out, and if possible, I'd prefer to accommodate a tactic to resolve this.


      Knowledgeable friends out there, do you think my suspicions are likely accurate? Can I measure it, and with what tool/meter? What can I do to address and resolve the issue? Are we facing any risk while living in this environment?


      Please, and thank you tremendously; any contribution is appreciated.


        • Re: Can unharnessed electricity/static affect the environment surrounding the source? If so, can it be managed?

          Hi Regan,


          I can not think of any electric field phenomenon that would do what you describe. I have felt the effect of a static electric fields when removing clothes from the clothes dryer in times of low humidity and I have seen the effects of a charge field from a Van de Graff generator on the hair of a person that is being charged by it. Electric fields can affect particles in the air as the excess of electrons repel other electrons and attract particles that are deficient in electrons. Static charge is most often induced by friction of one material against another. My sweater rubs against my hair as I take it off or the cat is rubbed with a rubber balloon can produce the effect of a field with excess electrons on one material and an electron deficiency on the other. Sparks will jump from my sweater to my hair and the cat will have a hard time getting rid of the balloon.


          Your mention of the nearby railroad makes me think that perhaps there is some low frequency sonic activity that may be shaking dust or things loose but at a frequency that is below the audio level.


          A magnetic field would not have an effect on non-ferrous materials such as you describe.


          You may want to brush up on your physics and see if you can design a few experiments to get to the bottom of what you describe.


          The refractive effects that you describe can be caused by sharp temperature gradients in the air. Sometimes on hot summer days we can see this effect when we look down a black top road that is in the sun and see an almost water like quality to the air.


          A good scientist will not rule out anything except magic. I would strongly suspect my own senses before I would accept a supernatural explanation. Get some pictures if possible and get some other skeptical observers involved if possible as this will help better define the phenomena.



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            • Re: Can unharnessed electricity/static affect the environment surrounding the source? If so, can it be managed?

              Thank you, John, So much! This is very helpful, and rules out this idea. I'm perfectly okay with process of elimination. I absolutely agree with you - no magic, and I've personally dismissed the idea of the supernatural also.


              Other rabbit holes I've considered are VOC's, with this being a newly renovated building - laminate flooring, drywall, adhesives, etc. Also, I thought maybe there's actually an organism, like a fungus in its early life stage (the building the 110 years old and for the majority of its lifetime served as grain storage.)  Electrokinetic phenomena sounded logical and reasonable, considering this prous concrete building in an area that meets water annually.

              I don't have a college education in any of the fields around what I've brought up so I can't say I have much to go off of with these ideas. With hindsight being 2020, I certainly would have Loved, and wish I would've taken a science route in college.


              I completely understand this sounds off the deep end... and I truly have questioned my eyesight, optic nerve, and yes, mental statusas well. I'm a realist, I'm extremely self-aware, and I put all my eggs in science, logic and rationale.

              It's difficult to even initiate these discussions; I'm flabbergasted and frankly, embarrassed to attempt them. I 100% guarantee this will be the last time it leaves my brain   It's especially hard when I can collect a measurable result in what's happening - make a mark where it was at first notice, then make a mark after "movement." There's a space. Or, a sizable amount of width if it was a pillow that puffed up with no apparent reason. Anyway, I digress.


              I can go through some of my videos I've collected and add them here if you're curious, but I'm not sure what further would come of it. I like your idea of keeping on with the experiments and check off what it isn't. Maybe I should just move!


              Thank you again for your response - I genuinely appreciate your respectful insight!

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            • Re: Can unharnessed electricity/static affect the environment surrounding the source? If so, can it be managed?

              Electric trains may run up to 25KV, but for diesel generator trains and some electric trains it is usually 400V to 3000V. I doubt these systems have high electric fields 20 yards away. To measure the field you can use a multi field EMF meter such as the Tenmars TM-190 I used in this project.

              Light can be refracted  when there is a change in refractive index. This can be due to layers of air at different densities (different temperatures) or different humidity. The hot air layer near anything hot can cause light passing through it to shimmer as the hot air expands and fluctuates. It normally needs a pretty big temperature difference to cause a noticeable difference, or the light is travelling through a long stretch of it like the roadway mirage example John mentions above.

              I don't know what is going on with your fabrics, but I have seen water evaporate and look like white smoke as it condenses into water vapor almost immediately. In my case the air was cold and the slightly wet surface was warm and the sun was shining on the surface.

              Evaporation would also cause the density to be different locally.

              If humidity is condensing into water vapor, the water (and its different index of refraction) can also refract light, as happens in a rainbow.

              If you are seeing these refraction effects in your room, I would say you are very observant, but these effects won't hurt you or your dog. When you notice it, check for moisture content and temperature differences between materials and air.

              4 of 4 people found this helpful
                • Re: Can unharnessed electricity/static affect the environment surrounding the source? If so, can it be managed?

                  Thank you tremendously, Douglas! This information is extremely helpful. I am relieved to hear it's not likely that my pooch and I will have any health issues from this hullabaloo.  puts my mind at ease. I'm a believer in all things science and I love these hard facts.


                  It might be interesting to play around with an EMF meter - anywhere in the local area - just for giggles! So, I wouldn't consider a femto-ampere, Coulomb meter, or surface voltmeter to further investigate this - would these tools be irrelevant to the ideas I might further explore (assuming what's happening is physically tangible, not imagined  ♀ )?


                  As I mentioned to John above, I was confident there was some sub-category of electrokinetic phenomena involved here. Or, perhaps it's leaky electrical somewhere with all the gadgets and electronics we live with these days, because this "refraction" appears around cords, in the tv console (which is backless, so I can see right through it.)

                  Your mentioning that temperature and humidity have an impact on the light refraction reminded me that this was more noticeable - seemingly Everywhere - in summer than now; (Wisconsin is home, humidity is non-negotiable!) Come to think of it, it probably has been since the warmer months that I've noticed it to the extent of feeling overwhelmed.

                  It does seem to collect or "sit" on surfaces. Actually, underneath surfaces too... around objects, any object, really.  AND - I just looked at my iron door stop which I use to hold my curtain panels in place, and I see this "medium" around it, as well as under my plant stand's tiered tables. Can I show you this "thing" I say is causing the refraction? Would you mind taking a look and let me know your thoughts?


                  Thank you again, Douglas! Your help is appreciated. If you think of it and have the time, could you take a look at the two, short (1 min) videos I attached to this reply?

                    • Re: Can unharnessed electricity/static affect the environment surrounding the source? If so, can it be managed?

                      I am not sure which aspect of the video you are referring to, but the fluctuations I see are due to "noise" in the camera sensor. This "optical noise" is due to thermal stimulation in semiconductor junctions in the video sensor chip and will appear as random fluctuating patterns. To minimize this internal camera noise, the real signal needs to be increased so the noise is a much smaller part of the total signal. You can do this by illuminating the subject with a lot more light. If the camera sensor is at a very low temperature, the thermal noise will also be reduced, but simply adding more light to the scene is a much easier solution. Some cameras need extremely bright lights or even sunlight to eliminate their internal noise.

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                  • Re: Can unharnessed electricity/static affect the environment surrounding the source? If so, can it be managed?

                    It sounds like you have a number of things happening.

                    As Douglas pointed out, the electric train can generate a large amount of potential along the rail line.

                    Another factor is that you are in a flood plain area. That means you have a fluctuating ground water situation which can create a virtual ground plain around the area.


                    The main effect of static electricity is based upon charge level differences. That is why a variable ground plain can introduce a wide variety of different effects.

                    The changing subsoil moisture levels will affect your local relative humidity levels, which when combined with voltage differences can introduce many interesting responses as each material tries to equalize the charge.


                    You are probably not in any danger, but it does sound like you are getting a good chance to study the effects of the charge, moisture levels and changing ground plain effects.


                    Have you noticed anything when a thunderstorm approaches?  I would expect a rapid change in the ground charge that follows the storm, which should create some observable effects.


                    Keep us posted, you are getting a unique view of physics in action.



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