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Ben Franklin's Big Shock (On My Own Science) by Judith Jango-Cohen

By Judith Jango-Cohen

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34 Ben and William watched as a cloud passed over the kite. Ben touched his knuckle to the key. It was cold and dead. William touched it too. Nothing! They waited in the shed, staring at the sky. 36 Ben was about to reel in his kite. Then he noticed that loose threads in the twine were standing on end. It reminded Ben of his electrified hair. Ben moved his knuckle toward the key. ZZZZAP! Charges f lew to his finger. Ben received only a small shock from the key. But a big shock of excitement surged through him.

With two thin strips of cedarwood, Ben made a cross. He tied a silk handkerchief to the cross. A silk kite would bear the rain and wind better than paper. To the top of the kite, Ben added a sharp pointed wire. Ben tied a line of twine to the kite. He attached a metal key, a conductor. He knotted a silk ribbon below the key. Silk is a nonconductor. Holding the silk ribbon would keep the electricity from reaching Ben. Ben had never been so eager for a thunderstorm. 30 Then one summer day in 1752, smoky clouds choked the sun.

A bolt of lightning blasted the Franklin home. Neighbors hurried over. The Franklins were safe inside. There was no fire, thanks to Ben. He had had yet another idea. Ben knew that pointy metal attracts electricity, like lightning. So he figured out a way to use metal to protect houses. 41 In September of 1752, Ben had attached a metal rod to his chimney. The nine-foot rod was crowned with a pointed copper tip. A wire ran from the base of the rod. The wire connected to a piece of metal in the ground.

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