When I tossed my clothes into a pile for sorting, I watched as a loose strand from one sock reached upward as to defy gravity but stayed tethered to the sock. Even knowing why this is so (or at least one explanation) it fascinates. Over the next few minutes I held off sorting the clothes and took a few photographs.
Fig 1: Back lit sock with strand balanced against gravity by the repulsive force of static electricity
Even more amazing (to me), was the fine structure in the hair-like appendages that stood in repulsion to the main strand due to the repulsive forces of like charges. When electrons are removed from neutrally charged atoms, a net positive charge remains. The force between like charges is a repulsive one so the individual strands are forced apart.
Fig 2: fine structure detail from Fig 1 showing small fibers of the sock in mutual repulsion.
A few minutes later, the long strand was clearly losing the battle against gravity as the collected charges slowly dissipated as nitrogen and oxygen molecules took them away.
Fig 3: Strand 5 minutes later
Eventually, the rebellious strand lost its charge and rejoined the sock.
Fig 4: Composite showing positions of strand over 5 minutes as it loses charge and settles under the force of gravity
Fig 5: Mouse-click for animation