Answer to Question #7342 in Electromagnetism for Sarah

Question #7342
Background 1. When an object has so much electric charge that the electric field at its surface is greater than about 3 million N/C, the air around it suffers electrical breakdown, during which the air temporarily acts like a conductor, allowing some of the charge to escape in the form of a spark. If you've ever been shocked when reaching for metal doorknob, you know what electrical breakdown is! Key point: no object can be charged past the point where the air at its surface suffers electrical breakdown. 2. When an amount q of electric charge is distributed over the surface of a sphere, the electric field outside the sphere is exactly the same as if the sphere were replaced by a single point charge q where the sphere's center used to be. 3. If the above seems random and irrelevant, just wait. Question if you had two ping pong balls (or golf balls, or tennis balls), both carrying the maximum possible positive electrical charge, and you also had insulating gloves that allowed you to pick them up without being shocked, would you be strong enough to make the charged balls touch each other? Use background idea (1) above to figure out the maximum charge the ball of your choice can hold. Remember that background idea (2) lets you treat a charged ball as if it were a point charge (i.e., as if all its charge were concentrated at its own center), for the purposes of calculating electrical fields and forces. You'll need to find out the size of the ball you choose, and make a reasonable assumption about how much force you could exert on the balls in trying to make them touch.
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