Charge the large piece of Styrofoam by rubbing it with wool for at least 30 seconds. To test that it’s charged, hold the Styrofoam near the hairs on your arm—if you feel them wiggling, then it’s charged. This wiggling feeling is known as formication—the feeling of ants crawling on your skin.
Next, to positively charge your pie pan, place the pan on top of the large piece of charged Styrofoam, then touch the edge of the pan with your finger. Notice that as you move the tip of your finger to within a centimeter of the pie pan you will hear a snap, feel a shock, and—in dim light—see a spark. Now you’re ready to fly some tinsel!
Once the pie pan is charged, be sure to handle and move it only with the Styrofoam cup. Avoid any part of your body touching—or even coming near—the metal.
Using the Styrofoam handle, pick up the charged pie pan and turn it upside down, so that the cup is now underneath the pie plate and the flat bottom of the pie plate is pointing toward the ceiling.
With your other hand, hold the loop of tinsel over the pie pan with the two "legs" drooping down towards it. Hold the tinsel near but not touching the pie pan—about 3 in (10 cm) away. The tinsel will be attracted to the pie pan.
Release the tinsel and quickly move your hand away. The tinsel will drop toward the pie plate and then jump away. Be sure to keep the pie pan directly under the tinsel—you’ll see the tinsel fly! This is because the electrostatic repulsion from the pie pan pushes it up and holds it in the air even though gravity is pulling it down.
You might also notice that the loop of tinsel opens up into a circle as it floats.
Watch out! The tinsel will also be attracted to your hand and your body, but keep away from it. If it touches you, it will lose its charge and won’t fly.