By Mark Frauenfelder at 12:40 pm Mon, Jan 7, 2008
If anyone has been a budget traveller in asia, you have likely seen some much more dangerous wiring. They often have electric shower water heaters built into the shower heads, with high voltage supply wires usually unexposed next to the shower head.
That is actually a seriously dangerous situation because if the insulation deteriorates and the person happens to brush the wire with their hand they will complete a circuit through their bodies to the floor drain.
I also remember an wall electrical outlet in Burma that was located next to the shower such that shower water would run down the wall into the outlet, and cause steaming water and sparking to occur while showering.
As a BSEE, I made the judgement that as long as I didn’t touch anywhere near the outlet I was safe, and so I continued my shower while the outlet was sparking and steaming.
The thing about electricity is it strongly prefers the shortest (least resistance) path. It might want to go between wires in the plugs, or it might want possibly want to go from the submerged plugs to the physical ground. But it definitely has no reason for going out to and then through the guy’s bodies and back.
There is another photo floating around the web taken after they turned the power on ….
no, they wouldnt feel anything. and both 110V and 240V are quite deadly enough!
they should be safe, provided they arn’t grounded and dont touch the plug; the current will take the path of least resistance which will be straight back down the ground line (probably with a nice big fat spark) consequently tripping the breaker.
as is, even if they disabled the breaker they are insulated from ground by the pool (assuming it’s some sort of continuous plastic, this is not the case with a bathtub given the metal plumbing); in this case if it was submerged it’d simply ground back through the plug. however if one of them were grounded – for example, reaching out of the pool to grab a beer, or resting with one arm out – then it is possible for the current to travel through them back to ground. which would be bad.
BUT they would still have to be the path of least resistance; if the whole plug is in the water, this should still be the ground pin (nb – assuming no faults) hence no shock. this is why if an underwater light in a proper pool shattered, everyone in the pool wouldnt be a gonner!
BUT if only the live pin was in the water (eg – the plug tipped over slightly or wasnt wired up correctly) or there was a fault on ground/neutral (ie – wasnt wired up properly to ground) this wouldnt be the case; if grounded, they’d be the path of least resistance, and would be shocked!
this is exactly the same result as if they touched a piece of metal equipment (eg – computer case) that was inadvertantly live and wasnt grounded properly.
they’re safe as long as a) the plug is wired correctly b) the breaker is on c) if the breaker is removed, there are no ground faults d) they arn’t grounded (ie – stay fully in the pool) e) the plug doesnt tip over. In other words, they either really know their stuff or are v stupid!
Umm, wow. I really hope that’s a joke. Otherwise, it could be the picture of the First Place winners of the next Darwin Awards.
No, I’m sure it’s not a joke. You can see that they have rigged up floats and stuff so only the cord is in the water, not the sockets. They shouldn’t have any problems with just the cord – it’s waterproof. Now if anyone moves, or there is a slight breeze, well then that could change things considerably.
However, I’m sure they have bypassed the fusebox or taped the breaker open so it won’t trip if the sockets get wet.
EddieDuggan (22): but look what an educational thread it’s spawned!
I laughed. I can totally see some friends doing that as a joke to put out on the web.
This looks like the chances of electrocution are probably higher than the chances of this going “well”. It’ll probably tilt to either side any second. There’s probably water leaking through the seams even at the time of the photo.
Nobody who can still think clear enough to build something like that would get into this pool. I think it’s a joke.
(although I’ll watch the next Darwin Awards closely…)
Hey, perfectly safe if the used a reliable GFI :-)
Your not going to find me trusting my life on a GFI to trip. This really is a stupid thing to do anyway you look at it. For all those that say that it’s safe, they seem to forget the numerous possible points of failure to their thinking of why it’s safe (it’s not anyway).
I got an idea let’s get the mythbusters to test it for us! Start spamming them now!
As someone who has worked in electricity generation, I must say that the use of electrical tape with the wedge just warms my heart! The fact that they didn’t use duct tape indicates that they realize that safety is important. Remember, half ‘lap double wrap!
Looks like a joke. Check out another photo on the site. Looks like the power strip is gutted.
It looks like they survived.
More pictures here [linuxno.de] about halfway down (‘_medium_DSCN7830.JPG’). I’ve had a quick random pick through them but I still can’t figure out what the point was. Those wacky German gamers…
Maybe it’s distilled water?
Really, that is just crazy putting a grill in the middle of the pool like that. Clearly they should be using a bar fridge.
They’re obviously recruiters for the Hemlock Society.
as explained on reddit, the water will short the ground and live wires tripping the gfi breaker, provided their house is wired to code.
kinda looks like a waterproof surge protector… considering there are covers on all of the unused ports…
just hope the grill doesn’t fall in (although that would trip the breaker very quickly)
No one is this dumb. It’s gotta be a hox.
This reminds me of the old “one-step geek test” that consisted of a picture of a hard drive platter with a big obvious thumbprint on it.
My parents house flooded a few years ago and I discovered it when they were on vacation. I took my shoes off and walked around the house barefoot to inspect the damage. That is, until I noticed steam rising from under the sofa. I then remembered they had two electrical outlets in the floor. The steam I saw was the water in the outlet boiling. I immediately went outside and flipped the main breaker to the house.
So, I’m not sure that the power strip in the pool would cause electrocution even if it did fall in the water. It seems the risk depends on the potential of the body relative to the conductor. I think it simply depends on what you are touching at the moment. Either way, it isn’t wise and I think the number of bottles by the grill are a factor.
They are joking.
Look, what people are saying about the tub and being in the path of least resistance is somewhat true. However, I’m going to use my 2nd semester college physics super powers of recollection to describe an experiment we did with low voltage wires in water. Yes, there was a path of least resistance, and it generally was a straight path, assuming the water was homogeneous. But also what happened is that an electric field was generated with differing levels of potential forming a sort of “relief” map where the highest point was where at the positive electrode, and the lowest point was at the negative electrode. (high and low here are just conventions, so you can reverse the two if you want…or even use an absolute value if you want)
So there is an electric field, with differing potential levels forming a circle around a single point electrode (kind of like an electric plug) If someone were in that field, you might feel the potential difference between where your belly is and where your buttocks is (are?).
Now this isn’t entirely true either, as the sensation is probably a surface effect, as you can see in that “classic” low-voltage experiment I mentioned before. In either case, you would definitely feel it.
Plus, that’s 220 V (240?) because of the different connector (somewhere on the european continent?) 110 will give you a buzz. 220 can kill you. (ironically it’s not the voltage that kills you, but it’s the amount of current available that will kill you. However, given a higher voltage and an “infinite” source of current (like a big power wire) you can die.
If you actually had their setup in a pool plugged in, you would probably see the results of the conduction between the positive and ground ends of the plug as some sort of fire (cause cables get hot when you’re momentarily pushing a 100 amps through there!)
Of course, I’ve never performed the high voltage version of the experiment. And maybe that’s why I’m writing this today. ;)
This isn’t as dangerous as it looks. None of the people in the pool are in a position to complete the electrical circuit. If the extension cord is submerged, the current will flow from the live wire to the ground wire, since that is the path of least resistance.
The reason why a bathtub is more dangerous than this situation is the plumbing provides a path to ground. (For watchers of Mythbusters, I believe this is why they originally had trouble with their experiment. They were using a set, and the bathtub was not grounded in any way.) But even that might not be fatal, unless the person is foolish enough to pick up the submerged appliance out of the water while in the tub.
For a more info, check here.
However, having said all of this, would I try it? No way in hell!
Thanks not dangerous at all!
mghuntb5 in first with the correct answer.
SpigotHead in second but gets extra points for more details.
This is one of those cases where people who have only seen something in a movie / TV show think they understand it.
Just like being shot with a gun doesn’t send you flying 6 feet back through the air, being in water near something electrical doesn’t mean you’ll be electrocuted.
The only way you’ll be electrocuted is if the path of least resistance for some electrical current is through your body, and it will probably only be fatal if that path through your body leads through your heart.
An electrical appliance in the tub can be dangerous because the path of least resistance can be from part of the device, through the water, through your body, through your heart, and down to the (grounded) drain in the tub. If you’re standing in a puddle next to a downed electrical wire, you’re pretty safe. The electricity isn’t going to go out the wire, through the water, up one leg, across your heart, down the other leg, and then into the ground. It’s just going to go down through the puddle into the ground. On the other hand, if you picked up the wire, the shortest path might be through your hand, through your heart, down your leg, and into the ground.
These guys could be in some danger while plugging things in, but for the most part they’d be pretty safe. Even if there were a short, it would most likely be prong-to-prong, and would probably trip a circuit breaker pretty quickly.
I hope this is fake – simply because I prefer not to be the same species as anyone that stupid.
On the other hand, if it’s real, then the problem is likely to take care of itself.
@the usual suspect: actually, @skip got it right first, though it’s called a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupt)– a wonderful thing:
oddly enough I have done this exact thing in the past (long before Mythbusters) as an experiment with experienced electricians at hand wondering what the result would be:
Scenario: Film set with basically a small pool on it for filming some small water-related things. I decide to “vacuum” the bottom with a sump pump and I walk around dragging the sump pump while holding up the cord so it does not get in the water. This is also plugged into a GFCI.
So one of the on-set electricians asks me what I am doing. I tell him. Then I ask him what he thinks would happen if I dropped the cord. He thinks I would die but says he really does not know, the GFCI *should* trip and save the day.
So I get out of the pool and decide this needs to be tested.
I take the pump, drop it in the pool (it is on). I take the end of the cord where it is plugged into the extension cord (aka: stinger) and toss that into the pool.
GFCI does not trip.
Now I unplug everything, take the end of the extension cord (live) and toss it into the pool.
Nothing happens, again the GFCI does not trip. But this experiment is “consuming” power. Like if you put a resistor inline. On the theory that the “resistor” is the large pool and it is creating a large “field” that probably would not cause you any harm or discomfort unless you got pretty close to it, we try this in a smaller container of water: a 6 gallon bucket.
Now the guys in the photo appear to be using 240v ac power so I don’t know much more “dangerous” this is than 120vac. So yeah they are stupid, but if the power strip took a dunk, I don’t think they would get fried. But don’t expect a circuit breaker to trip.
You gotta love the “make it work” engineering going on here. It’s got everything from tape to flip-flops to door-stops. If I were stuck in a real-life Poseiden Adventure, I’d want these guys with me. Not to mention that they know how to relax.
It’s reassuring that so many commentators find the scenario depicted to be safe, and confidently explain why this is so.
Nontheless, I find it disturbing and, while of course there are many things far more disturbing than this to be found on the interweb, I am disappointed that Mark Frauenfelder thought it suitable for distribution via boingboing with little more of an accompanying comment than “perhaps it’s a joke”.
Perhaps it is Mark, but thus far I haven’t been able to laugh at it.
@#32: The socket strip looks like it has Schuko sockets, which are originally German (SchuKo = SCHUtzKOntakt which means the plugs/sockets carry a protective ground, like the US standard 3-prong), these are used in many European countries. Thus the voltage is probably 230V, which is the EU “harmonized” nominal mains voltage.
If the extension cord is wired correctly, the GFCI will most likely trip as soon as an appreciable amount of water gets into the socket strip. GFCI’s are mandatory in domestic circuits in most of Europe, but some not-so-recent installations *might* not have GFCI’s fitted. A plain circuit breaker is not likely to trip and will not offer any protection.
That said, anyone in the pool would be unlikely to get fried unless they’d contact some firmly grounded object. But I’d rather not be in there all the same…
Not only not particularly dangerous, but there is no indication that any power is passing through the cords. They could have at least photoshopped in a lit indicator light, heated coils, or cooking meat on the grill.
Yeah, they are European Schuko plugs for sure, we have the same voltage in australia, just a different plug, and switches on our outlets, so say you have a double (or duplex to the americans) outlet, there will be a switch for each, much like the UK. This is handy for devices that dont have an on/off switch, and also as a safety mechanism.
In most of Europe and here in australia, a GFCI is called a ELCB (Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker, or RCD (Residual Current Device)
These devices connect between the active and neutral conductors at the start of the circuit and work on the principle of what goes in, must come out, so if the same current isnt returning through the neutral conductor, it is obviously going to earth (ground). It then cuts the power. We dont use the word ground for mains wiring, more so for automotive wiring.
I know enough about electricity to know I would have been safe from a sparking outlet nearby the shower, but I am so jumpy that the first time it did that, i would have cut power to the whole building, taken the outlet out, cut the wiring and insulated the bare ends and tucked it out of harms way. Thats scary, I often wonder if something is gonna go wrong with the extension cord under my bed and set it on fire.
Natural selection, ACTIVATE!
One thing speaks for this being a hoax – if you go through the directory if images Tarmle posted in #7, you’ll see that the meat on the electric grill looks raw in every shot.
Also in the middle of the images of setting up the ridiculous power bar floaters, there are two shots of a charcoal grill that’s just been lit – I’d guess they lit the charcoal grill so they could actually cook the meat they’d bought for their photo stunt…
This must be a joke.
Nobody is so stupid as to put refrigerated beer next to a hot grill! :-)
even if it’s technically not possible for them to be fried into a hot, thick stew, i think it’s a good thing that the perception persists that it *would* be the result. i mean, people are dumb enough as it is — there’s no need to have joe barbecue rigging up stuff like this on a regular basis! hear hear for fear!
people worry about this kind of thing? and not the “perceptions” that dictate the next election?
love the slipper floaters
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