Magnetnerd's photos of a guy who lost part of his finger between two strong magnets


See that mosaiced reddish grayish pinkish thing between the two large magnets? That is Dirk's fingernail and part of his fingertip.

The other photos at the link are not appropriate for the squeamish.

It took 1 1/2 hours of surgery to remove the shattered bones and repair the damage. Medically speaking, he crushed his right index finger distal phalange. The magnets had a 50 cm (20 inch) separation when they decided to fly together.
Dirk's Accident


  1. Unicorn chaser needed. Stat!

    No more banana pron, either. It doesn’t count. “Just look at it.” No thanks.

  2. I’m feeling a slight wave of nausea. It would be even worse if I were to click on the link.

    Must go and watch some kittens.

  3. The sadness is, despite the coolness of the lab accident, no one ever develops super powers like in the comics. You’d think you’d get someting for your sacrifice.

  4. “The other photos at the link are not appropriate for the squeamish.”

    Um, THIS photo is not appropriate for the squeamish.

    1. I love the subtle attribution of malign intent to the magnets.

      And here I though all magnets had “m-align intent”.

  5. I learned to respect magnets a number of years ago when I sanitized a pile of old hard drives by taking them apart and removing the platters. At the time I had no idea there were rare earth magnets in hd’s and I was surprised when the screwdriver I was using got stuck between them. So I started removing the magnets along with the platters and laying them out in a row on my desk. Not realizing how strong they were I tried to “sweep” up a handful of the magnets like you would scoop coins off of a table. They all shot together and aligned themselves in two neat rows of five and slammed together with a couple of my fingers in the middle. Lots o’ pain but no serious injury.

    Oh, and the pics in the link are really gross.

  6. Shitshitshitdaylightsavingshitshit! UNICORN CHASER!!! I need cuteness. Where’s that aquarium vid from a while back?

    1. He didn’t get them apart. The force of their closing nipped off the tip of his finger and his fingernail.

      He might be able to separate them using a vice and a pipe wrench to twist them about until the polarity pushes them apart. There’s no way to do it without some tools.

      1. so let me get this straight – you want to go near those with a pipe wrench? made (presumably) of steel? and you want to pick it up and move it near a (also presumably wholly or partly steel) vice?

        good luck with that, i hope you have universal health care ;-)

  7. I’m not going to do it.

    This time I’m really not.


    I did it. I couldn’t help myself.
    Unicorn chaser please…

  8. There’s even worse…

    One company selling magnets reported a customer’s 11 year old son lost a hand between two of the large cylinder magnets, I’m sure that’s the type show here.

    It’s already getting hard for individual experimenters to get any “Cool” stuff because the government is afraid of “Terrorism” and fears some kind of “Home-made” stuff while the real terrorists have access to Cold-War era stuff the USA gave them, or just use brute force and box cutters… Stupids like this will make it even harder.

    BTW-My “Horror Story” is getting part of the tip of my ring finger crushed in a solenoid – part of a skeeball machine I was working on at a college job. Must have pushed it while cleaning it so the exposed contacts touched them metal sides…or the capacitor discharged. Ouch. Well, didn’t hurt at first, too sudden, then adrenaline rush. Hurt like mad for 2 weeks and looked horrible, but healed up and now looks fine. After that I made sure to unplug the thing and trip the wires with a screwdriver when I did the weekly maintenance.

    Pointed this to point out I’m not being insensitive, it’s just a “Don’t touch that! It nearly took my head off and I know what I’m doing.” thing… And Electromagnets need respect too.

  9. Mark, Seriously?

    For all the allusions to the image that y’all have referenced over the years, not once have you included the image itself on the Boingboing main page. For some reason, there has been a kind of consensus among your bloggers that we are all better served to track down the image ourselves, if we really want to know what all the hubbub is about.

    You may think I’m exaggerating here, but I’m really not: the image doesn’t gross me out as much as this image does.

    Of course, you get to ignore this information as you like, I’m too nauseated to be really angry right now. I just wish you’d put that behind a cut. Unicorn chaser can’t fix that, not in a million years.

  10. Wow! That is nasty. I’m impressed by how well it seems to have healed though. Poor misshapen finger. It’s awesome he thought to get pics.

  11. Oddly enough, the first image (which left more to the imagination than the others) left pucker marks on the seat of my chair. Looking at the rest of the pics actually helped ease the discomfort. Nice to see the 4-months-later shot, and to see that his nail actually grew back…

  12. These pictures certainly are gross, but serve as a good warning to be careful with powerful magnets. They really can be quite dangerous if you don’t respect how strong they can be.

    I worked for a university physics department for awhile and we had a pair of small rare earth mags for demo purposes. We’d store them on either side of a piece of plexiglass to keep them separated. One day I wasn’t careful handling them and gave the palm of my hand the worst pinch I’ve had in my life.

  13. I’m guessing all these comments from people shocked and disgusted by the first picture came before Mark pixelated it?

  14. I have worked with magnets 1/10 the size of these which are extremely powerful and extremely painful. They can fly through the air quite unexpectedly or cause unsecured metal objects to lift up and fly at you when you carry them from room to room.

    Personally, I would NEVER own a NdFeB magnet more than 1″ square. they are too strong and too dangerous to use outside of a carefully planned laboratory setting. They will munch flesh with capricious disregard for health and safety. And, they are IMPOSSIBLE to get apart unless you build a wooden or plastic structure capable of moving them apart. Any ferrous parts and you are hosed again.

  15. OK, I’ll ask an honest question: why would you have these at home, then?

    All the comments have convinced me that I don’t need to see what’s under the mosiac. The very idea is enough for me to say, “No, thanks.”

  16. I am reminded of the mythbusters episode where they tried to climb up a ventilation shaft with strong magnets.
    I forget the exact quote, but it was something like – this may not look too bad, but it’s probably the single most dangerous thing we’ve ever done on this show.

    I don’t know if a unicorn chaser is going to cut it for this one. Bring back the surprised kitten!

  17. Anything that has “energy” in it is dangerous in direct ratio to how controllable the release of that energy is. With multipliers for danger being also proportional to energy density and/or type of energy release. When magnets exceed a rather low energy density factor they enter the danger zone. Above some power to size ratios that “energy density” factor becomes potentially instant lethality. Plated magnets often spall off fractally sharp bits of that plating upon impacting another magnet or a hard ferrous surface. And magnet repulsion of such bits might only blind or scar you. The quite real potential for a Flechette effect hitting an artery etc only has to kill you once.

    To my understanding no one’s been killed by a fragmenting magnet or crushed to death *YET*

    Darwin’s a patient reality though. Lest we forget- there ARE cases of death by magnet ingestions. Tragically the most common were children killed by magnets dislodged from toys. Intestinal pressure necrosis that became perforation and/or gangrene sepsis being the fatality mechanisms I have seen published.

    Don’t become the first magnetic Darwin award. Be careful with dangerous magnets or you may be the next BB image too grotesque to be Unicorn Chased..

  18. The whole sequence, including the end result, looks a lot like my finger did after an encounter with a circular saw.

    I feel his pain. And note: humans are not designed to see their own bones.

    1. yeah power tool don’t care, have a numb knuckle from a die grinder kick back that took a 1/8 ” groove of flesh out. Yes I still have all ten fingers ….some how .

  19. What I want to know is did Dirk snap the picture of his finger remnant between the magnets before or after going to the hospital?

    Finger injuries hurt like crazy. It was really cool watching bone fragments being pulled out of my mangled fingertip… until after the Novacaine wore off. It still hurts to think about it in detail.

  20. That was far worse than my index I crushed with a 12″ core drill bit, I didn’t powder the bone at least. The impact numbs it so much it dont hurt, or in my case it did. I will tell you one thing that finger will always have problems with cold.

  21. I had no idea magnets of that power were available to the public! I bet a collection of them would be great for some really wild electromagnetic experiments, assuming you could contain them properly.

    For those who didn’t check the link, there is a somewhat happy ending. He only lost a portion of his fingertip, and what remains regrew, including the fingernail. Good thing the magnets weren’t on either side of his body or head. I hate to imagine what a violent scene that would left behind.

  22. That’s so hot! Glad to see his finger came back in alright shape. Something tells me he probably still doesn’t have full feeling in the tip….

    You know maybe the government should pick up on this….it’d be an interesting form of “interrorgation” …

  23. sorry to hear about your accident but your finger has made a lovely recovery!!!! looks great. best to you!

  24. The poor guy should have read BoingBoing. Mark alerted regular BBers 4 years ago:

    Two of these magnets close together can create an almost unbelievable magnetic field that can be very dangerous. Of all the unique items we offer for sale, we consider these two items the most dangerous of all. Our normal packing & shipping personnel refuse to package these magnets – our engineers have to do it. This is no joke and we cannot stress it strongly enough – that you must be extremely careful – and know what you’re doing with these magnets. Take Note: Two of the 3″ x 1″ disc magnets can very easily break your arm if they get out of control.

  25. The professor I learned knapping (making stone tools) from had a piece of mining slag with a chunk of a friend’s finger tip still on it, labeled as such in a clear plastic box.

    When you’re using primitive tools to take sharper-than-razor flakes off of chunks of volcanic glass or the equivalent, it pays to be very careful to keep your digits out of the way. Eye protection and tough leather pads are also good.

  26. WOW! That’s so fascinating, it ripped his nail right out of the nail bed. I’ve always wanted to see what a fingernail looks like under the cuticle. He’s lucky the nail bed wasn’t pinched off too because then his fingernail probably wouldn’t grow back. That’s so cool-looking!
    Something similar, minus ALL nerd cred, happened to me when I was a kid (10 yrs old I think). My lil bro was pulling blankets out of a huge antique armoire, and the removed weight caused the thing to become top-heavy and it fell over onto both of us. He ended up inside the thing since he was in front of the open door. Luckily he didn’t try to run because he’d have been crushed to death. I managed to run but not quite far enough. The thing fell directly onto my foot, and because the armoire had some type of molding at the top that stuck out like a lip, all its weight (~950 lbs…or 431 kilos) was focused on my big toe. After I somehow pulled my foot out, it looked just like Dirk’s finger did!! I had to have reconstructive plastic surgery on that toe; the doctor said it looked like a “hot dog that exploded in the microwave.” My parents still have that cursed armoire, with its semicircle of dried blood on the top right corner…scares the crap outta me.
    P.S. I must know, Dirk, are you still playing with magnets as before (perhaps with more precautions) or have you been scared away for a while??

  27. They sell these on united nuclear and have like 3 pages warning about this. Statements like DO NOT KEEP THESE MAGNETS EVEN IN THE SAME ROOM AS THE OTHER MAGNETS. Obviously he didn’t buy from United nuclear >>.

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