#21: Shocking News!

The Question


I have another question! Can you ever accumulate such a large buildup of static electricity that when you touch something metal, you will receive a serious electric shock? Like, SERIOUS shock?

Your curious sister,


Comment by Meghan McQuaid — 1/25/2005 @ 3:10 pm

The Answer

Static discharge can indeed damage your person. BUT only in certain situations.

Before we begin, I must give credit to a number of people who contributed to this answer. Names have been changed to protect the identities of the people involved. I would like to thank O’Brian, Phenitorsus, and Yuk Lee for their assistance.

First, some facts:
The average car battery delivers 12 volts. The average lightning bolt delivers up to 300,000 volts. The threshold of feeling for a static discharge is 3,000 volts. It takes less than 1 volt of static discharge to thoroughly destroy the electronics on a modern circuitboard.

Here is how static discharge can hurt you:

1. Discharge static electricity while pumping gas. The static spark will ignite the fumes and BOOM!
2. Have a pace maker, then get any size static shock. The static shock could stop the pace maker!
3. Suspend yourself in mid-air, with no shoes on, ensuring that you aren’t grounded. Take several square miles of wool and rub them on yourself. Slowly lower yourself closer to the ground. When you get close enough, you will discharge a tiny bolt of lightning into the ground through your feet! Boy, that will smart!

But in common practice, it is extremely unlikely that you can actually damage yourself through everyday static buildup. Yes, it stings, but the pain will fade.

On a side note, when plugging in your dryer, make sure the other end of your plug is connected to something other than your hand. If not, the electricity going through your hand will make really interesting entrance and exit soot marks.

3 thoughts on “#21: Shocking News!

  • 3/22/2005 at 3:22 pm

    Didn’t realize how good Mike D’s MS paint drawings were until I viewed Shaun McQuaid’s soot covered hand illustration…

  • 3/22/2005 at 7:49 pm

    Yeah yeah yeah. So he’s better at MSPaint. Here’s some more things that Mike D does better than me:

    – Play guitar
    – Play bass guitar
    – Play the drums
    – Climb things
    – Beat Minesweeper
    – Stink up the place with “cheese bread”
    – Fall asleep in class
    – Offend Dispatch (the band)

  • 3/29/2005 at 9:11 am

    MikeD did offend Dispatch. I have the interview on Compact Disc. If you want to hear it Bring a dozen donuts over to my house and I’ll listen to it with you.


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