View Full Version : Electricity Electricity

03-17-2009, 05:17 AM
What voltage amount would cause pain but just a little bit more would mean death?

03-17-2009, 05:33 AM
Not sure, but I think it's not just voltage. Power (watts) is volts times amps, a low voltage/high amperage shock (a car's alternator) can give you a good jolt.

Pain (and likelihood of death) depends on location. I've heard that completing a circuit with both hands is often fatal because it passes directly through your heart, but I'll defer to somebody who actually knows what they're talking about.

03-17-2009, 06:22 AM
It's amperage plus voltage.

03-17-2009, 07:27 AM
It's the current, specifically going through one's heart (Horace is right), that kills - I recall something like 10 milliamperes can cause the heart to stop. The voltage needed to cause that current can vary a lot, depending on how it's applied to the body. Going between one arm and the other (such as touching the voltage with one hand and having the other on a water pipe), or between an arm and a leg (as in touching a source of voltage/current with a hand while standing in water in a wet basement or bathroom floor) are the conditions that send the current through the chest and heart.

A car's alternator only gives out 14 volts or so, which most people can't even feel (unless it's across your tongue). The danger is that it can give 30 amps (and a car battery can give hundreds of amps) which can generate hot sparks and heat a small wire to temperatures that will burn you almost instantly - A car's battery voltage is unlikely to hurt you, but if you short it out bad things can happen. Batteries can explode if they have too much charge or discharge current (or even "just because"). Stand back from both vehicles when you jump another car.

The wires from the spark coil to the distributor and spark plugs, however, can definitely shock you, and possibly electrocute you.

I recall that 48 volts is used as the "open circuit" (on hook) voltage for landline telephone systems (the technical term is "pots" - plain old telephone system - really!) because it's the maximum voltage that is (or was at the time) considered "safe" if you touch it. But when the phone rings there's a much higher voltage, about 100-120 volts, and at current that I'd guess is enough to kill.

If I had to do this, I'd say 100 volts across any two fingers of one hand would definitely cause lots of pain with very little chance of death, but the same voltage from one hand to the other may well cause death, but there's no guarantee it would kill. It may take several hundred volts to kill someone. Electric chairs used in executions put out a lot of voltage and power (surely there's info on the web on this), and I've heard of a case where one didn't immediately kill. Thus it apparently puts one through "too much punishment" and is "cruel and unusual," so they don't use electric chairs anymore.

How do I know these things? Mostly because I know about SAFETY around electricity. The general idea is to AVOID being killed.

03-17-2009, 07:44 AM
The person is on a metal table spread eagle. The "things" that put out the volts are tiny electrodes implanted into the cuffs So when the magic button is pushed, the electricity goes from the cuffs into the wrists either simultaneously or separately.

03-17-2009, 08:58 AM
It has always been my understanding that it is amps that kill you not volts, I could be wrong.

From personal experience I know that 110 and 220 volts will not kill you. I have been shocked to many times to remember during my 25 years of home construction. I also have been hit with the voltage put out by the coil on a car in 1980. It was enough to cause my body to jerk everytime it sent a current to the sparkplugs. Long story short, don't time your car around someone who is washing theirs.

I was disoriented for about two hours, but after that I was fine with no other after effects.

03-17-2009, 09:16 PM
Current kills. For your story, have the bad guys increase the current to increase pain and reaction. If they go too far, they'll kill your MC. The metal table is a bad idea. The current will take the path of least resistance. That would be the table. Your MC would get burns where his body touches the table. The bad guys could also get shocked if they touched the table.

03-18-2009, 01:49 AM
The typical static electric shock has at least 20,000 volts, so it's really the amperage. However, house current (110 or 220 volts at whatever amperage) is more than enough to kill you, if it goes through your heart. I've been shocked by both as well, but was lucky.

Also with alternating current, the hertz (60) comes into play, that amount being more lethal to your nervous system than some other values would be.

As far as an exact number, there are just too many factors: the individual's electric resistance, if low can channel the current through the limbs, how wet the skin is, exactly what path the current takes. How conductive the shoes he's wearing are, etc.

03-18-2009, 01:58 AM
According to the FCC (safety in the radio shack) 50 micro amps passed through the heart is enough to kill you. So if you want to hurt, but not kill your character, run the electricity through some other part of the body. Most interogators choose the testicles.


03-18-2009, 06:28 AM
Thanks guys. All of you have been a big help. :Hug2: