PolySciFi Blog

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Amusingly bad science reporting

First, from Balloon Juice comes this story:
An Australian man built up a 40,000-volt charge of static electricity in his clothes as he walked, leaving a trail of scorched carpet and molten plastic and forcing firefighters to evacuate a building.

Frank Clewer, who was wearing a woollen shirt and a synthetic nylon jacket, was oblivious to the growing electrical current that was building up as his clothes rubbed together.

When he walked into a building in the country town of Warrnambool in the southern state of Victoria on Thursday, the electrical charge ignited the carpet…

Firefighters cut electricity to the building thinking the burns might have been caused by a power surge.

Clewer, who after leaving the building discovered he had scorched a piece of plastic on the floor of his car, returned to seek help from the firefighters.

“We tested his clothes with a static electricity field metre and measured a current of 40,000 volts, which is one step shy of spontaneous combustion, where his clothes would have self-ignited,” Barton said.

Wow, that's a lot of "current". Why, that's like a SUV that weighs 4,000 meters! (Of interest, the version that Spakkadi links to doesn't include that interesting "malaunitism".)

Also note that even assuming they meant "charge" that's less voltage than a Van De Graaf generator, so Clewer was not about to spontaneously combust and probably wasn't burning things either as it's not voltage that burns things, it's dissipated power - voltage drop x current.

Then from Daily Pundit, comes this story:
"A CLOAKING device that makes objects invisible is being developed by researchers, bringing the magic of Harry Potter into the world of science fact.

While Harry uses his cloak of invisibility to move about Hogwarts School unseen, electronic engineers at the University of Pennsylvania are working on a real invisibility shield called a "plasmonic cover".

The development, which works by preventing objects from reflecting and scattering light, could have widespread use in the military as it would be more effective than current stealth technology."

Wow, making an invisibility cloak by using a material that absorbs all light in a particular band. I wonder if spakkadi was involved in this project as she's been wearing clothing that absorbs all light in the visual spectrum for years. For what I really think is going on in this story, see this comment I left on Daily Pundit.


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