Experiments

Dangerous Using Phone in Thunderstorm

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Son of a Gun."
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Finding: CONFIRMED

Explanation: Listen to the National Weather Service: When the sky cooks up a thunderstorm, it's time to get off the home phone.

MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage confirmed this common safety advice, based on the possibility that lightning could strike whatever building you're inside. If that happens, the powerful bolt of electricity will look for the quickest route to the ground via wiring. An electrified phone line could then send dangerous vibrations up to the phone's mouthpiece and deliver an earful of lethal shock.

The MythBusters zapped a makeshift house with 300,000 volts of electricity to chart lightning's potential path from the ground wiring to the phone held by ballistics gel dummy Buster. The gel inside Buster shares the same electrical resistance as human flesh, and a heart monitor hooked to him measured how big of a zap his body received from the hot phone.

When they released the electricity, it quickly hopped from the phone wiring to Buster's heart, blowing out the monitor device. Since the machine maxed out at 40 milliamps, the amount of electricity pulsing through the conduit must've far exceeded the lethal 6-milliamp mark.

Unfortunately, this myth also has been confirmed the hard way: About two people die from lightning strikes through phone lines each year.

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