Van de Graaff + Leyden jar a dangerous demo?

  • Thread starter cyborgasm
  • Start date
  • #1
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Hello all,

In my first high school physics class my teacher performed an incredible demo that has stuck in my mind ever since. After playing around with a Van de Graaff generator a bit he whipped out one of those homemade plastic bottle and aluminum foil Leyden jars and charged it up using the Van de Graaf. He then had those of us willing to do so stand in a ring with hands connected. One student held one contact of the Leyden jar while he completed the circuit himself. The shock made all of us jerk our arms strongly. This was one of the most dramatic physics demos ever impressed upon me. I guess it seemed almost magical that this collection of everyday junk (composing the Leyden jar) could have such a strong and visceral effect.

Anyway, I'd reeeeeallly like to repeat this demo for a small group of students I tutor - but I'm afraid it might be dangerous. On the one hand my high school physics teacher has done this for years to himself and to (warned and willing) groups of students with no ill-effects. On the other hand lots of people on the internet say it's bad. Then again people on the internet say a lot of things...

What do you think, is this a dangerous demo? A lot dangerous or a little dangerous? Have any of you seen or experienced this demo? Has anyone actually been killed from this demo? Keep in mind that I'd be using a similarly crude low capacitance homemade Leyden jar. Also, none of these students have pace makers or other electronic implants, and none have known heart conditions. (I suppose they could have undiagnosed conditions, but they are all outwardly healthy and fit people).

I have no problem risking my own life and limb for a cool physics demo, but I'd prefer not to kill one of my students.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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No it is not dangerous. As far as I know nobody has been yet killed from this. Already experienced this and also challenged a friend of mine to who can hold on longer :D I won but after that my muscles became tired.
 
  • #3
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Thanks for the info!
 

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