jlsathre

jlsathre
Location
Illinois,
Birthday
July 30
Bio
I'm a lawyer in my past life, who got the kids through college and decided to try something different and a little more fun. A used book store sounded like a good idea, so that's where I am for now. I just hadn't counted on a recession or E-readers and am a little afraid there's going to be a third act. In the meantime, I have plenty to read and a little time to write. Not a bad way to spend a day.

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Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 9, 2012 12:40PM

Batteries in the Bathtub

Rate: 19 Flag

President Obama wants to add 100,000 science and math teachers over the next ten years. I tend to agree it's a good idea. The store clerks who can't seem to make change when there's a power outage make a good case for the math. 

And I find that I make a good case for the science. I'm always running into scientific things that I don't know. Like why do bananas turn black in the refrigerater while celery doesn't? Can I eat my yogurt after the expiration date? Can you shock yourself by spilling coffee on your mouse?

I wanted to use that last question as my title here, but decided it was open to a bit of misinterpretation and a little too much like an "Open Call." I didn't want to put ideas in anyone's head that might cause harm. 

Even though it probably would have been fine to put out the idea, because I already did it, and the answer is, "No." The mouse just keeps on working through the slush of the coffee, with plenty of time to get paper towels. This seems to be the case even if the computer is connected directly to an electrical source and not running solely on battery power. I've done it both ways. 

I make no claims about the safety of spilling coffee on a whole computer though, as I vaguely remember a Law and Order program where someone threw a computer in a bathtub. And, although I don't remember the ending, there are rarely good outcomes on Law and Order.

I think a more solid science background might have given me the answer. 

I went rhough 19 years of school, took the required number of science classes, and even vaguely remember making some contraptions with batteries and doing something that created arcs of electricity. But for the life of me I can't remember if batteries pose any real danger. 

Which is why I was a little concerned when I bought my grandson a battery powered bathtub toy not long ago.

A part of me knew that the toy, which was specifically advertised as a bathtub toy and was manufactured in the U.S. and not China, was in all likelihood safe. But there was this single sentence in the instructions about making sure the battery compartment was closed tightly that concerned me. Because what if it wasn't closed tightly?

It's that "worst case scenario" thing that made me conjure cars in ditches every time a daughters'curfew was missed. That keeps me from eating my expired yogurt for fear that I might not make it through the night.

But, which curiously, my parents  seemed unaffected by since they were perfectly comfortable with sending me out into the world with no helmets or knee pads, and with a safety net consisting of little more than the direction to "look both ways." Other parents  of that same generation even bought chemistry sets and sent their kids down to basements unsupervised.

I can't help but wonder if the lack of a sound science background has made me overly cautious and stifled my curiosity? Causing me to throw out yogurt way before I need to? To spend extra money on organic vegetables because...well....actually there doesn't  seem to be any good reason.

"Is this expired milk bad?" I used to ask.

"Take a drink and see." Mom would say.

It was that memory of Mom's scientific curiosity that found me putting batteries into that bathtub toy, filling up the tub, and gingerly putting both the bathtub toy and my hand into the water. Nothing. Not even a tingle. I put more mass (two feet and legs up to the calves) in the water. Still good. I loosened the screws to the battery compartment to see if the possibility of seeping water made a difference. Still nothing. I was almost ready to believe the Consumer Product Safety Commission had gotten this one right. 

But just to be safe, and because this is the 21st century where we have ready access to experts, I also googled "batteries in the bathtub."

It was my second science search of the day. Just hours earlier I had discovered that my five day expired yogurt was safe to eat for another day or so.

There was a clear consensus that my grandson was safe with his battery powered bathtub boat too. 

Although I did find one caution. "If you put something in the bath that uses a car battery, then you might get quite a shock." 

For all those science challenged parents and grandparents out there who are thinking ahead toward the holidays, if you see a cute bathtub toy requiring a car battery, walk on by. I've already checked that one out.

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Nothing really expires in the fridge unless it turns green, feels greasy or smells bad. Expiration dates are the way the grocers get you to buy more stuff. However since I can't see bacteria and there is a Jewish dietary law which says something about keeping food for a limited period of time I do trash open food that is a week old. Here is the thing...if you shop daily and consume only that...nothing to worry about. Thanks for the tip about the batteries.
My 19 year old asked me yesterday if the cider was bad. No date on the bottle, it looked fine, it tasted fine, but was it bad? How would I know? Jerry Seinfeld does a great riff on this as a topic.
Curiosity is a good thing. I once tried to count in my mind how many cups of water were in the bathtub. My mind likes little experiments and problems. My friend said she did not have a mind like that. I felt sorry for her. Keep thinking and writing. Thanks.
Can you shock yourself by spilling coffee on your mouse? I couldn't help but wonder if that sentence was written 40 years ago, would the men in the white jackets and net be looking to put a straight-jacket on you.
I'm visualizing a bath toy that requires a car battery. Would there still be room for a child?
It's technology that's driving me nuts. For example, I'm now being skyped at my pharmacy. Should I get my hair done first? I sympathize completely with this post.
oh dear lady. no doubt your feminine brain simply does not hold onto
hard scientific facts, and i doubt you got much math still left
in that noodle of yours.
ha. that is me being ironically chauvinistic, really!!!!
~
the more important question that you hint at here is
what about yer damn electric car, driving through a big puddle, hm?
here are the grim facts:
"As the use of batteries with voltages in excess of 300 Volts becomes more commonplace with the growing popularity of electric and hybrid electric vehicles, there is a danger that the general public, so used to relatively benign 12 Volt batteries, may underestimate the hazards associated with higher voltage traction batteries. Electric shocks account for about 1% of all fatal accidents, mostly to people who ought to know better. "
~

voltage is not a reliable indicator of the severity of an electric shock. The most important indicators are the actual current which flows through the body and its duration, and even these can lead to misleading conclusions because the physiological consequences depend on the route the current takes through the body. Current passing through the heart or the brain is infinitely more damaging than current passing across a finger or the palm of the hand caught between the terminals of a battery. A sustained current will also do more damage than a short current pulse.
~


Shocking Batteries



The vast majority of batteries are used in low voltage applications where there is little danger of electric shock, but familiarity can breed a careless attitude towards the potential dangers.

With high voltage batteries the danger of electric shock is very real.






As the use of batteries with voltages in excess of 300 Volts becomes more commonplace with the growing popularity of electric and hybrid electric vehicles, there is a danger that the general public, so used to relatively benign 12 Volt batteries, may underestimate the hazards associated with higher voltage traction batteries. Electric shocks account for about 1% of all fatal accidents, mostly to people who ought to know better.

This page describes the dangers and outlines some safety precautions when working with high voltage batteries.



Electric Shock
A physiologist may view the body as containing an electrical network, passing tiny nerve signals around enabling us to do all those essential things we like to do so much such as breathing, thinking and moving. Its function can be severely disrupted by the presence of an extraneous current. The body also contains a network of canals transporting oxygen to the muscles and the brain in a salty solvent called blood which incidentally provides a good conducting medium for electricity.

To the battery however, the body is simply an insulated skin bag containing electrolyte. See also nerve impulses.



Despite its common use as an indicator of danger, and the implication in the opening paragraph, voltage is not a reliable indicator of the severity of an electric shock. The most important indicators are the actual current which flows through the body and its duration, and even these can lead to misleading conclusions because the physiological consequences depend on the route the current takes through the body. Current passing through the heart or the brain is infinitely more damaging than current passing across a finger or the palm of the hand caught between the terminals of a battery. A sustained current will also do more damage than a short current pulse.



Physiological Consequences of Electric Shock
The table below outlines some of the effects of direct electrical currents passing through the body for a period of one second.

Important Notes: The two tables on this page are compiled from a variety of sources and although there is general agreement between the sources on the magnitude of the causes and effects, the actual values are subject to very wide variations. Obviously, it is not practical to perform tests on human subjects to verify the levels at which shocks become fatal and some data is derived test on animals. The values used are therefore average or typical values which should be used for illustrative purposes only.

Dangerous currents are shown in Red.




Shocking Effects
Current (contact 1 second)
Physiological Effect

Less than 1mA
No sensation

1mA
Threshold of feeling. Tingling sensation

5mA
Maximum harmless current

8 -15 mA
Mild shock

Start of muscular contraction.

No loss of muscular control

15 -20 mA
Painful shock

Sustained muscular contraction.

Can't let go of conductor

20-50 mA
Can't breathe. Paralysis of the chest muscles

Possibly Fatal

50 - 100 mA
Intense pain

Impaired breathing

Ventricular fibrillation

Possibly fatal - Fatal if continued

100-200 mA
Ventricular fibrillation

Probably fatal - Fatal if continued

Respiratory function continues

Over 200 mA
Sustained ventricular contractions followed by normal heart rhythm (defibrillation)

Chest muscles clamp the heart and stop it for the duration of the shock. This also prevents ventricular fibrillation improving the chances of survival, but other factors come into play.

Burns

Temporary respiratory paralysis.

Possibly fatal - Fatal if continued

Over 1 Amp
Severe burns.

Internal organs burned.

Death

Survivable if vital organs not in current path - e.g. across a finger or hand





Notes:

Low voltages do not mean low hazard.

Other things being equal the degree of injury is proportional to the length of time the body is in the circuit.

According to the IEEE Std. 80, the maximum safe duration of a shock can be determined by the formula

T = 0.116/(E/R), where T is the time in seconds, E is the voltage and R, the resistance of the person (assumed to be 1000 ohms).

For a 120V circuit the maximum shock duration = 0.116/(120V/1000) = 1 Second
For a 240V circuit the maximum shock duration = 0.116/(240V/1000) = 0.5 Second

It is extremely important to free a shock victim from contact with the current as quickly as possible. The difference of a few seconds in starting artificial respiration may spell life or death to the victim. Don't give up unless the victim has been pronounced dead by a doctor.
Women tend to be more susceptible to electric currents than men
Lower body weight increases the susceptibility to electric currents
A shock from DC is more likely to freeze or stop the victim's heart.
The current range of 100 to 200 ma, is particularly dangerous because it is almost certain to result in lethal ventricular fibrillation, the shocking of the heart into a useless flutter rather than a regular beat .
The fibrillation threshold is a function of current over time. For example, fibrillation will occur with 500mA over 0.2 seconds or 75mA over 0.5 seconds.

AC is more dangerous than DC causing more severe muscular contractions. AC is also more likely to cause a victim's heart to fibrillate , which is a more dangerous condition. Safe working thresholds are consequently much lower for AC voltages.
It is easier to restart a stopped heart once the source of the electric shock has been removed than it is to restore a normal beating rhythm to a fibrillating heart. A heart that is in fibrillation cannot be restored to normal by closed chest cardiac massage. Defibrillators give the heart a jolt of DC to stop fibrillation to allow the heart to restart with a normal beat.
Victims of a high voltage shock usually respond better to artificial respiration than do victims of a low voltage shock, probably because the higher voltage and current clamps the heart and hence prevents fibrillation. The chances of survival are good if the victim is given immediate attention.
Shock victims may suffer heart trouble up to several hours after being shocked. The danger of electric shock does not end after the immediate medical attention.
Don't expect an earth leakage trip or ground fault detector (circuit breaker) to protect you. They usually trip at 15 Amps.


Shocking Potential :
While the severity of the electric shock is mainly determined by the current, the current in turn is influenced by numerous variables which make up the resistance of the current path making it difficult to predict the current which will flow from a given voltage. The two major components of the resistance are, the resistance of the body between the points of contact with the electrical circuit, and the contact resistance between the body and the voltage source.
~

i hope that clears it up.

~
and allays your fears.

electricity is, like all the natural forces we harness to make
ourselfs a more human world (=a world where nature
is supposed to be our willing handmaiden)
a rather tricky thing.
i apologize for the repetitiveness of the grim facts,
but my cut and paste skills are
a bit rusty.
Life will never be cleared up.
Batteries get like old folks.
They get worn out-dead.
`
It's analogy. We wear.
Batteries wear down.
Folks wear dull-out.
`
I let greens ferment.
Add soybean `Mizo'
and invite Ya` Pals.
`
Buy outdated ` yogurt.
Yodel as if if` kooky.
Lock-Up ` J.M.E`
as if-kooky-funs`
no evil-bad-vibe!
Ande--I'm pretty sure about the yogurt, but I wouldn't necessarily trust anything I say about electricity.

nilesite--I can see Seinfeld taking off on that.

zanelle--Oh, no. Now I'm going to find myself counting cups in the bathtub tonight.

Scanner--That's funny. I think they would have let me out by now though.

Myriad--If the child doesn't fit, I guess we don't really need the science.

Sarah--Me too. I'm not answering if my pharmacy Skypes.
James--I'm coming straight to you for answers next time. I think you've cleared things up. There's just one thing....if I drop an electric car in a bathtub....

Art--Always nice to see you. Next time you'll have to get here earlier before J.M.E. gives out all the answers. Although good idea on that yogurt.
BUI, you might also want to consider those little square 9-volt batteries, which are the ones used in stun guns that can knock a grown man on his BUTT when zapped a second or two by the them.
[r] another great read! I wish I had the gift of curiosity about electronic and scientific things. Is that genetic or conditioned? maybe both? best, libby
Check your milk again. Mine says "sell by" not "use by".
I so enjoyed this - and I actually could see myself wondering the same thing about battery-operated bathtub toys, so thanks for your intrepid research! As for the yogurt, here in France the rule generally is that you have to go by smell and sight. If it smells okay, and doesn't have any mold growing on it, it's probably still good to eat, even if it's past the expiration date. Apparently those dates tend to err way on the side of caution and you can often go past them for quite some time before your food goes bad. ....Then again, they eat all kinds of crazy, moldy-looking, weird-smelling cheeses here, so maybe the French aren't the best ones to follow....
Matt--I've just posted a note on my fridge: Stay away from 9 volt batteries.

libby--Nothing will convince me that you weren't blessed with the gift of curiosity. You're just using it on things other than science right now.

Catnlion--I've already thrown my milk away and can't check, but you're probably right. My yogurts, however, say "use by."

Alysa--You raise a whole new line of questions. Now I'm wondering about my bleu cheese.
We are very skittish about expiration dates. We probably waste food because of it. My husband asked me once how could bottled water go bad...my answer...Temptation. That was long ago...we do not buy bottled water unless really desperate now.
JL! I am thinking only of myself, as usual. What if your little experiment had led to a different outcome? Would I have to go on living without your charming posts? Please be more circumspect before you undertake more of this curiosity business! I count on you. :-)
Now I just remembered thos little bathtub submarines that operated on fizzy pellets. I wonder if they still make those?

Excellent post! I am educated and amused. What more could I ask for?
There are some foods, fish and eggs being two, that can make you pretty sick if you eat them when they are too old. Be cautious with meat that's been sitting around too long. Milk will sour and taste nasty before it is bad for you.
Nice writing! Now I'm tempted to skip my next scheduled task to open PhotoShop and create an image of a monster, lethal, car-battery-driven rubber ducky from hell.
Yeah sure. You bought your "grandson" a battery powered bath toy. A rubber duckie perhaps?
http://www.amazon.com/Big-Teaze-Personal-Massager-3-Speed/dp/B001RIY1LS/ref=sr_1_1?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1349905127&sr=1-1&keywords=Rubber+Duck+vibrators
Most expiration dates are more about whether the product is likely to be palatable than about whether it's edible. That's why there are "sell before" dates, and "best if used by" dates as alternatives to "expiration dates", and why there exist stores that deliberately sell products that are past their "sell by" date for a discount.
This is why I refuse to bathe. Too risky.
I am so cautious I throw things out way quicker than my husband. He just keeps on eating and I am like ewww, no way. But, I am telling you my Grandparents use to make me eat bread with mould on it. That is what did it you see. They would just take off the little mould and throw it away and let me have the rest of the crusty icky piece of bread. So perhaps I was programmed like that.. You brought a smile to my face. And I was a little bummed tonight so thank-you. KR
I am so cautious I throw things out way quicker than my husband. He just keeps on eating and I am like ewww, no way. But, I am telling you my Grandparents use to make me eat bread with mould on it. That is what did it you see. They would just take off the little mould and throw it away and let me have the rest of the crusty icky piece of bread. So perhaps I was programmed like that.. You brought a smile to my face. And I was a little bummed tonight so thank-you. KR
Speaking as one who once poked a metal barrette into a US light socket to see what would happen -- a jolt of juice, I lived but haven't tried that again in 40-odd years--I'd say limit the experimentation to non-electrical stuff. And, you know, limit the botany stuff too. Don't go tasting every mushroom you find in the yard.
Liberal--Good comeback for the bad water questions.

Emily--How sweet. I'll stick no fingers in plugs.

Jonathan--Thanks for reading. You keep me informed about the political; I'll keep you informed about the trivial.

Carl--Good idea about the senior education. The university here actually has a nice program, but timing's never been right for me.

Malusinka--My dad used to be big on buying me day old meat. I'd use it, but only quickly.

Karen--Good idea with the rubber ducky.

Geebee--Trust me. It was a boat. For the Grandson. Same science might apply though.

Goedjn--I think you're right. Even most medicines don't go bad, just get slightly less effective.

Margaret--Good to be safe. You never know when someone's going to throw that car battery in.

Kimberly--I've been known to pinch of mold on occasion. It always makes me nervous though.

V.--Just goes to show that those real life experiments are good teachers. And I know my mushrooms.
This was so adorable to read because it is so true, and still just plain cute. Batteries like that don't push enough current to pose a danger, and what little current they do push is hardly enough to overcome the average resistance of the human body.

What is most sobering, however, is your observation of store clerks being unable to make change on their own. The evidence of our academic stagnation is overwhelming. I try so hard, not always successful, to instill curiosity in my daughter. For her there are too many distractions and I am frustrated with my inability to catch her interest.
From one math-challenged individual to another, is 100,00 a number (see first sentence).
Stuart--Maybe if you send her down to the basement with a chemistry set. Just make sure she checks her phone, iPod, etc. at the door.

Con--And here I thought my math skills were okay. Thanks for the catch.
As a frequent Costco shopper of institutional size volumes, I am familiar with all matter of tired produce. There is nothing wrong with eating bok choy, spinach and bananas weeks after bought, though I do find black and soft bananas gross out my wife.

As for the battery issue, I do not think there is cause for worry as long as there is no toy tv or gps in the boat because then you would be effectively dunking a live wire, and as you know throwing a tv in a swimming pool is a common means to murder on law and order.
Beware of info you get by googling. The people who write those answers get paid just slightly more than OS contributors. I know because I tried it for awhile. R
My guess is that there are scientists studying how to make a safe bathtub battery right now -- along with all of the other scientific breakthroughs that decades from now we will credit to President Obama's much maligned stimulus bill -- ie the Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I've just started reading Michael Grunwald's (so far) terrific new book, "The New New Deal" and its filled with lots of information about a transformative scientific future that never gets covered because of the fights over whether the stimulus act created jobs today (it did) or Mitt Romney efforts to protect the Koch Brothers dinosaur-era (literally, as Joe Biden would say) oil and chemical business by ridiculing investments in renewable clean energy -- which is the real story behind Romney's obsession with Solyndra, which he is trying to turn into a poster child for the idea that green technology doesn't work. Until the Koch brothers can get their hands on the patents, and then Romney will perform another one of his patented flip flops and become its most enthusiastic salesman. Anything to close the deal.