Index Home About Blog
From: (Steven B. Harris )
Subject: Re: name of all-diagnosing machine? function?
Date: 07 Aug 1995

In <3vooue$> (MARGIE LANGLEY)

> Hello everyone,
> My name is Margie, and my sister was diagnosed with cancer. My parents
> initially chose to go with holistic treatments first. They saw a doctor
> in Idaho, who had this machine (they, my family, can't give me the name
> - they call it "The Machine") that had a clamp that went around the
> forehead and another that went around the ankle. Through the
> "electrical currents" in the body the machine could diagnose any
> illness. They said that the machine was old. They also mentioned that
> it was illegal in the U.S., but not illegal in other countries. What is
> this "Machine"? Is there anyone out there who can give me a name for
> it? What about technical information on exactly how it works?

   Ah yes.  This machine is called an "electric chair" if applied to
prison inmates, and in that case it is actually legal in some parts of
the US, but no place else in the world.  In keeping with the reversal,
it does not diagnose, but does cure, all diseases.

   If the machine is used *outside* a prison, it is called a "Boob
Machine" (though not to be confused with the women's chest exercisers
sold in the backs of comic books).  It does not supply power, but
rather is used mainly to drain or lower the amount of economic "energy"
or power (Chi), of the applicant.  It cannot treat, but can diagnose
any disease (though none accurately, unfortunately).  Like the machine
in prisons, it can be lethal.  A real doctor always examines the
applicant within minutes after the use of the prison machine, but the
danger with the lower-power device used outside prisons is conversely
that a real doctor might not examine the person at all for quite a
while while the machine is being used (months, years...).  This,
because real doctors are repelled by the special field emitted by such
low-power devices, which causes them to experience acute nausea,
occulogyria, and attacks of sarcasm.

   Hope this is helpful.

                                               Steve Harris, M.D.

From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Which is more dangerous: radiation or electricity?
Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997

In <> (Hugh
Easton) writes:

>100 rads = 1 joule per kilogram of energy deposited by absorbed
>radiation. The LD-50 (dose required to kill 50 percent of people
>exposed to it) of radiation is 300 rads.
>An adult typically weighs around 70 - 100kg. Exposed to 300 rads of
>radiation, they would absorb around 200 - 300 Joules of energy. Yet an
>electric shock that deposits just 20 Joules of energy is enough to
>kill. Per unit energy, electricity would appear to be ten to fifteen
>times more dangerous than radiation.
>Comments anyone?
>Hugh Easton     **

The problem is that you can't reliably kill anybody with 20 J of
electricity, so your ratio changes depending on luck or chance.  For
example: your standard electric chair delivers 2000 Volts A.C. for
about 10 sec, followed by 500 V for maybe 120 seconds.  You figure a
body resistance between two patches of moist broken down (fried) skin
of 200 ohms (a realistic figure), and that gives you [(2000^2/200)* 10
sec] + [(500^2/200) * 120 sec] = 350,000 J.  And it doesn't always work
on the first charge, at that.

Yes, probably they could do better in the "chair" with a short shock
through the head to induce unconsciouness (as is done now), followed by
a short shock from front of the chest to back, across the heart, to
induce fibrillation.  But the thing was standardized long ago, and the
judicial system is nothing if not conservative.

If you insist on minimal energies, there are more efficient
applications even than electricity.  How much mechanical work in Joules
does it take to slice into a carotid or femoral artery with a really
good scalpel, or really sharp large bore needle?

                                       Steve Harris, M.D.

From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: electrocution cases
Date: 12 Feb 1999 07:19:16 GMT

In <> (Carey
Gregory) writes:

> wrote:
>>"Btw for anecdotal evidence while I was attending Basic Electricity
>>Electronics school in the Navy in San Diego CA, a boot committed suicide
>>by using a D-cell battery. He abraded his wrists and placed the battery
>>between them. Current went very deep (not subcutaneous) across his heart
>>and it either arrested the heart or disrupted the heart beat to such an
>>extent that he died and was found several hours later."
>BS.  Try it yourself with a meter and you'll find that the body's
>resistance is simply too high for such a small current source.  With a
>fresh abrasion I'd be surprised if you could get measurable current
>flow from a D cell across more than a few inches of tissue.

    Yep.  The current world record for a healthy person is a seaman
electrocuted standing in saltwater by a 32 volt DC submarine battery.
And of course, it generally takes a lot more voltage than that.   And
AC is more dangerous than DC.  You might be able to do it with AC and
10 volts, but you'd have to have paddles in dirrect contact with the

    Of course, it's not the voltage that kills, but the current.  The
two are related for the same skin resistance, but there are ways of
minimizing resistance. You can use saltwater contacts.  You CAN also
get much more lethal voltages by abraiding the skin, or simply sliding
a needle under the skin, so that a fair amount of needle is in contact
with subcutaneous tissue.  Not enough to use 1.5 volts, but certainly
enough to use quite low voltages very reliably.  Using that route, with
a current path across the heart from two spinal needles inserted under
the skin across the chest wall outside the ribs, anaesthetized dogs can
be fibrillated with 1 second of 120 V  A.C., nearly every time (it's
now the standard method in dog cardiac arrest models, since it causes
no heart injury).  It's very difficult to do reliably by other methods
(as many live human who has gotten across 120 volts can attest).
Which, of course, is why the electric chair uses thousands of volts in
the initial charge, basically to destroy insulating skin.  Then it goes
down to 500 volts of AC or so, just so as to avoid too much cooking.

From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: electrocution cases
Date: 12 Feb 1999 07:54:23 GMT

In <79t525$gai$> writes:

>The following is an excerpt from an article in the Oct. 1997 issue of the
>"Popular Electronics" magazine entitled: "Safety For Electronic Hobbyist"
>- Page 55 by Joseph J. Carr.
>The first part of the article deals with 60 Hz AC, so I assume the
>excerpt following pertains to this.
>[According to medical experts, who have studied electrical shock, the
>killing factor is current density in the right atrium of the heart. Any
>flow of current through the body that causes a sufficient level of
>current ot flow in that section of the heart can induce fatal ventricular
>fibrillation (or ViFib). In general, for limb contact electrical shocks,
>accepted rules of thumb are": 1-5 mA is the level of perception; 10 mA is
>the level where pain is sensed; at 100 mA severe muscular contraction
>occurs, and at 100-300 mA electrocution occurs. Keep in mind that those
>figures are approximate, and are not to be taken as guidelines to
>approximate "assumed risk". Death can occur under certain circumstances
>with considerably lower levels of current. For example, when you have
>been sweating or are standing in salt water, all bets are off. In medical
>situations, the level of current that can kill is considered to be in the
>20-150 microampere level, because the current is induced directly into
>the body. (human skin has a resistance of 500-20,000 ohms, and the
>internal tissue has a resistance of 50 ohms or so.)]
>Comments: Other sources claim resistance is what is lower in sweating or
>standing in salt water - which enables a lower voltage to produce the
>current values given in the above. It's too bad nothing was said about
>puncture wounds produced by "live" electrodes. This 20-150 microampere
>level needs elaboration.

   20 microamps across fifty ohms would require 1 volt. For 150, of
course the number is 7.5 volts.  That's not much.  But it would have to
be AC and applied directly to the heart, or though subcutaneous needles
in the chest wall, with a current path through the heart.  None of this
"hold your hands in salt water" stuff.

From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Electric Chair
Date: 3 Jun 1999 21:47:45 GMT

In <7j6jcr$n4a$> Marco de Innocentis
<> writes:

>How long does someone take to die on the electric chair?
>Does the victim lose consciousness instantaneously?

   Loss of consciousness is apparently instant, as that much juice
through the brain causes instant seizure.  Probably the least painful
of all methods.  But you first.

   How long it takes depends entirely on whether or not the heart
fibrillates during each current cycle (couple of minutes).  It can be
less than 2 minutes.  Or it can take three or more zaps, particularly
with women, who due to more subcutaneous fat are better insulated, and
probably get less current through the heart (Ethel vs Julius
Rosenberg).  One problem is that the chair is poorly constructed, and
lacks a circuit which goes directly rhough the heart.  If this were
activated after a few seconds of current through the head, probably
most people could be killed in 10 seconds.  As it is, a few people
don't die until their brain respiratory centers have been cooked.

From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Cyanide poisoning
Date: 11 Sep 1999 03:34:03 GMT

In <> (Carey
Gregory) writes:

> wrote:
>>It is of course impossible to question those who have been executed for
>>their crime. But then again, a sentence of "Life", while often
>>proscribed, has rarely been imposed.
>True life sentences have become more common in some states, but no
>>I am not opening a discussion of sentencing guidelines, but responding
>>to the question of "humane" punishment of capital offenders. The
>>definition eludes me.
>I have a better question...  If the state is going to execute
>criminals, why should it concern itself with humane methods at all?
>If you accept that the only truly humane death is euthanasia to
>relieve unbearable suffering, then a humane execution simply isn't
>possible.  So you may as well either choose cheap and expedient or
>maximally painful (the latter would be the most honest and might even
>instill some deterrent qualities).
>As a taxpayer I would prefer cheap and expedient, which is probably a
>single bullet to the brainstem (about 25 cents each).  Given that a
>bullet is far faster than nerve impulses, it also happens to be
>humane, so we can all feel good about our humane execution methods and
>excellent cost controls.

   Except there is some doubt that a bullet though the brainstem
extinguishes consciousness instantly.  Unless maybe it hits the locus
ceruleus or some takes out the RAS.  Sure, the person doesn't respond,
but that just means he's "locked in" (to his cortex) for the time it
takes respiratory arrest to induce ciculatory arrest.  I discount
hydraulic shock here, but there are all kinds of war casualties where
people have been shot in the head and survived, so even that isn't
perfect, unless you have a really high powered and messy rifle shot,
ala JFK.  Such a think is somewhat difficult to set up, and the family
tends to object.  Also the prisoner, oddly enough.

   I suspect an electric current extinguishes consciousness far faster
than a bullet to the head.  But the worst part of the average execution
isn't the pain, anyway, but the anticipation.  If you had to chose
between electric chair and firing squad (heart shot(s), which you're
guaranteed to feel), or perhaps gas chamber (where you are also
guaranteed to have a few momments that are no fun), which of all would
YOU take?  Uh-huh.  Thought so.  Me, too.

   Your point about deterence is noted, but applies equally well to
killing innocent people painfully, so long as most people think they're
guilty.  So deterrance by itself is not a good justification.

   The problem with executions is not just the psychological pain of
the convict, but also what it does to the humanity of most of those who
have to carry the sentence out, and those who have to watch.  It would
probably be much better for all if we limited said persons to family
members of the victim who really do honestly want revenge, and will
feel better when they have it.  Folks who really, really want the
murderer dead, and want to see it happen, and will feel better ever
after when they have.  If any such exist.  And if none do, then we
should probably not subject anybody else to this miserable experience.

From: B. Harris)
Newsgroups: sci.chem,sci.physics,,
Subject: Re: Current
Date: 24 Mar 1998 08:21:09 GMT

In <> Eric Lucas <>
> wrote:
>> Your skin resistance goes way
>> down when wet. I think the fatal current level can start with about
>> 40-50 volts on wet skin. That's less than a telephone ring voltage.
>Hmm...  I'm not quite sure I understand that.  If your skin's wet, it
>should shunt the current around the surface of your body.

   No, because resistance of tissues (saltwater soaked, remember?) will
always be less than skin.  Even wet skin.  In the electric chair they
use salt-soaked sea sponge and metal plate, and even then rely on local
burn (skin destruction under electrode) to get really good contact
(resistances of under 200 ohms, head to leg).

Index Home About Blog