Feeds

Can you die from testing a 9V battery on your tongue?

Vicious voltage

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Also in this week's column:

Can you die from testing a 9V battery on your tongue?

Asked by Liam Johnson of Frankfurt, Germany

Here's Liam's question in full:

First the simple question: Can you die from testing a 9V battery on your tongue? I have read newspaper reports (around 1990) of a woman dying after her boyfriend used a 9V battery as sexual stimulation.

A brief look on the internet brings up a number of comments.

  1. Apparently there was a US sailor being trained as an electrician who killed himself by sticking the probes of an Ohmmeter through his skin to measure his internal resistance.
  2. There are also claims of eight people a year dying in Australia (why just Australia?) from testing batteries.

Now, the explanation I have heard as to why this is, is that in certain freak cases, the battery can make an almost direct connection to the nervous system where the nerves are close to the surface and the skin is wet, thus ionising the nerves so that they will not work correctly. Result is death.

The detractors who attempt to answer this question invariably end up quoting figures for levels of current which kill then stating that a batter cannot generate these levels of current. This basically just dodges the issue since we have a fairly specific set of circumstances and it is not claimed that the current actually kills, rather the effect of a DC potential connected directly to the nervous system.

Besides, the figures quoted are guidelines for safety and not intended to be an absolute guarantee of safety. It is also my understanding, having spoken to a number of older electrical engineers, that there were different figures quoted for lethality for DC voltages and AC voltages, with the level of DC being significantly lower than for AC. Hope you can find some information on this issue! Thank you very much for your time!

Dr Xheng Hu of the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at the University of Sydney confirms that a 9V battery does not have enough voltage to kill a person by testing it on the tongue.

He adds: "It cannot be entirely excluded however. If a person is very ill, for example, has heart problems, or has a heart pacemaker that could be disrupted, and so on, they could possibly die from testing the battery in this way. But normally it wouldn't happen."

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?