Stairway to Heaven

Posted by Nick Schiltz on Apr 6, 2016 1:30:00 PM

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This type of arc is known appropriately as Jacob's Ladder. As described in the book of Genesis, Jacob experienced a vision of a ladder reaching into heaven with angels going up and down it that would later be commonly referred to as "Jacob's Ladder". Whoever dubbed this type of arc with the same name must have had a sense of humor because I cannot think of a faster way to get to heaven then by getting caught in the middle of one of these.

I came across this video online earlier this week. At first I thought it was an excellent demonstration of what the effects of high voltage can do, but I also wondered how an event such as this can even happen. Fortunately, the comment section offered some insight. This occurs when the arc is so hot due to the high voltage that it literally turns the air into plasma, which then becomes the path of least resistance, rising naturally like hot air.

One commenter put it eloquently into layman's terms:

Voltage is how much electrons want to flow. In a 9 volt battery, electrons don't want to move enough to go through your body, so you won't get shocked unless you lick it. At 110/220 volts, the electricity from your wall socket has electrons that want to flow so much that they will go through your body, and it will shock you. At hundreds of thousands of volts (the video in question), electrons want to flow so damn much that they will literally form paths through the air to flow through it.

Anyways, that's the story I wanted to lead with. However, my close friend and coworker, Drew Allen, suggested I use the following story for HUMPDAY material this week. I, however, made the executive decision to not email blast all my readers with a photo of two dead snakes in an electrical cabinet and elected instead for neat picture of an arc flash. But for the morbidly curious, you can click on the link below...

According to a North Carolina news article, “One crawled up in there and was electrocuted when it bit into a wire,” said Electric Services Director Brooks Kirby. “You can see in the picture that the other one is biting its tail, so it was electrocuted, too...The public needs to be aware that if they can get into an electrical box, they can crawl through any small hole,” he added. I mentioned Drew is my close friend, right? As someone who is terrified of snakes, I really didn't need to know that "they can crawl through any small hole". He should know better!


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A glass manufacturing company has a near-miss when it comes to an arc flash. Watch how they avoided a potentially deadly outcome.


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North Central Electrical League is the bridge between all sectors of our Electrical Industry. Through NCEL, members come together to develop, expand and protect all interests in the Upper Midwest's electrical industry. We continue to do this by providing discussion forums on hot topics and offering various outlets for peer interaction. We provide such venues so that our members are educated and remain important assets to our industry.

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Have a great week!

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Topics: HumpDay Blog Entry


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