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"I have lately made an Experiment in Electricity that I desire never to repeat." (arstechnica.com)
145 points by heshiebee 3 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

Reminds me of a curiosity seen during a tour of the historic Filoli mansion: An appliance that cooks food by running mains power through it. Apparently someone in the early 20th century thought this was a good idea. I don't remember the exact food it was used for -- maybe hotdogs, or bacon?

(Seen here, on the counter:) https://i.pinimg.com/originals/a0/f7/35/a0f7352484c9426ea188...

The first thing Sony tried to build (before it was called Sony) was a rice cooker that used the water in the rice to complete the circuit. When the water boiled away, the cooker shut off.[1]

It didn't work too well.

1. https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2010/09/sonys-first-failure-the-1...

Almost certainly hotdogs, you can still get those kinds of cookers today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUAkezGstlQ

Electricity is used to directly cook the bread used in panko bread crumbs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFbQuHE4z7g

Possibly you are thinking of this device:


In South America they run electricity through the shower head: https://i.redd.it/lsmtihn21d201.jpg

An in Germany a just guy convinced 88 people to try to electrocute themselves and send him a video of it

I had one of these in my student dorm in Shanghai ten years ago. If I'd raise my hands too close when shampooing I could feel the shock coming... I took cold showers most of the semester.

That picture! What could possibly go wrong...


The article never gives any context for the quote in the headline. It doesn’t even quote it again in the body.

It's the start of the letter to his brother, which is linked[0]. That part isn't quoted in the body, but I thought the main part of the headline above the quote made it clear what it referred to.

[0] https://www.masshist.org/objects/cabinet/december2002/decemb...

The article details an incident where he electrocuted himself.

Poultry-related hazardous experimentation also did for Sir Francis Bacon:


What's really interesting about Franklin electrocuting chickens is that electrocution went on to become the predominant method of killing chickens in the US poultry industry until 2017 when the largest purchaser of chickens, McDonalds, switched to using asphyxiating gas because activists were upset about the electrocution. Non-McDonalds chicken though is still killed the "old fashioned" way - through electrocution pioneered by Franklin. The electrocution doesn't actually kill the birds, it stuns them and makes them rigid prior to a giant saw cutting off their heads.

Here's a video of a typical poultry plant, though this one is in Mexico it's identical to US operations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMSNGZh60zY

(Warning: do not watch if you can't handle it it's exactly as described.)

> The Founding Father once infamously electrocuted himself while trying to kill a turkey with electricity.

I'm pretty sure you only get to "electrocute" yourself once. Especially in 1743.

I wonder- his lack of grounding may just be what saved his life. If the mentioned chain connected to the outsides of both jars were grounded then there might have been a short across his heart.

Well, if you want to be meaninglessly pedantic about it.

But in common use it just means to receive an injurious electric shock, nowadays.

Electrocute may also mean to injure, not just to kill...

The chain was probably the cell ground? Unless the Leyden jar had a different ground wire, which seems improbable. Likely he got it straight across the chest.

"Electrocute" is a portmanteau of "electricity" and "execute".

Sure, but in practice it's used to mean just being electrically shocked. Words aren't tied to the meaning implied by their etymology.

In French we have two words, "électrisation" for non-lethal shock and "électrocution" for when death occurs.

Most people I know still use "éléctrocuté" to describe what happens to them when they get shocked from an electrical outlet.

I do not find that to be the case in practice, I occasionally here it used like that, but consider it misuse.

I suspect a dictionary might accept it as an 'informal' alternative to the main 'death by' definition.

No need to speculate on what a dictionary might say. We can actually consult one. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/electrocute

Thank you - it did feel a little silly to type, but I didn't care to search online, nor to get up.

Laziness subsided, my Collins (complete, 2016) - which is a rather accepting dictionary of new-fangled words or usages - has only two definitions, both involving death. (1. to kill as a result of electric shock; 2. (US) to execute in an electric chair).

The etymology of a word is a useful signal but it should not be mistaken to be the definition in actual usage by speakers.

If we're going purely by etymology, what does a suitcase have to do with electricity?

TIL. What other commonly understood words are portmanteaus?

You'll see them all over now.

chortle (chuckle/snort) podcast (ipod/broadcast) newscast (news/broadcast) sportscaster (sports/broadcaster) motel (motor/hotel) email (electronic/mail) blog (web/log) bit (binary/digit) chunnel (channel/tunnel)


Taxicab (taximeter/cabriolet), brunch (breakfast/lunch), spork (spoon/fork), Eurasia (Europe/Asia), Brexit (Britain/exit).


Smog is a big one most people don't think about (smoke/fog).

To be electrocuted has always meant death, until relatively recently. Because Englishe talking is good not, it now can mean what formerly meant "shocked".

I still prefer the specificity of death for electrocuted. Keith Relf was electrocuted, if you can still talk about it, you received an electric shock.

Edit: spelling. Make Englyish great again!

Semantic drift is inevitable and has little to do with dumbness.


Exactly. French was once considered a bastardisation of Latin

I have been electrocuted many times. It is generally not fatal. Not sure how the year changes anything.

A lack of grounding would preclude the conduction of electricity. As this is HV, a small spark gap would not have helped remarkably.

Electrocution is literally a fatal electric shock.

Portmanteau of electric execution. Strangely enough, not used by Edison in the Current War against Tesla/Westinghouse. He made up words with mort that everyone has since forgotten.

For nonlethal electrical mishap, just "shock" is fine, and "electric shock" to disambiguate when there may be confusion with emotional shock from excessive surprise or physiological shock from a traumatic injury.

>The Founding Father once infamously electrocuted himself while trying to kill a turkey with electricity

Electrocution is death, or (more recently) serious injury, by electric shock. It does not mean "harmlessly shocked".

I have seen this error more and more often. It seems that the word is evolving to become more broad over time, since it's the only handy verb we have for "the application of current to a living thing". It originally meant only execution, hence the construction: electricity + execution. Then it broadened to any death, and then serious injury, and now it's being used for harmless shocks.

I have seen assertions that he did not claim to have actually done the kite experiment, but only proposed it, and was after assumed to have done it. Maybe after a while he got embarrassed to correct people?

Wow, 10 lb turkeys. He would be aghast at trying to knock off a 22 lb Foster Farms turkey. :-)

One could make the argument that a turkey cooker that used an electrical current would be both more efficient and result in a more even cooking. Assuming the turkey was brined before cooking (fairly common), as the brine evaporates the conductivity goes down and the current would redirect to lest cooked areas. As a result cooking the entire bird evenly.

Fortunately they did not give up, and today millions of chicken are instantly killed with electricity followed by decapitation

then cleaning, butchered, dipped in egg, dipped in flour/spices, and fried to perfection.

can't you just run the voltage longer to skip the cleaning/butchering/etc to get straight to fried?

And this is why you kill mechanically, even if you're going to use electrodes to get better quality meat.

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