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"Invisible Electrostatic Wall" at 3M adhesive tape plant (1996) (amasci.com)
96 points by slyall on March 16, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

Here is a more detailed article and a nice drawing to help you imagine how the rollers were arranged.


Can someone post this in the Mythbusters forums and try to get them to attempt to replicate this?

Oh yes, please.

edit: I submitted the request at http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/show-talk/ejec....

+1 for MythBusters. This would be fantastic for them.

"... fix it or sell tickets." - I'd pay a little something to play with an obviously real, but undefined effect like that.

Could this possibly be the person referenced in the story?[http://www.linkedin.com/pub/david-swenson/18/589/b52] Has anyone tried contacting him to see if the story is real (and if so, if they ever figured out what caused it?)

A co-worker who had worked at the 3M plant at the time told me this story in 2010. I emailed him, he knows David Swenson so maybe I can get David's opinion on the article.

Note that the amasci.com article is about David Swenson's conference talk about the phenomenon, here's the copypaste:


   SESSION 7: SPECIAL SESSION, 17th Annual EOS/ESD Symposium
   THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 1995, 8:00 am
   MODERATOR: D. Swenson, 3M
   CURE, D. Swenson, 3M Company
   Tremendous static charge generation on a plastic web causes unique
   physical phenomena and special problems. Solution was simple and cost
The real question ...was this "star trek physics," or really just a human-nerve TENS effect; temporary muscle paralysis caused by static discharges all over the victim's skin? They never threw a baseball down the tunnel to see if it halted.

Probably also generating a massive dose of x-rays.


I wonder if there has ever been a cancer cluster found at such plants?

X-rays are only produced by the unrolling of tape in a vacuum. So presumably no risk here.

Rather than try to replicate a really complicated set of conditions, why not see if ionized air blown at an object in a wind tunnel causes more pressure than non-ionized air? The crux of the theory appears to be that a cyclon of ionized air was set up that was unable to attach to the sheet.

Generating a vortex of air is pretty common, a lot of industrial mixers and sifters do this. It's what inspired Dyson to make his vacuum.

I've read this already 2 years ago and discussed it with our Physics prof. It's definitely wrong. Otherwise I'd like to see a proof.

Of course your physics professor (and their books) definitely knows everything in the world without needing to venture outside or do any real world experiments. And they certainly couldn't be a fragilista[1] nor could they possibly have God Complex[2].

Seeing as your professor is all knowing, maybe they could finally tell us all how lithium polymer batteries work [3]?

1: http://www.amazon.com/Antifragile-Things-That-Gain-Disorder/... 2: http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_harford.html 3: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5124170

Thanks for the links. We have some Profs who have a God Complex, but he's just the typical nice Physics Nerd. He didn't proof that it doesn't work and urged interest in it, if somebody finds out more. But he couldn't find out a way that this phenomenon was real. That doesn't mean that phenomenons like the on in the article are impossible, but that the setup to create such phenomenon is probably wrong or not documented well enough to come to a better conclusion than - "it's definitely wrong".

Right. Just be careful of that word 'definitely'. Maybe it's more 'most likely'.

I have a cold fusion reactor in my basement. It extracts free energy from the vacuum and it powers my car instead of gasoline.

Since you are antifragilist and don't have a God Complex, you are well suited to invest in my project to commercialize this technology!

There is a huge difference between believing that energy conservation is wrong and believing that there could be unexplored avenues in the technological application of electrostatic forces.

I'm not a cold fusion zealot but I don't think it's correct to say that it would violate energy conservation, since they are talking about nuclear reactions converting mass to energy, just like fission and fusion. It's just that they're talking about unusual reactions that most scientists think are implausible.

I'm pretty sure that is tax evasion. Just like you aren't allowed to use heating oil or kerosene for driving on public roads.

Doesn't it seem more plausible that someone just executed a prank with a sheet of plastic, and a myth grew up around it?

I appreciate skepticism, but come on. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference?

The original report was a presentation at an ESD conference, not a rumor or FOAF.

I heard about it from a tech at an EMI testing lab in 1996, tracked down Dave Swenson's email at 3M, and posted the article on amasci.com.

Some extra info: Dave S. mentioned that the experience was a bit painful, since corona discharges were leaping from his whole body at the time. He said he was unable to turn around while near the "invisible wall," and had to walk backwards to get away from it.

Also, he described the whole plant having serious ESD hazards: tape on floor to mark pathways, and if you left the path, you might get zapped by a mini-lightning from some ungrounded machine.

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