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QUESTION: Hi, I'm not sure if I have the right section here if not could you point me to it, but my question is, if somebody takes the hand of another before being electrocuted (purposely) would the current pass through the first only effecting the second, would it effect them equally or would the first be most effected? Don't worry I'm not planning on trying this, just research for a project. Thanks

ANSWER: It depends on many factors such as the voltage system used, the proximity of the two persons and their contact area (flesh to flesh) and their resistivity of the skin (as some people are very 'sweaty' and some people have very dry skin).

So, I can't answer the question very thoroughly with the information given but the principles of electricity would apply.  The two people connected would represent an electric circuit for the voltage to divide against and current to flow.  Unless, of course the voltage was sufficient in magnitude to cause arcing and spark jumping which would be a different scenario.

Do not try this at home!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the fast reply, well what I want is to kill off a bad character in a book by the main character while shaking their hand and jamming a knife or something metal into an electric device that electrocutes them both. It doesn't matter if the main character is injured just as long as they survive but the villain has to die but I don't want to do it in an unrealistic fashion that loses the reader (there's nothing more annoying than a main character surviving an impossible scenario in novels.)So what I'm looking for is an uncomplicated scenario where this would happen that's realistic if that's possible at all? Any help is much appreciated, thanks.

Sorry for the delay. Best wishes with your novel or book.

I cannot say for certain whether you can give a confident scenario for the scene you wish to portray;  I doubt if anyone can because we don't have any tests, studies or laboratory results that could be relied upon - the human life being at the center of the issue makes it hard to do real time testing!  There may be some experts who are involved with and familiar with execution used in prisons and military tribunals and such that have some feeling for the electrocution process but it is very esoteric in fact.

You might could contrive where there was a metal or conducting strand in the clothing or for some reason one of the characters, either the villain or the hero had something that caused the more full conduction of electrical current it would add realism to the plot.  For example if one or the other wore a suit of clothing that was somehow more conductive than the other and it was raining or they were somehow wet or moist on the skin when they shook hands it could give justification for the results that you want I think.

And, if the source of the electricity were high voltage it would be more realistic.  Ordinary household power of 115 volts requires rather long and large scale skin connection over a period of time to become fatal.  Voltage from a high voltage line or the high voltage of the inside of a CRT television set would be ideal.

Hope this gives you some angle to pursue.  


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Electronics questions about AC, DC and digital theory.


Graduate electrical engineer with over 40 years in electronic design, manufacturing, project organization and patent review. Experience in fields of industrial and consumer electronics (audio, video, acoustics, etc.)

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers); Senior Life member AES (Audio Engineering Society), Fellow Life member

BSEE University of North Dakota

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