Jason Hutchens: electricity kills

Jason Hutchens: electricity kills

Over the last two weeks, one particular thread on the aus.tv newsgroup has grown out of control. I'm sure all regular lurkers know what I'm on about. For the benefit of those who couldn't be bothered reading every article in the thread, here's a summary of what happened. All events are in chronological order:

On the 17th of April, 1998, Steve (shogan@hello.net.au) posted a rather innocuous message to aus.tv. His mum had told him that a man was killed on the live television show "Reg Lindsay's Country And Western Hour" when someone threw a bucket of water over him while he was using a microphone during a comedy skit. Fish! (abc@123.net) responded by asking whether microphones generate enough amps to kill someone.

David (zzdmcana@fox.uq.net.au) replied with a detailed post, which unfortunately began with the rather ambiguous claim that "it is not the amps which flow through the cord which is the problem, it is the voltage that you measure across the microphone plug that is the problem". Thorfinn (thorfinn@unico.com.au) dared to question David's explanation, and he began his reply by using the ever provocative word "Bzzt" which, apart from being a nice (if unintentional) pun, seemed to offend David greatly. Thorfinn continued by stating that "current (amperage) kills, not voltage".

David responded by clarifying his answer, explaining that although current is the killer, it is the current flowing through the person, and not that flowing through the microphone, which is the true culprit. At this point, Tim (tmchm1@mugca.cc.monash.edu.au) intervened, suggesting that the thread migrate to alt.tastless (presumably because he thought a discussion about how electricity kills was in poor taste).

David justified the thread by explaining that he was defending himself "against a patronising and unwarranted attack", claiming that Thorfinn portrayed him as an idiot, and possibly deliberately misinterpreted his original message. Was it all to do with the "Bzzt"? Had there been private email correspondence? Or were David and Thorfinn at war before the thread even began? One must wonder, because there is no evidence that Thorfinn had said anything personally offensive (at least compared to the average Usenet post).

Tim replied with a perplexing message: "But guess what? Your name is now in the hands of the SQUICKMASTERS! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!" I have searched the Web for information on "SQUICKMASTERS" to no avail. Andrew (ajohnson@chemistry.adelaide.edu.au) continued the technical discussion, while zaphy (toddmc@nospam.com.au) wanted to know whether it was safe for him to stick a 9V battery on his tongue for a "tinkle". Yours truly (hutch@ciips.ee.uwa.edu.au) followed up with an anecdote of his own youthful experiments with batteries.

Daniel (immortal@webaxs.net.remove) suggested sci.electronic.dweebfactor would be a better newsgroup for the thread to migrate to, while Thorfinn and David continued their debate. Robin (merlinc@yoyo.cc.monash.edu.au) chipped in at this point, suggesting an experiment whereby David would be zapped with a few amps, and Thorfinn by lots of volts, the survivor being declared the winner. In true aus.tv fashion, Robin was having a bit of fun prolonging the thread by throwing stones from the sidelines.

Huey (avman@comcen.com.au) piped in with a comment that "30 microamps will stop the human heart", and Eben (ebenlevy@klever.net.au) quickly pointed out that it will also restart the heart. zaphy had a bit of fun with this, implying that you should always try to get zapped an even number of times.

Around this time, Thorfinn posted an article which began with the line "Someone that's done physics more recently should pipe up here". David claimed this was an attempt to "undermine my knowledge with patronising comments and sarcasm". David stated his own qualifications in detail, and demanded that Thorfinn do the same. si (si@bizarro.inc) waltzed in to point out that David didn't state his argument clearly in lay terms in the first place.

David also complained that Robin missed the point by proposing his little experiment. Steven (sturtle@ozemail.com.au) moved in to argue that Robin was being sarcastic, and was "lightening up a thread that had become far too misled by its own 'importance'". David agreed that he was sick of the thread, and suggested that it was Thorfinn who was prolonging it. Steve felt obliged to mention that David was partially to blame, by responding rapidly to each of Thorfinn's posts. David responded by stating that he was maintaining his reputation, and that he felt like a hunted animal.

At about this point, Tim returned, claiming that David had written to his University to complain about his post. This caught everyone by surprise, since Tim's two posts were fairly harmless. David defended his actions by stating that he never received a thank-you email when he sent Tim the words to the extended mix of the Rimmer Munchkin Song. Just as everyone was recovering from extended bouts of hysterical laughter, Robin returned onto the scene. He expressed in very strong language his displeasure of having David attempt to cancel his account. No doubt everyone was wondering what Robin forgot to thank David for! Thorfinn then revealed that David tried to get his account suspended too, but this came as no surprise. David justified his actions by saying that Thorfinn hadn't yet posted his qualifications, and was probably spouting rubbish the whole time.

In a rather large nutshell, that's what's been happening on aus.tv the last two weeks. Stay tuned for more in the continuing saga which is the "Man Killed on Live TV" thread! Will Robin need to continue posting from an Internet cafe? Will Thorfinn post his qualifications? Will Tim explain what a "squick" is? Will David get off his high horse and stop trying to cancel people's accounts? Will Toastie ever return from the USA? How long is a piece of string? And where the hell is Possum Bits?