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View Full Version : How many people connected in series to power a lightbulb?


Leo Bloom
02-26-2010, 07:29 PM
This sounds like the beginning of a joke, but, given GQ standards, it's deadly serious.

There's a sole 60-watt light bulb that must be turned on for a minute or everyone will die of fear of darkness. You have insertable single head-plugs, luckily made of lithium, and you have a ton of connection wire. The head of each plug is 2 centimeters in radius.

You decide everyone must chip in and give their electroconductive best, and be plugged in in series to generate their share of amps. How many people would be needed to save the day?

Mops
02-26-2010, 07:33 PM
How are people, viewed as resistors, supposed to generate power?
How are more resistors, connected in series, supposed to be more conductive than one?

kunilou
02-26-2010, 09:04 PM
How about if all of us shuffle our feet on the carpeting, then all touch the lightbulb at the same time?

Leo Bloom
02-26-2010, 09:45 PM
How about if all of us shuffle our feet on the carpeting, then all touch the lightbulb at the same time?

Nice idea, but for a later thread. (Also, the charge generated would not last for that minimum of an hour to prevent mass hysteria.)

I'm talking about electrical interaction as a circuit...at least for the time being. :D

figure9
02-26-2010, 09:58 PM
I'm having trouble understanding your question. Where is the energy for this circuit supposed to come from?

Sage Rat
02-26-2010, 10:04 PM
I'm having trouble understanding your question. Where is the energy for this circuit supposed to come from?

Sweat and blood are slightly acidic, I think. From that, you should be able to make an electrochemical battery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon_battery) of them....

ETA: http://www.spartechsoftware.com/reeko/experiments/ExpHumanBattery.htm

racer72
02-26-2010, 11:25 PM
How about if all of us shuffle our feet on the carpeting, then all touch the lightbulb at the same time?

I can illuminate a flourescent light bulb fairly bright all by myself just by shuffling my feet across the carpeting in an airplane.

ZenBeam
02-26-2010, 11:50 PM
You decide everyone must chip in and give their electroconductive best, and be plugged in in series to generate their share of amps. How many people would be needed to save the day?I don't really understand your question, but are you sure you mean series here? Connecting them in series would give a higher voltage, with the same amps, if they were power sources. Connecting them in parallel would give you more amps, with the same voltage. Actually, you'd probably need both parallel and series, to get enough voltage, and enough current without electrocuting someone.

Rhythmdvl
02-26-2010, 11:51 PM
How are people, viewed as resistors, supposed to generate power?
How are more resistors, connected in series, supposed to be more conductive than one?

I'm having trouble understanding your question. Where is the energy for this circuit supposed to come from?

Paging Professors Wachowski ... ...Paging Professors Wachowski

Fubaya
02-27-2010, 01:28 AM
It only takes one person (http://www.doobybrain.com/2008/02/03/electromagnetic-fields-cause-fluorescent-bulbs-to-glow/) in the right place.

engineer_comp_geek
02-27-2010, 11:29 AM
I was expecting to see a picture of Uncle Fester in this thread by now.

http://www.southdacola.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Uncle-Fester.jpg

Munch
02-27-2010, 11:48 AM
There's a sole 60-watt light bulb that must be turned on for a minute or everyone will die of fear of darkness

(Also, the charge generated would not last for that minimum of an hour to prevent mass hysteria.)
I think before we can answer your question, you should figure out what you're asking.

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
02-27-2010, 01:36 PM
This sounds like the beginning of a joke, but, given GQ standards, it's deadly serious.

There's a sole 60-watt light bulb that must be turned on for a minute or everyone will die of fear of darkness. You have insertable single head-plugs, luckily made of lithium, and you have a ton of connection wire. The head of each plug is 2 centimeters in radius.

You decide everyone must chip in and give their electroconductive best, and be plugged in in series to generate their share of amps. How many people would be needed to save the day?Neo will stop you.

Tamex
02-28-2010, 01:20 AM
I remember some experiment in elementary school with a hand-cranked generator of some sort connected to a small lightbulb. Two people touched contacts on the generator, and the rest of the class held hands with them in a big circle. More people = dimmer lightbulb.

Sapo
02-28-2010, 05:40 AM
It only takes one person (http://www.doobybrain.com/2008/02/03/electromagnetic-fields-cause-fluorescent-bulbs-to-glow/) in the right place.
Very cool. Is this guy using up energy from those lines? Should the power company send him a bill? Would enough tubes like that cause a black out to the people on the receiving end of those lines?

Der Trihs
02-28-2010, 08:00 AM
I found this article with a few ideas on getting power from human bodies: People Power: Capturing The Body's Energy For Work On and Off Earth (http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/body_power_011128-1.html)

ZenBeam
02-28-2010, 08:52 AM
Very cool. Is this guy using up energy from those lines?Yes.
Should the power company send him a bill?No, but that's just my opinion.

Would enough tubes like that cause a black out to the people on the receiving end of those lines?No, there's vastly more power going along the transmission lines than he's sucking out. Possibly the resistive losses in a short section of the transmission line wires are larger than the amount of power he's using.

ETA: You can see the tree line though the person in the top photo, so that's a long exposure or a multiple exposure shot. The florescent lights are pretty dim.

coffeecat
02-28-2010, 09:03 AM
Very cool. Is this guy using up energy from those lines? Should the power company send him a bill? Would enough tubes like that cause a black out to the people on the receiving end of those lines?
They're running on wasted energy--power that's radiated and lost in transmission, whether it's used to light up tubes or not.

ZenBeam
02-28-2010, 10:56 AM
They're running on wasted energy--power that's radiated and lost in transmission, whether it's used to light up tubes or not.No, the energy transmitted by the power lines flows through the air surrounding the lines, not through the wires. The lights are tapping into this energy, not energy that's being radiated.

figure9
02-28-2010, 11:49 AM
I'm going to go the battery power route. Assuming a 60W incandescent bulb we need 120V and 0.5 Amps. Each human cell would consist of lithium/human/copper hook-up wire. Assuming each cell could produce 1.5V we would need 80 people to get 120V. The 1.5V figure is totally made up since I have no idea how much voltage a lithium/person/copper battery cell would have. Now we need current. From Sage Rat's link I think the best we could hope for would be 100 microAmps per cell. That means we would need to have 5000 people to supply enough current. I'm not an engineer or scientist BTW, so my logic and math are likely wrong. Still that's my best guess. Also isn't lithium highly reactive? Could people hold it in their hands or have it plugged into them?

Leo Bloom
02-28-2010, 11:07 PM
That means we would need to have 5000 people to supply enough current. I'm not an engineer or scientist BTW, so my logic and math are likely wrong. Still that's my best guess. Also isn't lithium highly reactive?

Could people hold it in their hands or have it plugged into them?

Thank you for working on the problem of the people battery. Sage rat has directed me to the lemon battery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon_battery), and that is it, as you see also. It seems it is used to teach children. //Sigh//

I've passed the problem by an E.E. friend of mine. He told me the problem was "trivial," went through for me the principles he learned in 5th grade, and told me to go look up "the relevant data" (are all MIT engineers like that?).

I really did want to know how many people it would take. The reason "I" chose lithium was because of it's place in the standard electrode potential data page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_standard_electrode_potentials). I did this because the E.E. told me to...:o It is used in batteries therefore for stuff I have no fucking idea why, although I understood it in general when he explained it.

Why I would like the actual number in my OP is because a) people here are smarter than I am, b) I'm a bore at parties and, c) most important, I'm a Doper!:D

What I forgot to add in the OP was the length of the lithium "plugs" (i.e., how much total contact with the body): Call the height of the cylinder one inch.

About your question re holding the lithium in your hands--how to get an appropriate reading of the charge from the body? The epidermis has significant resistance, for one thing. Therefore, plugs. Inserting "plugs" of sharpened-tip metal is painful.

One's mouth is too moist and saline (although I suppose that could be factored out). I have no idea of the acidic content of vaginas, and obviously that would not make the analysis gender neutral. You're correct, I don't know how to keep the lithium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium) coils chemically intact. Schmear 'em with mineral oil? Suggestions?

OK, my proposal is that, assuming an answer to the above problem is found, each person would curl the exposed wire into a flat coil, and place it into his rectum, avoiding free air (the lithium would oxidize, tarnishing your bowels at the same time. Maybe that's a good thing. But I digress.).

That's my experimental proposal should it ever come to that.

Leo Bloom
02-28-2010, 11:16 PM
The 1.5V figure is totally made up since I have no idea how much voltage a lithium/person/copper battery cell would have. Now we need current. From Sage Rat's link I think the best we could hope for would be 100 microAmps per cell. That means we would need to have 5000 people to supply enough current. [...] Still that's my best guess.

Long story short: MIT E.E. guy estimated human-body V at 0.5. Came up with ca. 10,000 people; a few hundred in series, the rest in parallel. What's up wit dat?