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David Blaine's Electrifying Stunt Not As Electrifying As You Might Think

By Sydney Bucksbaum, Hollywood.com Staff

David Blaine's electromagnetic stunt, Electrified: One Million Volts Always On, began Friday evening, meaning the magician spent his weekend standing on a 20ft platform in New York's Pier 54 in the middle of one million volts of electric current streamed by Tesla coils. (Tesla coils were invented by Serbian-American scientist Nikola Tesla for generating high-voltage bursts of electricity. The more you know!) However, Blaine is wearing a chainmail suit made of highly conductive stainless steel — also known as a Faraday suit — so the current doesn't actually touch him.

No doubt, that's a fact that would disappoint some fans of Blaine who are used to seeing the magician deliberately endure extreme torture in exhibits like 2000's ""Frozen in Time"" (during which he encased himself in ice for 63 hours) and 2006's ""Drowned Alive"" (during which he submerged himself in water for seven days). "Unlike what uneducated people think, voltage is not what matters," Walter Lewin, Professor of Physics Emeritus at MIT, tells Hollywood.com. "It's the current that matters.""

And because the Faraday suit is conducting the electrical current, there is little to no danger to Blaine. In fact, Lewin himself has done something like this for educational purposes. "During lectures, I often bring my body at a potential of about one million volts," Lewin said. "Even three million volts — provided you know what you are doing — can be very safe. The crazy thing here is that this idiot wants to stand for 72 hours without food and drink. That is madness, somewhat dangerous, not because of the million volts."

Indeed, Blaine's most dangerous aspects of this stunt are staying awake for three days straight with no food (only a tube that delivers water), no rest, and in the middle of speakers constantly blaring loud, audience-attracting music. For some fans, that is the most impressive part of the event. Megan Valdez and Jessica Brown visited Pier 54 on Saturday evening to see Blaine's performance after hearing about it from a former teacher of Brown's who currently lives in Spain. (And, interestingly enough, Blaine's stunt has invited plenty of chatter overseas — press has been covering the display thanks to a live stream to audiences in London, Beijing, Tokyo, and Sydney via the Electrified YouTube channel.) ""It's amazing that he can literally stand there for that long and deal with the music," Valdez said.

In fact, fans didn't seem to care for the scientific aspect of the display — for Brown, enduring the loud atmosphere and a lack of sleep was worthy enough of awe. "The music probably would kill me because I have sensitive ears,"" Brown said. ""So I think that there's a lot of elements besides just standing on that pole that people probably aren't taking into account. Besides that fact that he's also standing for that long, he's not sleeping, he's not eating, he's not drinking."

Plus, for some, it doesn't hurt that the spectacle is visually stunning — Blaine stands in the center of a steel cage, wearing the mesh suit, and watches bright blue tendrils of electricity jump out at him. Add in the loud crackling of the volts and the music played on the keyboard, and it made for an intense viewing experience. (Of course, watching Blaine himself — standing, waving at the crowd, and stretching his legs — wasn't quite so interesting.) "I saw this on the Internet," said another spectator, Mike Weiss, who visited the display with his son, Robert. "The last time we came and saw him, he was in the water for like three days. Pretty cool stuff, but this is way cooler than the water."

Of course, not everyone was cool with some realities of the spectacle. Said Valdez in horror watching Blaine, "He's peeing in a catheter!"

Follow Sydney on Twitter @SydneyBucksbaum

[Photo Credit: WENN]

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