Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sunday Rerun: Moves Like Luigi

My favorite part of 5th grade was when we put a copper strip and a zinc nail into a half a lemon, attached a wire between the metals, and caused that wire to light up a flashlight bulb.

On another occasion, we touched recently-severed frogs' legs during a unit on French cooking bioelectricity with two metal sources, causing the legs to twitch and flail.

Fans of Frankenstein movies might be familiar with the term electrophysiology, which means the use of electricity to bring life to organisms.  That's how they got Frankenstein's Monster to come alive, by hooking up a jerry-rigged body to some Energizer batteries or some such. It was based on research by Italian physician Luigi Galvani, and the process of introducing electricity into living objects became known by his name. It's all in Mary Shelley's book Frankenstein, and since then, we have used the term "galvanized into action" for those moments when an electric tingle seems to get people stirred up.

After he saw his Uncle Luigi perfect the technique on amphibians, Giovanni Aldini demonstrated the electro-stimulation technique of deceased limbs by hooking up the juice to the recently-executed criminal George Foster in London in 1803, causing Foster to do an early version of The Stanky Leg.

Don't feel too bad for Foster; he had murdered his wife and child by drowning them.  

That metal garbage can out back, the one that won't rust but you don't use it too much anymore since Eleanor ran over it with the Buick...the reason it's not rusty is that it has been dipped in a protective zinc coating to prevent rust.  That's called Galvanized metal.

September 9, 1737 – December 4, 1798
And how do radio stations decide which records to play? Well, sometimes, they gather a roomful of listeners and hook up little electrodes on their skins.  See, people might tell you they don't like to hear Maroon 5, but if they really do like a record, their skin reacts with tiny voltage - called Galvanic skin response -  that tells the station to go on playing "Moves Like Jagger" all day and all night.

For all these things, we salute Luigi Galvani by paying the electric bill every month. 

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