Every summer there are articles like this one, from Swedish Aftonbladet (warning: yonder site hath huge flash ads) about people getting themselves killed on top of trains.
What I find extremely weird, is that there are several such articles every summer just in little Sweden!
I mean: OK, some of these cases probably are pure suicides, though I don’t understand how a person could choose being cooked alive with a small but non-negligible chance of actually surviving for a few hours or days as a suicide method – there’s got to be smarter ways.
But what about the actual “accidents”? Any school teacher with the least bit of knowledge about physics can tell you that direct current wants to get grounded. That’s actually how trains work – they let the current in the cable ground itself – after running through what basically is a huge electric motor.
So let’s get the facts straight: Here in Sweden, we have 16 kV lines over our train tracks. That’s 16 000 Volts, or about 70 times the voltage in our electric outlets.
It’s also direct current, as opposed to the alternating current in our outlets. What does that mean? Alternating current changes directions tens of times per second. While the change in directions is happening, the current can be said to decrease, pass zero and start increasing again.
Direct current on the other hand, doesn’t “let go” once it starts flowing. And at the voltage and current levels in a high voltage train line, you don’t have to make physical contact with the cable to get the current going through you: the flashes you see over a train at night, is ionized air making room for the discharge from the line to the receptor on the train. What this means, is that you don’t actually have to touch the power line to get electrocuted. Actually, I wouldn’t even dream of trying to get within a meter of the power line. Standing on a train roof is stupid at best.
So I’m simply saying that people getting electrocuted on train roofs isn’t to be looked upon as accidents, but as the practical application of natural selection.