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You Can Use Jumper Cables To Listen To The Radio And Possibly Get Killed, Horribly

Illustration for article titled You Can Use Jumper Cables To Listen To The Radio And Possibly Get Killed, Horribly

We all know jumper cables are incredibly useful things: they can get your car started when the battery is discharged, they can be used for torturing people for information or sexual gratification, or they can even hold up your pants in times of severe beltlessness. What I didn’t realize is that they can also be used to listen to AM radio, as long as you don’t mind poor audio fidelity and a very real risk of a painful death.

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This certainly isn’t new, as this particular video has been making the rounds since 2016, but it’s still fascinating:

What’s going on here is that with AM radio, the audio signal is transmitted by modulating the amplitude of the radio waves to match the sound wave. These high-energy radio-frequency waves are being broadcast from the tower, so if you hold a jumper cable close to the metal of the tower, the RF waves/energy arcs between the cable and the tower, and those waves are being modulated with the audio signal.

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So, as the arc jumps between the cable clamp and the tower it’s displacing the surrounding air and sending out compression waves much like a speaker does, which your ears then interpret as sound.

Again, this is absurdly dangerous as we’re dealing with high voltage electricty here, and that’s not so compatible with human bodies.

If the use of jumper cables seems too chi-chi for you, you could do what these curious and perhaps a bit stupid Russian kids did, and use the moisture in bits of grass to make the electrical arc:

This is, of course, a terrible idea. Now that you’ve seen it on video, you don’t have to try it yourself, avoiding the possibility of effectively microwaving your guts until you die.

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Science!

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

Just don’t try it on a 5G tower, or you’ll get the COVID-19.

I still can’t believe that’s a joke that can be made.

Wait, yes I can.