Before deciding whether the headline of this article is clickbait, please take a moment to watch the excellent video by [BigClive] below the break. And then, go to your local search engine and search for the phrase “fractal burning death”. We’ll wait.
With that out of the way, we have to admit that when we saw the subject “The most deadly project on the Internet” on [bigclivedotcom]’s YouTube channel, we were a bit skeptical. It’s a big claim. But then we watched the video and did some googling. Sadly, there are over 30 documented cases of this project killing people, and more cases of permanent grievous injury.
Fractal Burning is a hobby where wood is burned by slathering wood in a conductive slurry and then applying high voltage to either side of the wood, usually using something not rated for high voltage, such as jumper cables. The High Voltage is supplied by an unmodified Microwave Oven Transformer. Other projects using MOT’s typically rip out the high voltage secondary windings and re-wind them as low voltage, high amperage transformers, and are using in Spot Welders and even arc welders.
As laid out by [BigClive]the voltages coming from an unmodified MOT, ranging from 2-3 KV (That’s between two and three thousand volts) at a very low impedance are right up there in the “Don’t go near it!” territory.
While many in the Hacker community would have our hackles raised, many of the people who will do such projects aren’t familiar with electrical safety of any kind, but are rather more interested in the artistic effects for inclusion in woodworking projects. Surely such ones are not cavalier with their own lives on a regular basis, but the seemingly innocuous “cool” factor seems to have made this highly dangerous project seem more attractive than dangerous, especially as it gets more popular on social media platforms such as TikTok .
What’s the takeaway from all of this? As hackers who share our projects with the world, it’s on us to convey any danger that someone else may put themselves in by following our footsteps. Surely a 60 second TikTok video isn’t enough to do that, no more than a pair of jumper cables are suitable for safely handling 2-3 kV. Perhaps such considerations will help us decide what mediums we want to use to share our projects with the world. What are your thoughts?
Of course high voltage isn’t the only way to spark a debate (or a fire). Lithium Ion batteries are known for doing the same, and these Lessons in Lithium Ion Safety are a good refresher course.