The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.
by Jeff Van Bueren
San Francisco, California
South American shower heads are sometimes of very unusual design (see photos). They often have an instant heating device that is attached by exposed wiring to a switch outside the shower stall. You get the (cold) water running and then flip on the heater device, which turns the water tepid or possibly warm, and then you cross yourself and step in.
Sometimes there are additional features, such as the light bulb shown in one of the fixtures here; the bulb may be there to indicate when the heater is on. (Presumably the heater element will burn out if it is on when water if not running).
The experiment consisted of taking showers using this equipment, and seeing if electrocution would occur.
As evidenced by the writing of this report, I am still alive. In 11 of 11 trials, my one-year, five-year, and ten-year survival was 100%. This is an astounding, considering the frayed wires, cracked tile, lack of power surge protection, and erratic water pressure involved.
Ten years after the experiment, this researcher was conducting a retrospective analysis of the concept of “acceptable risk.” The perception of acceptable risk may be linked to age banding. For example, had I encountered these showers at my current age, I might have chosen to wash in the sink or to not wash.
This article is republished with permission from the May-June 2003 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!
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