You would probably think one of two things about someone willing to shock themselves with an electric eel. One, this person is obviously crazy. Or two, the person is doing this for monetary gain. Well, in this instance, you’d be wrong choosing either option. Instead, one Vanderbilt University professor did this for a research paper he was writing.
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Kenneth Catania, a biologist at Vanderbilt University, wrote a paper on how the human body reacts to being shocked by an eel. You see, Catania is somewhat of an expert when it comes to eels. Catania says he was electrocuted by these snakelike creatures by accident when he was younger.
He did a previous experiment last year that proved that eels can launch their bodies out of the water to shoot a bolt of electricity into to a would-be predator or food source.
Originally, the Vanderbilt professor put a prosthetic hand and an adolescent eel in a glass container holding a small amount of water. After doing a few test runs, Catania realized he wasn’t getting the results he’d hypothesized, so he decided to use his own hand as the test subject.
“Maybe I painted myself into a corner here, because I always tell my students to collect data rather than just making theoretical measurements,” Catania told National Geographic.
It apparently took awhile to get the data he wanted. Catania stated that he would either forget to turn the camera on, or he would have something unplugged that he needed to monitor the test. According to Popular Mechanics, Catania had to repeat the test over 10 times, meaning he had to endure the pain over and over like something from the movie Groundhog Day.
In the published paper, Catania stated, “despite its small size, the juvenile eel was able to communicate 40–50 mA of current during each leap.” By doing some simple math, Catania was able to save himself the trouble of being struck by a larger, more developed eel.
Adult eels give off over 250 mA—or roughly 8.5 times the electrical power delivered by a TASER, per the paper’s summary.
Some people are willing to go above and beyond for science. It’s safe to say, Catania is one of those people.