When Thomas Edison wasn’t running around stealing inventions that weren’t his own, he was publicly electrocuting defenseless animals. He was trying to make Nikola Tesla’s Alternating Current (AC) look somehow more dangerous than his own Direct Current (DC). He would normally electrocute stray dogs and cats, but one time he got to fry an elephant.
Boing Boing has a link to a YouTube video of Edison’s elephant electrocution. I’m not into animal cruelty so I’m not posting a link to the video.
Not only was Thomas Edison a major asshole, he was wrong. AC voltage is no more dangerous than DC. It’s the current that is deadly. High voltage normally means high current. It doesn’t matter what version of voltage it is.
The worst I’ve ever been shocked was not with AC, but good old DC. I once accidentally brushed up against high-current 28 volts and it felt like I was hit with a baseball bat. I’ve done the same with AC voltage as high as 460 volts and it didn’t hurt nearly as bad. Current kills, not voltage.
I think most people associate DC voltage as being safer than AC voltage because most of the DC they are familiar with is the low voltage, low current variety. For instance, the voltage found on a computer’s USB bus. It’s normally at around 5 volts with around 500 mA in current. Wall socket AC voltage, on the other hand, is around 120 volts with around 10 to 20 amps on each circuit.