Magician David Blaine performs a demonstration of his upcoming performance "Electrified" during a press briefing in New York. Photo by Reuters.
Magician David Blaine climbed atop a wobbling platform above
a high-voltage Tesla coil in a tent on a Manhattan pier today
wearing a 9kg chain-mail suit, and proceeded to shoot
purplish arcs of lightning out of his hands and the top of
The event - an unusual sort of press conference at which
journalists were asked to stop their ears with foam plugs -
was a preview of a stunt he will undertake starting on Friday
(local time), when he plans to stand on a 6m high platform
for 72 hours without food amid an artificial lightning storm
crackling between low-current, million-volt Tesla coils.
"I had wanted to do this for years," he said.
The magician's past endurance stunts include sitting in a box
suspended above the River Thames in London for 44 days with
only water, and standing unharnessed on a 30m high pillar in
New York City for 35 hours.
He described how this latest idea grew out of an image he had
of himself at the centre of a giant plasma globe. Realising
the idea would require him to exist in an airless vacuum - a
feat beyond even Blaine's prowess - he adapted the idea to
instead use Tesla coils.
"Being in the middle of a lightning storm, it feels so
amazing, being in an environment you shouldn't be in," he
Blaine's stainless steel chain-mail suit is a so-called
Faraday suit, an adaptation of the principle of the Faraday
cage in which an enclosure of highly conductive material
shields whatever is within the enclosure from an electric
It is a version of the sort of protective suit some linemen
wear when working on high-voltage power lines or hobbyists
make for themselves when playing with homemade Tesla coils.
72 Hours of Standing
Stuart Weiss, Blaine's doctor, said the main risks of the
stunt include exposure to the ozone and nitrous oxides that
are a byproduct of ionized air, which humans should not
inhale in large quantities.
A ventilation system will ensure Blaine has breathable air
and a special visor in his helmet will protect his eyes from
the ultraviolet radiation of the arcing electricity.
Because Tesla coils are noisy, he will wear noise-cancelling
earphones that will also allow him to hear and communicate
with people on the ground, including members of the public.
He will suck water through a tube, urinate through a
catheter, and has been fasting to avoid the need to defecate.
Intel Corporation is sponsoring the event to promote notebook
computers that use its processor technology.
Blaine said he hoped to inspire children to learn about
physics - for example, it is not the volts, even a million of
them, that can kill, but the amps. The electric current,
measured in amps, produced by a typical Tesla coil is low.
William Allen Zajc, chairman of the physics department at
Columbia University, applauded the magician for making
physics seem exciting. He said the stunt was basically safe,
though could prove risky if the suit deteriorated from the
"To me, the amazing thing is that he plans to stand there for
72 hours, not that there's a million volts or these
impressive lightning bolts passing through the Faraday cage
that surrounds him," Zajc said.