When I was last working on the highway, I stopped to help a motorist parked under high tension power lines. I'm driving a large Ford Transit van, fairly box shaped. My van was parked 90 degrees (perpendicular) to the direction of the power lines and 100' below them. After I had concluded with the motorist, I returned to my vehicle and touched the metal of my van, and was greeted with a couple light shocks from the metal. I decided to probe this phenomenon some more, put my entire hand flat on my van, with no shock, but moving my hand across the metal results in a very strong "vibrating" feeling.

I've also experienced this with smaller electronics at times, including the original metal backed iPod and some laptops.

I understand that the cause of the phenomenon is induction to myself and the vehicle, both positioned 100 feet below the power lines, but what I don't understand is the actual interaction between my hand and the metal, and why it feels like a vibrating feeling. Intuitively, I understand the electricity is transmitted as AC with a cycle of 50 or 60 Hz depending on locale, and the vibrating feeling matches that cycle, but physics-wise, why does my hand feel like it is vibrating when I run it across this surface?

-- Note: I'm not looking for answers about the cause of the induction. I'm looking for answers regarding why the skin responds the way it does to this.

  • $\begingroup$ Touching the mains in one's home gives the same feeling. I've got a good experience on that. $\endgroup$ – Wrichik Basu Feb 10 '18 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ Have a look at this similar question. $\endgroup$ – Wrichik Basu Feb 10 '18 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ Wrichik, I looked at the similar question, but there were only people making conjectures that the cause might be mechanoreceptive nerve endings interacting with the electric field directly, but there's no direct, scientifically backed, answer on that article to answer the question fully about why the skin picks up this feeling the way it does. $\endgroup$ – Angela M. Feb 11 '18 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, I also searched quite a bit, but without success. $\endgroup$ – Wrichik Basu Feb 11 '18 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ Why does this have a close vote? It is only unclear if you have never felt this sensation. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Feb 16 '18 at 7:56

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