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I saw the movie Sherlock Holmes.

In that movie, there is a scene where Holmes and Doctor fights with Dredger in Ginger Midget's place.

To attack Dredger, Holmes used a weapon which contained electric charge. When Holmes touches Dredger with that weapon, Dredger was thrown away.

Why didn't the electric charge affect Holmes? (They both are touching each other - Moreover Dredger was lying on him)

Please someone clarify how this is possible

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migrated from Sep 25 '13 at 14:47

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Um... It wasn't. Thanks for playing another game of "Name That Plot Device." Just remember when you see something in a movie that defies all sensible laws of physics to wave your hands in the air because that is exactly what the screenwriters did. You won't gain any satisfaction from this but at least you will be on the same pages as the writers, handwaving your way through the movie... – Thaddeus Howze Sep 25 '13 at 19:02
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Plot Devices.

I've made that claim before, and I'll be making it again. People seem to think they don't exist, or that they shouldn't exist in certain movies... when in point of fact, they exist in every movie. Plot devices have even invaded so-called Reality Television.

Let me make a few points on this specific scene. It begins at 45:00 in the movie when Holmes begins to pick the lock to the workshop/laboratory, and Watson kicks the door in. They enter, and Watson notices the bear trap on the floor and trips it...

enter image description here

Why is this detail important? Because we see the floorboards, emphasis on boards. IE The floor is made of Wood. Just a few moments past, their location in the building is further emphasized with Holmes walking past a skylight...

enter image description here

So we know they are on a wooden floor, at least one floor off the ground. This fact is confirmed when Dredger exists the workshop via a loading window...

enter image description here

Now, during the fight, Dredger has Holmes on his back, on a table. He has his hand around Holmes' throat. This is at 49:32 in the movie.

enter image description here

Holmes subsequently touches Dredger in the chest with the device in question.

enter image description here

At which point Dredger flies back, punching through a wall in the process.

You are asking about the logistics of this? There aren't any. You can't address an issue of grounding, because neither Dredger nor Holmes were grounded when Holmes touched Dredger with the device. No, no one can claim that since he was standing on wooden floorboards that he was grounded, because then Holmes would be grounded while on the wooden table that is on the same wooden floor that Dredger is supposedly grounded through. If wood will ground for ONE character, it would have to ground for BOTH characters... if we are applying any logic here.

You also bring up an excellent point, and you make it VERY clear in the Youtube video in the comments... that the electricity SHOULD have been conveyed to Holmes as well, since he was clearly being held by the throat when he shocked Dredger. And... people conduct electricity quite well.

I'm not going to even touch the later scene with the device and the pipe.

So, why wasn't Holmes shocked when he first touched Dredger with the device? The screenwriters didn't want him to be shocked. Why did that device work like some kind of antique Tazer? Because the screenwriters wanted it to. Where is the logic that should clearly be present in a Sherlock Holmes movie? It isn't there, because these are plot devices intended to raise the emotional response of the audience. You are expected to watch and enjoy, and not apply the whole that would never happen attitude. Mind you, I'm not saying that this scene had any right to expect such responses, for when you have holes big enough to drive dump trucks full of gold bars through, suspension of disbelief goes out the 31st floor window. However... it's a Robert Downy Jr. movie, and it's a Sherlock Holmes action flick. I'm not sure we have a right to expect anything more than we got.

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You're talking about this scene at about 1:55

The "weapon" appears to be a charge-carrying part of some sort of electrostatic generator built by Reardon, but actually intended to be moved around. Presumably, the handle is insulated (e.g. made of wood) in order to protect the person conducting the experiment.

Update: As for why Holmes was not affected even though Dredger was touching him - the charge would flow from the device to the ground. Dredger was standing on the ground, so it would flow through him. Holmes was not - he was lying on a wooden table.

But to be honest, the scene is overall not very realistic. The effect shown (Dredger being thrown across the room) is total bollocks. It's also unrealistic for the device as shown (basically a massive metal fork) to carry enough charge to be in any way dangerous.

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@arunborn2win41 I'm not sure there's an answer other than "It's a movie and they don't generally constrain themselves to how things actually work." – Anthony Grist Sep 25 '13 at 10:17
@arunborn2win41: no, it confirms pretty much exactly what I said, though it's not quite the same thing since it's not based on static charges. But the poin is the same: electricity flows towards the ground. In the video, the first 4 people were insulated, the 5th wasn't. But since they formed a chain, electricity had to flow through all of them to reach the ground. If someone else had stood on a chair and touched the first guy without touching anyone else, he would not have felt anything. – Michael Borgwardt Sep 25 '13 at 10:58
@arunborn2win41: no, it is you who still doesn't get my point. The electricity flows from the device that holds the charge to the ground. The device touches Dredger's chest. The direct path from his chest to the ground goes through his feet. Holmes is not part of it and so he is not affected. In your video, all 5 people are part of the path between the fence and the ground. – Michael Borgwardt Sep 25 '13 at 12:15
The device has two tines, which suggests a voltage between them; no grounding needed. Dredger gets most of it through his chest, Holmes gets a little tingle. That just leaves 1) the silly flying around, 2) generation of a huge amount of energy with half a dozen turns of a hand crank, 3) sending a current through the plumbing to Dredger, when it should have gone from one tine to the other, and 4) a current surge that takes almost a second to travel ten feet, 5) makes blue sparks at every fitting, and 6) arcs from a perfect ground to Dredger. Yeah, this is Hollywood electricity. – Beta Sep 25 '13 at 14:16
@Beta: the tines appear to be part of the same piece of metal, so there cannot be a potential difference between them. But yeah, Hoolywood electricity, no point in analyzing it too deeply. – Michael Borgwardt Sep 25 '13 at 14:36

It's all a moot point. The electricity in the fork was static electricity, low amperage, so it would have caused a sting, but not the violent reaction seen.

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