The UConn Daily Campus

An electrifying performance

ArcAttack mixes science and music with Tesla coils and guitars

By Deepti Boddapati

Campus Correspondent

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013

An electrifying performance

KEVIN SCHELLER/The Daily Campus

Joe DiPrima, a member of ArcAttack, wears a Faraday suit to protect himself while playing a guitar that attracts electricity to it and himself. ArcAttack combines science with music by explaining the principles behind the show before launching into the full concert.

ArcAttack, a band who played on "America's Got Talent" and electrocuted Mythbuster Adam Savage (while he was in a protective metal cage), electrified the audience in Jorgensen yesterday by playing rock music with lightning. Employing the same principles which create thunder, ArcAttack played hits like the Star Wars theme song and "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath, along with many original compositions.

The show started with a brief introduction of the science that makes their music possible. With the aid of a quirky robot, and a self-possessed Google hating super computer, ArcAttack presented everything from electrons to capacitors in an informative, entertaining way. After preparing the audience in this fashion, Arcattack started up the two giant Tesla coils they had on stage and started playing. The Tesla coils transformed the entire room into a pair of speakers and capacitors. When the electric charge built up past the capacity of the coils to contain it, it arced across trying to reach any conductive surface. The air around the coils acted like an insulator, taking energy and forcing the lightning to emit heat and light. This rapid heating caused the air to vibrate, creating sound.

Most of the time, the nearest conductive surface was the ground, but in the middle of the show it was a guitarist in chainmail. Joe DiPrima, the leader, was that brave soul. Wearing a Faraday suit and playing a specially modified guitar, he stood in-between the towering Tesla coils playing "Iron Man" while bolts of electricity repeatedly hit him. He was, of course, entirely safe; the metal suit around him guided the electricity in a safe path around him, not through him. As long as the metal around him provided lesser resistance than his body, the electricity would not hurt him.

In the last part of their show, ArcAttack redefined the meaning of shocking their audience by allowing audience members to enter a metal cage which they then electrocuted with music. The volunteers were safe in the cage, but the experience was still enough to make one's hair stand on end. The cage worked on the same principles as the previously mentioned Faraday suit, and guided the electricity around those inside. It was even safe to touch the inside of the cage, since the electricity would not prefer a human over metal. But to watch the bolts of lightning shoot towards you and feel the waves of ozone it flung towards you (the electricity split oxygen molecules and temporarily turned them into ozone) was still frightening. The power of the bolts, according to Steve Ward, was enough to hurt and burn a person, but thus guided it created music. Ward joined ArcAttack to make science fun and facinating for, and judging by the amount of curious questions after the show, it seems ArcAttack suceeded. ArcAttack can be found at www.arcattack.com and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/ArcAttack/183126608415462. 

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