This video’s so good that I’m half tempted to try this method for myself, just to see if it actually works…

Via The Unofficial Apple Weblog. MacGyver would love this.


  1. #1 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    November 24, 2007

    Orac, I am *so* very disappointed in you.

    This is *such* an obvious joke! It’s so blatantly ridiculous if you give it even a *moment* of thought:

    What is the most obvious important property of a battery? Two poles. A battery stores electrical power in the form of a potential difference between two points. To work, the two points have to be *separated*: electricity will flow between the path of least resistance between the two points.

    In a USB cable, one of the “pins” on the connector is a ground, and one is a positive voltage. They’re separated by about 1mm inside the connector. Where’s the electricity coming from in the onion?

    Compare this to some of the common potato batteries: you put a coin into the potato, and that coin is one of the poles of the battery. You put a zinc electrode in the other side, and that’s the other pole. Then there’s a chemical process between the zinc and the potato and the copper and the potato that creates a positive charge at one end, and a negative charge at the other, and thus a potential difference which can drive current.

  2. #2 speedwell
    November 24, 2007

    The poles are the alternating layers of onion and the layers of Gatorade, nest-ce pas?

  3. #3 speedwell
    November 24, 2007

    Either that or the poles are the positive and negative poles of the USB charger plug. I’m brainstorming here. Sorry.

  4. #4 Richard Carter, FCD
    November 24, 2007

    ‘An alternate way of charging your iPod’?

    Surely the onion generates direct current!

    (Unless, of course, you meant alternative.)

  5. #5 Orac
    November 24, 2007

    Oh, come on Mark. lighten up. I said I was only “half” tempted to try this for myself.

    I just thought it was a highly amusing video with a superficial semi-plausibility to it. I highly doubted that it would work. But, hey, I’ll accept that “highly doubting” was probably too credulous by at least half and that in my speed to post this I didn’t make it clear that my purpose was entertainment here–one time when an attempt at brief a “link” and comment or “video and comment” backfired.

    Of course, the problem with this method, even if it actually worked, is that it won’t update your iPod’s firmware…

  6. #6 Monty
    November 24, 2007

    You’re right. This is just weekend fun. Also, MacGyver would jumpstart a jetliner with this as well as a paperclip and a dead bee.

  7. #7 Orac
    November 24, 2007

    But why would he need the dead bee?

  8. #8 daedalus2u
    November 24, 2007

    This is obviously and completely a joke. There is absolutely no way that this would work. There would obviously be a voltage mismatch. The USB port supplies 5 volts. There is no chemical reaction that can supply 5 volts in an electrochemical reaction (unless you use fluorine and alkali metals). To get 5 volts, one must use multiple cells in series. Getting half a volt out of a onion would be a lot. You would need to hook them up in series and as Mark points out, you need two poles and they need to be hooked up with the right polarity.

  9. #9 DLC
    November 24, 2007

    Wouldn’t work, but it might just fool the iPod into thinking it was connected to a USB port and powering-on for a few minutes off it’s own internal battery. But, really, I suspect that the creator was just gullibility testing.
    Orac: I thought you were somewhat “going along with the joke” when I noticed that the word “Chemistry” was in quotes.

  10. #10 notmercury
    November 24, 2007

    I tried it but now my iPod will only play Allicin Road by the Gin Blossoms and Glass Onion by the Beatles 🙁

  11. #11 AnnR
    November 25, 2007

    I guess we know what will be showing up at the science fair next year.

  12. #12 Adam Cuerden
    November 26, 2007

    Anyway, if an onion soaked up a cup of gatorade, shouldn’t it have ended up a lot larger than when it went in? That onion looks less than a cup in size. ~~~~

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