# What would happen to a human if he steps inside a zone that strips electrons?

PREMISE

The zone will make all electrons disappear.

QUESTIONS

If a person walks in that zone with his whole body, would he die from heart failure?

What happens if he just sticks his hand in? Hand become numb?

What would happen if the electrons disappear at a fast rate (not instantaneous)?

If electrons from the surroundings (outside of the zone) start to fill in and create a flow, would the person get electrocuted?

• Electrons have spin, charge, mass, momentum, angular momentum, and energy. They also obey the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the Pauli Exclusion Principle. Does this "zone" obey the conservation laws for these properties? – Jasper Feb 21 '15 at 5:13
• @Jasper I would guess not. I was thinking it would be like getting paired up with positrons except there will be no photons emitted? – Cygnus Feb 21 '15 at 8:18
• lol you seem to think electrons just handle electricity and nothing else :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 22 '15 at 16:15
• I have read enough XKCD what ifs to feel that this will not end well... – RemcoGerlich Feb 22 '15 at 21:04
• I think he would get superpowers. – KSmarts Feb 23 '15 at 22:07

They would die by violent "nuclear" explosion - that is, explosion into individual nuclei. Electrons are what hold molecules together. If they were to disappear, there would be nothing to prevent the positive charges in the nuclei of the atoms in the person's body from repelling each other and flying off in all directions.

• +1: It would be exactly as catastrophic as Adam says. You would not even get so lucky as to worry about heart failure or numbness. – Cort Ammon Feb 21 '15 at 6:07
• Nice answer, +1. I'd suggest changing "nuclear" to something else, because it seemed at first (to me) to imply that the nuclei of the atoms were falling apart, similar to a nuclear fission chain reaction. – HDE 226868 Feb 21 '15 at 14:56
• Clarify the nuclear, it is misleading but actually correct. Nuclear because the person disintegrates into individual nuclei. Explosion because all the chemical binding energies are released instantly and the volume needed increases the charged plasma would be orders of magnitude larger. It would have to be more energetic than any practical chemical explosion can be. And that is just the primary explosion, there would be a secondary explosion as well... – Ville Niemi Feb 21 '15 at 16:21
• It's difficult to overemphasise how catastrophic the explosion would be. The potential energy associated with a collection of excess charges with mutual separation r is $U=\frac{kQ^2}{2r} \mathrm{Joules}$, where $k=9\times10^9$, Q is in Coulombs and r is in metres. 2g of matter will have approximately 100,000 Coulombs of electrons and a corresponding positive charge. A 70kg (so $3.5\times10^9$ Coulombs) person within 2m would have a potential energy of $2.8\times10^{28} \mathrm{Joules}$. This is equivalent to 70 billion gigatons of TNT... – frodoskywalker Feb 22 '15 at 0:09
• Or to put it another way, the explosion might not involve the transformation of atomic nuclei, but it would be every bit as violent as if it did. – Mark Feb 22 '15 at 5:56

If it is at a certain rate, and not instantaneous, what you basically have is Oxidation.

A very good oxidising agent strips electrons from nearby atoms, and takes it for itself. For example fluorine gas, when exposed to water will "burn" the water due to the oxidation of Oxygen.

Basically, there is a lot of energy stored due to the attraction between the nuclei and the electrons. Stripping them away, releases that energy, sometimes very explosively.

So the "constant rate" part does not really change that much from AdamHovorka 's answer.

• +1: The important distinction here is exactly how fast is that "constant rate"? The speed of oxidation is the principle factor that determines how we classify and understand it: Very fast oxidation is called "exploding". moderate rates are called "burning", slow oxidation is called "smouldering", and very slow rates are called "rusting" or "corroding". – RBarryYoung Feb 21 '15 at 18:24
• I think not oxidation, depending on the surrounding chemicals &c. Isn't this exactly what happens when you stroke a cat, or walk across a carpeted floor on a dry day? Electrons are being stripped from (or perhaps added to) your body, which builds up an electric charge. Then you touch a grounded object, and a spark is released. Of course the removal of each electron increases the body's positive charge, making the removal of the next electron a bit more difficult, so you never build up really high charges. – jamesqf Feb 21 '15 at 19:11
• @jamesqf the difference is that in this scenario, the really high charges would have already built up in the environment, so as soon as you touch anything in this zone, there would be a huge potential difference (think lightning), as opposed to the small shock you get from walking across a carpet on a dry day. – user2813274 Feb 21 '15 at 20:15
• @user2813274: Yes, of course the intensity of what happens depends on the rate. Relatively few electrons move, you get a small shock; more, you get a lightning bolt; all of them, the super-nuclear explosion described in a previous answer. But I think you wouldn't get chemical reactions as the primary effect, you'd get a spark/lightning bolt which, if large enough, turns you into plasma. – jamesqf Feb 22 '15 at 4:41

You need electrons to turn atoms into molecules. No electrons = no molecules = you're gone. You'll have fully ionized nucleii floating around--in other words a plasma. Nothing but plasma can exist in such a zone.

As others have said, the effect will be quite violent but you would have ceased to exist before the violence did anything to you.

In this scenario I handwave the initial explosion. Other answers have covered that, and I find the story would not be as interesting if you turn on the field and the Earth explodes, killing everyone. The end. Here is what happens without the explosion:

There will be huge amounts of lightning as nearby electrons shoot into the field. This will create an area of glowing hot plasma surrounding the field. You can forget about even getting into the field, the lightning will give you a fatal shock to your heart before you can even get to it. That is, if you somehow survive the intense heat and the thunderclap.

After checking whether plasma is conductive, I realized that the lightning will keep expanding. The electrons will have an easy path through the plasma to the field, so the storm will engulf the entire planet and steal all of the electrons. Then, I am tempted to guess that the effect will stretch to the solar wind, and there will suddenly be lightning shooting from the Sun to the Earth like giant Tesla Coils. However that part is purely speculative, I don't know if it would extend to the Sun, the solar wind might not be dense enough.

The lack of electrons would prevent vital chemical reactions from occurring, thus, the body ceases to work properly