Friday, July 08, 2011
Electricity, forums, and internet misinformation
The thing that started me down this line of thinking has to do with using in Europe a simple multi-outlet power strip with plugs for our USA 110 outlets.
Most electronics these days, like phone and laptop chargers are built for 110-240V~50/60HZ operation. That means that aside from the plug being different, the device is just as happy being plugged into a European outlet as being plugged into an American one. You can use the right plug adapter and it will work just fine, no transformers or other converters necessary.
I want to know if its okay to take along an American power strip, plug it in using the adapter, and then plug the devices into the power strip.
As I surf around the internet looking for answers I find more "junk" answers than reliable ones. On one forum the question is asked and a thoughtful reply from someone with a degree in electrical engineering is given. Just use a cheap power strip without lights or surge protectors (in other words, with no electronics of its own) and it will work just great.
In that very same thread people give dire predictions of smoke and destroyed equipment. They say the wiring isn't sufficient for 220 and the EE replies that, actually, higher voltage means lower current - the wiring will do just fine. They ignore him, as though he never posted, and conclude, "Well, I'd never take that chance."
On another forum a person links to pictures of how he's done it for years. No power strip, just one of those little multi-outlet blocks with a plug adapter. That way he plugs in three chargers at once, using just one outlet and plug adapter. Again, others warn against it - ignoring the fact that he works for the State Department and has done it for years in multiple countries without a problem.
Some cautious soul says, "don't do it - you might accidentally plug something in that's only 110/60Hz." Of all the things to worry about - including being run over because you stepped into traffic that drives on the "wrong" side of the road - they're worried about that!
Okay, enough of that - what all this brings to mind is how easy it is to give and receive misinformation on an Internet forum. If we were around some people for 10 minutes we'd realize that they might be well meaning, but we'd never take their advice about some things. If we were around others that same 10 minutes we'd know that they know what they're talking about, especially on certain topics.
On one hand, then, we need to be careful who we allow to influence our thinking, especially when we've never even met them in person. On the other hand, as "opinion-givers" we need to be careful we don't state with certainty things that we actually know little about.
As someone in good humor and fine sarcasm said: "It has to be true, I read it on the Internet."