Who's asking: Me
Prince's Super Bowl halftime show is now up on YouTube, for anyone who might have missed it on Sunday night. Twelve minutes in the pouring rain, starting with "Let's Go Crazy" and ending with the glory that is "Purple Rain." That album is 23 years old, and still sounds as fresh as it did in 1984.
But the whole time I was watching, I couldn't help wondering: why aren't they getting electrocuted? As usual, I consulted an expert -- in this case, my cousin Sheila's husband, Greg Cameron, a professional sound and video engineer. Greg said that Prince and his dancers were all using wireless equipment, probably protected by plastic bags -- nothing was exposed to water. The danger would have come from electric cords on the stage, which can have small, nearly invisible cracks in their insulation.
Pure water is not that great a conductor of electricity; what makes rainwater conduct electricity so well are the particles of iron and other metals that fall with the rain. If you're standing in a puddle and have any contact with metal, an electrical current applied to the water will disperse itself through the water to make a circuit with the metal -- and if you're in the way, you become part of that circuit. Zap.