This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.

About that iPhone Electrocution Story

Posted by: James Lileks under Technology Updated: July 15, 2013 - 12:13 PM

Woman electrocuted by iPhone!!! That’ll bring in the clicks. But let’s see how this story surfaced, and what’s really going on. Verge headline:

Apple investigating death of woman allegedly electrocuted by her iPhone 5

The post:

Last week, a 23-year-old Chinese woman died after allegedly being electrocuted by her iPhone 5, and now Apple has confirmed that it is investigating the role its products may have played in her death. According to Reuters, Ma Ailun from China's Xinjiang region was electrocuted when she answered her iPhone 5 while it was charging.

According to Reuters, eh? Well, let’s follow the link.

Apple Inc is investigating an accident in which a Chinese woman was killed by an electric shock when answering a call on her iPhone 5 while it was charging, the U.S. technology company said on Monday.

Last Thursday, Ma Ailun, a 23-year-old woman from China's western Xinjiang region and a flight attendant with China Southern Airlines, was electrocuted when she took a call on the charging mobile telephone, the official Xinhua news agency quoted police as saying on Sunday.

So the Verge story refers to the Reuters story which refers to the Xinhua story, which says:

The relatives of a 23-year-old woman from northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have claimed that the woman died after being electrocuted while using her iPhone.

The older sister of victim Ma Ailun said Saturday on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, that Ma was electrocuted while trying to answer a call on her iPhone while the device was charging.

So this is based on a Tweet? Well, the article does say the police were involved, and had confirmed she died of electrocution. But what does that mean? Poke around, and you’ll find the Wall Street Journal’s China News page:

An officer with the local Public Security Bureau said Monday that an “elementary inspection” showed the woman, named Ma Ailun, was electrocuted.

 “Her neck had an obvious electronic injury,” he told China Real Time.

Oh okay then. Also, the Xinhua story says:

Ma, a resident of Xinjiang's city of Changji, was previously employed as a flight attendant at China Southern Airlines, although she recently quit her job.

So the Reuters story which says she was a flight attendant got that detail wrong. Now let’s see how the story’s played elsewhere. Foxnews.com:

Apple investigating iPhone 5 user death by electrocution

ZDnet goes for the gusto:

Stewardess electrocuted while on iPhone 5

MSN frets:

Do we all need to be terrified of our smartphones now? People in China are approaching their phones with fear after relatives of 23-year-old flight attendant Ma Ailun said she died after being electrocuted when she tried to answer her iPhone 5 while it was charging.

Got that? People in China. Which ones? You know, the ones who are approaching their phones with fear.

But only if they have an iPhone 5, because that’s what the relative said, right? I know that if a loved one was killed by an electronic device, I would announce the fact via twitter and make sure to include the model number. Or did she? Wall Street Journal again:

Official media quoted extensively from the microblog feed of a woman who they said was the sister of the victim, though her identity couldn’t be confirmed by China Real Time. She said that her sister had purchased the phone in December. She didn’t indicate whether the phone was Apple’s newest iPhone or an earlier model, and thus far local media reports have had conflicting reports about which model the iPhone might be.

So it might not be a 5.

Say, let’s go to that link for the microblog feed linked in the article, shall we? Here’s the penultimate post, run through Google Translate:

【Changji China Southern Airlines flight attendants Ma Ailun electrocution death] at 0:20 on the 12th, the husband Tao Ma Ailun found dead at home when the phone is being charged iPhone4 posted on Ma Ailun neck right around the skin is charred, right hand and left foot burns. 12, Changji invite experts on the incident the police house circuit to detect, confirm and iPhone4 charger circuit is normal, the Department finds Ma Ailun died of electric shock.

So it’s a 4. Also, it doesn’t appear to be the sister’s microblog at all.

Other than that, yes, by all means, run with that ELECTROCUTION BY iPHONE 5 story.

The Verge story has interesting comments; because the site has a nerdy-techy readership, everyone starts arguing about amps vs. volts.

 

THIS IS THE THEORY THAT IS MINE Perhaps you saw this story: All of the Pixar movies take place on the same earth. They’re all connected. It’s the type of article where this sentence makes sense:

It’s possible that the monsters are simply the personified animals mutated after the diseased earth was radiated for 800 years.

Also, the Easter Eggs scattered through Pixar movies were left by Boo as she traveled in time looking for Sully. Eventually, she became . . . Well, no, I won’t spoil it. 

I would feel guilty about linking something that was running around the web last week, but unlike most of those pieces I have a response from Pixar. I tweeted Lee Unkrich, who of course is the director of “Toy Story 3,” to ask if it’s true. He tweeted back:

 

 

 

It’s a number so important it has its own wikipedia entry.

Then again, so does 43.

As well as 202.

I don’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon typing numbers into Wikipedia to see if there’s an entry. I do want to spend the rest of the afternoon reading them, though; they’re interesting. Here’s a fact gleaned from the page about 62:

62 is the code for international direct dial calls to Indonesia.

Sigmund Freud had an irrational fear of the number 62.

As opposed to a rational fear, which is entirely different. Some people are fearful of 62 for solid, empirically-derived reasons.

 

VIDEO Today’s series of Russian explosions: for some reason, a truck full of propane tanks caught on fire, with the utterly expected results you’ll find in a country with a lax notion of “safety.”

 

 

 

At the beginning, some punctured gas tanks start chasing the onlookers, who demonstrate the fine art of Getting Away. The second video has even more:

 

 

 

At 3:24 you can see a cylinder actually take flight on the right and hiss its way into low orbit, perhaps.

If you google “Russian Propane Explosion” you see it’s not particularly uncommon. We’ll leave you with this short one, when everything goes up at once.

 

 

 

Authorities are looking into accusations that an iPhone was involved.

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