Extreme Eels

by Laura Overdeck

Eels are like snakes of the ocean: they’re skinny, wiggly and have no legs. But while snakes are reptiles, eels are fish. Most exciting of all is the electric eel — which isn’t an eel at all, but a type of knifefish. Electric eels use electricity to drive away animals who might try to eat them. An electric eel can pack a 600-volt shock! The good news is, when electric eels are just swimming around, they send out a much nicer 10-volt signal. That sounds like that could power our toys…as we’ll see from the math below!

Wee ones: If you have 3 pet electric eels and 6 non-electric eels, which animal do you have more of?

Little kids: How many legs would you, your pet dog and your pet electric eel have together?  Bonus: If you have 4 pet electric eels and each one can light up 2 light bulbs, how many bulbs can they light up together?

Big kids: If every electric eel makes 4 volts of electricity, can 8 electric eels run your 44-volt ice cream maker?  Bonus: How many 4-volt electric eels in total would you actually need?

The sky’s the limit: If an eel can really shock you with 600 volts, how many  1 1/2-volt AA batteries do you need to match that? (Hint if needed: How many 3-volt batteries would you need?)

Answers:
Wee ones: More regular eels, because 6 is more than 3.

Little kids: 6 legs, since the dog has 4 and the electric eel has none.  Bonus: 8 light bulbs.

Big kids: No, because together they make only 32 volts.  Bonus: 11 electric eels.

The sky’s the limit: 400 batteries! To help solve this, if the batteries were twice as strong at 3 volts, you’d need just 200 of them. So at half the strength (1.5) you need twice as many batteries.

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