Can you power an iPod with an onion?

Hover Shoes and iPod Tasers: Spreading Disinformation

Plugging your iPod's USB connector directly into the side of an onion isn't going to give you much juice.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Are the filmmakers at Household Hacker horrible at science, or do they just want everyone's iPods to smell like onions? If you're wondering why someone would go to the trouble of making such a misleading video, you have to realize that their videos are examples of disinformation.

­Disinformation isn't just false information; it's intentionally incorrect data that's purposely spread to influence public opinion. This takes many forms, such as disinformation fed by a government to its citizens. Other forms, however, fall more into the rea­lms of satire, culture jamming and reality hacking. While such efforts are generally humorous, the added result is always the same: to urge the public to question accepted facts about the world by feeding them a believable lie.


The Household Hacker Web site hosts multiple videos in which an unseen, reassuring narrator guides the viewer through seemingly plausible do-it-yourself experiments. Videos claim to instruct viewers on how to bake a turkey with only a light bulb and some DVDs, how to turn an iPod into a Taser and even how to construct "hover shoes" by gluing magnets onto a pair of sneakers. Despite the ludicrous nature of these claims, many readers buy into the ideas -- either applauding the hackers for finding such cheap and entertaining shortcuts or actually attempting to carry out the experiments themselves.

If you read the user comments on the YouTube pages, you'll find numerous complaints from viewers who tried the experiments and failed to get the desired results. Various bloggers, columnists and debunkers have also failed to fly on hover shoes and power iPods on Gatorade-soaked produce.

If you actually read the Household Hacker YouTube channel, you'll find the people behind it are open about their dealings in disinformation. Their profile states, "Whether for fun or practicality; we want you to think about everything you read, hear and even see with your own eyes. You must challenge, test and innovate in every way you can think of."

The message is simple: Don't believe something just because it happens to pop up on the Internet. Don't buy into a concept just because it's presented to you as fact. Instead, test theories yourself and question the world around you. More than 6 million people viewed the video on charging iPods with onions and Gatorade. Millions may have been completely duped, but many more were forced to explore their claims and discover how batteries actually work.

So if you find yourself wandering a forsaken Earth, scavenging up old iPods for your listening pleasure, be sure to gather lots of produce, pennies and nails as well. And don't waste too much time building hover shoes.

Explore the links below to learn more about iPods and batteries.

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More Great Links


  • "Battery (electronics)." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. (July 22, 2008)
  • Brain, Marshall and Charles W. Bryant. "How Batteries Work." April 1, 2000. (July 22, 2008)
  • Emery, David. "Charge Your iPod with Gatorade and an Onion?" David Emery's Urban Legends Blog. Nov. 27, 2007. (July 22, 2008)
  • Ferguson, Jill. "How Electrolytes Work." April 15, 2008. (July 22, 2008)
  • "How to Charge an iPod using electrolytes and an onion." Household Hacker YouTube channel. Nov. 10, 2007. (July 22, 2008)
  • Hutsko, Joe. "How to power an iPod with an onion (not really)." Machinist. Nov. 21, 2007. (July 22, 2008)
  • "Lemon-Powered iPod." The Naked Scientists Kitchen Science Experiments. 2008. (July 22, 2008)
  • Mina, Mani. "Potato Battery." Iowa State University of Science and Technology. (July 22, 2008)
  • Sander, Craig. "Veggie Power! Making Batteries from Fruits and Vegetables." Science Buddies. May 1, 2007. (July 22, 2008)
  • Yaeger, Thomas O. Jr. "Electrolyte Madness." California State Science Fair. April 2, 2008. (July 22, 2008)