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Amasci.com reported in 1996:

David Swenson of 3M Corporation describes an anomaly where workers encountered a strange "invisible wall" in the area under a fast-moving sheet of electrically charged polypropelene film in a factory. This "invisible wall" was strong enough to prevent humans from passing through. A person near this "wall" was unable to turn, and so had to walk backwards to retreat from it.

It was also reported by Wired in 2018.

I can find no videos or Mythbusters - in fact no primary sources.

Did this happen?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 1:42

1 Answer 1

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A primary source for this is Wide Polypropylene Web Static Charge - A Phenomenon Worthy of “Star Trek” ANTEC '97 Conference Proceedings, CRC Press, pages 1310-1313.

A web of polypropylene plastic, 21 feet wide, produced for pressure sensitive tape backing in a 3M plant, exhibited a unique electrostatic phenomenon. The large jumbo roll of film was slit to form conventional jumbos 48" to 52" inches wide. As the film was unwound on the slitter, the web formed a "tent" of plastic 21 feet wide and 20 feet high. Within the tent area, a large electrostatic field was produced which formed a physical barrier, not unlike a "force-field". Personnel could not walk under the "tent" of plastic, at certain times of the day, more than half-way without experiencing a physical barrier.

This is the drawing on page 1313 depicting the situation:

20 foot by 21 foot enclosure with one side being the tape splitter and the other next to it being a 12 foot opening

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    Alas, the book can't be reached by the link as the session-cookie/other has run-out. Any chance of adding a quote or two to clarify? Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 22:32
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    To me this still is an urban legend as no proof has been given. Even those that spread the story as firsthand state there is no proof to give. From a physics perspective it would seem any field strong enough to repel a human would potentially arch as a human walks through it. Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 12:30
  • @JarrodChristman The article says that because of the insulating nature of the floor and and footwear, no discharges occurred. Also says field was "300kV to 500kV" (per foot I suppose).
    – DavePhD
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 13:11
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    @JarrodChristman: I agree that this still could be some (unfunny) parody, exaggeration or misunderstanding by a relevant, reasonably-widely-published expert. I wouldn't characterise it as an "urban legend" though; we have a published first-person account as a case-study in a journal, not just "it happened to a coworker of a friend" third-hand account.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 0:36
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    not walk [...] without experiencing a physical barrier is very different from had to walk backwards. When I'd walk through cobwebs, of course I "experience a physical barrier", but I can walk through it :-D
    – Haukinger
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 7:19

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