We’ve seen them in the movies: force fields in which nothing can pass through.
They can stop bullets, missiles, or even nukes at the theaters, but for all we know it’s just a matter of fiction. However, such fictitious-seeming technologies can accidentally be stumbled upon–so was the case when a 3M plant created a force field by accident.
The force was so strong that a worker was trapped
Back in 1980, some employees at the South Carolina 3M plant were inspecting the large, 20ft-wide Polypropylene spools. This plastic film was being slitten, cut, and transferred to other spools in order to create products for their signature stationery materials.
Everything seemed normal that day, but the ever-present danger of the static cling produced by the rollers proved to make it the workers’ unlucky day. The level of static on that day was so powerful that it could be measured in megavolts–an intensity of power nobody would want to be near.
So on that summer day, something different occurred at that processing plant. The static field created an invisible wall similar to the ones we see in the movies. It was so powerful that it froze nearby workers in their place.
Another employee in the plant, David Swenson, heard about the phenomenon and decided to further investigate with his handheld electrometer. Upon entering the room, the needle immediately went all the way to the end. As he walked closer to the machinery, his steps began to slow down, and he began to struggle moving forward.
It came to the point that he was not able to move at all. To prove his point, he even noticed a fly that got stuck in the “force field.” Thankfully, he was able to remove himself from the force field by walking backward.
The employees who were able to create the force field debated whether they should fix the issue or sell tickets ultimately decided that it was too much of a safety issue, and contacted engineers to fix the issue. It has never happened since, and we can only wish that they had decided to sell tickets.