Not the first failed attempt ever, just my first failed attempt at age 8. I had just seen an electromagnet on TV (on some science show the name of which escapes me) and it looked way better than the fridge magnets I was using to extract iron filings from the sandbox. So I went to Dad's workshop and found half an extension cord with male plug intact. To one of the bare wires on the other end I twisted some copper wire. That wire went around a big iron bolt and then was twisted to the other bare wire at the end of the extension cord.

Because I was a reasonably cautious kid, I took the resulting contraption out the basement door into the back yard, so I could immediately get busy with some serious iron filings recovery. Then I went back into the basement and plugged it in. Sparks shot everywhere. The copper wire vapourized in a shower of glowing shrapnel. The breaker switch popped the circuit for the outlet I'd plugged into and part of the basement went black.

Now this should have been the end of the story, but I did try again, thinking that maybe the problem was "grounding", something else I'd heard about. So I wrapped some more wire around the bolt and also stuck some in the ground. Same result. I hid the wreckage, reset the breaker, went back to watching TV, and crushed a nascent career in electrical engineering in less time than it takes to eat a bowl of Shreddies.

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