May 25, 2017

"The pain was... I can’t explain the pain except to say if you’ve ever put your finger in a light socket as a kid, multiply that feeling by a gazillion throughout your entire body."

“And I saw a white light surrounding my body—it was like I was in a bubble. Everything was slow motion. I felt like I was in a bubble for ever."

From "What It's Like to Be Struck by Lightning/There’s a good chance you’ll survive. But the effects can be lasting."

65 comments:

MisterBuddwing said...

As a kid, I got the idea that if you're in imminent danger of being struck by lightning, that you should flatten yourself against the ground. But later I heard that lying flat is one of the worst things you can do, because if lightning hits the ground, you can get fried pretty good. The new advice (as mentioned in this article) is to hunch down into a ball-like shape with only your feet touching the ground.

And whatever became of that advice that, in an electrical storm, the inside of a car is a safe place to be, since it's not grounded (because of the tires)? Do they not preach that bit of wisdom anymore?

traditionalguy said...

He can do a remake of Mel Gibson's "What Do Women Want." I bet that movie is a secret favorite of the Professor.

Let their be lightening bolts.

Ann Althouse said...

"I bet that movie is a secret favorite of the Professor."

Never saw it.

David said...

Death is also a lasting effect.

Etienne said...

My dad used to say, when we were kids, that you were safe inside the car because of the rubber tires.

I have read many stories though, where cars have been struck by lightning.

Owen said...

I thought being inside a car was better because it would tend to act as a Faraday Cage and let the charge travel "over" you rather than through you. But lightning is weird. I once heard of a woman standing on a beach by a mountain lake; lightning struck the *far side of the lake* and traveled across the surface, through the wet beach sand, and through her. Killed her.

Luke Lea said...

When I fell off a cliff and broke my neck the pain was like an electric current running through my spine. Subjectively it had the volume of the Mississippi River and was going ten thousand miles an hour! I felt like a thread in a wind tunnel. I was slack-jaw awed by the magnitude of it, so beyond anything I could imagine. lt was a little bit like looking into the cosmos on a starry night.

Michael K said...

Lee Trevino recommended holding a 1 iron up in the air during lightning storm.

He said, "Not even God can hit a 1 iron."

Never tried it.

urbane legend said...

Owen said...
I thought being inside a car was better because it would tend to act as a Faraday Cage and let the charge travel "over" you rather than through you.

The Faraday Cage effect is why a car is safe in a lightning strike. Stay in the car.

Owen said...

Urbane: I am less confident about the Faraday Cafe effect in a ragtop. Modern segmented convertible tops are probably equivalent to a hardtop.

traditionalguy said...

What Do Women Want is a well acted comedy about a sneaky arrogant ad agency guy who gets a new talent, via lightening strike, to hear what women are thinking. He first uses it to use women like he always did, but then he falls in love with Helen Hunt's mind and romantic things happen...very much a chick flick but well done, especially the ones with his relationship with a teen daughter.

Oh...never mind.

MisterBuddwing said...

When I fell off a cliff and broke my neck

::Shudder:: I hope you recovered.

Browndog said...

Not sure what it's like to be struck by lightening, or being electrocuted, but I do know what it's like to have your body's electrical system short circuit.

Twice. Once a heat stroke, once pneumonia.

Excruciating pain. The eyes see things that don't exist. The body feels things that don't exist. Time and space, a puzzle. Once out of the woods, it takes months to get your bearings. Flashes are constant.

YoungHegelian said...

In an email, Tushemereirwe described how the lightning protection that some schools do install can create a false sense of security. A rod may be installed on the roofline of one school building. But it’s not grounded.

There is absolutely no excuse for that sort of stupidity & incompetence. How difficult is it to stake a wire from the pole to the ground, for God's sake?

rhhardin said...

There's the European school and the American school on lightning rods.

The European theory is that a lightning rod bleeds off charge slowly so that lightning doesn't strike at all. The natives are up on their roofs sharpening the point on the lightning rod to keep it effective.

The American school wants the lightning rod hit and relies attracting and conducting to ground.

The contrast can be shown (at least in the winter when it's dry) by scuffing your feet on the carpet and touching a metal object with a key or coin (American effect - big spark), or with the point of a pin (tiny hiss, European effect).

rhhardin said...

Inside of a car is good. You can't get a spark inside unless there's a big voltage difference inside the car, and conduction through the frame keeps the voltage differences between roof and floor low. (explanation of the faraday cage)

rhhardin said...

If you have a high impedance AC voltmeter (which most are these days of digital meters), set it on low voltage AC and stick the probes into the dirt an armlength apart. You'll notice about a half volt, which is just stray voltage from all the AC lines around.

If lightning strikes the ground, that difference rises to millions of volts, so standing in more than one spot on the ground is not a good idea.

rhhardin said...

The voltage differences in the ground is why if you ground a system, it should all be grounded to exactly one place, not two.

Otherwise you bring voltage differences into the system.

Ann Althouse said...

"When I fell off a cliff and broke my neck..."

Terrifying. Hope you're ok.

rhhardin said...

What Do Women Want was okay, but more allegorical than accurate. As if women thought like men but just with women's interests instead of men's.

Fen said...

I remember in college I used to bravely walk across campus in t-storms to show how manly I was. What an idiot. Those rustling noises must have been Gaurdian Angels resigning in frustration.

Birkel said...

And not one mention of superpowers?
Marvel has not fully penetrated the Nerd-O-Sphere.

rhhardin said...

It's an open question, in a lightning storm, if you're riding your bike home, whether you should ride on the side of the road near the power lines, or the side of the road without the power lines.

If the line inductance is low, the powerline side would be best; if it's not (so a huge voltage drop can happen within the line when it's hit) then the other side would be best.

The power lines are either a shield or an attractor.

John said...

I got zapped real good when I was looking inside a control cabinet and bumped my head into an exposed 110volt cable. Luckily I was not grounded very well.

It took a week or so before I felt right again. It was not physical. I just felt really goofy all the time. As if I had drunk too much Nyquil.

John Henry

Michael K said...

"When I fell off a cliff and broke my neck..."

\When I was working in an ER during my residency, a guy came in who had driven his car off a cliff in Malibu. He climbed up the cliff and walked to the Malibu sheriff's station. They told him they could not help him. Somehow he got to our ER in Burbank (St Joseph's)

Complained of neck pain. I took x-rays of his neck. He had a C-2 fracture.

Amazing. No paralysis.

rhhardin said...

Curiously, though I worked with hundreds of volts as a kid, I never got zapped.

I think the 807 (or 1625) tube worked at 600v.

But I knew about large filter capacitors and had a hefty grounding stick.

Richard said...

Here is an article that explains how a cloud to ground lightning strike works.

https://www.ec.gc.ca/foudre-lightning/default.asp?lang=En&n=9353715C-1

Basically you have a channel of negative changes from the cloud called a stepped leader and at the same time currents of positive charges moving upward from the ground called streamers or upward leaders. The two streams meet approximately 30-100 meters above the ground. At this point a negative current begins to flow to the ground which completes the circuit. This is followed by a return stroke from the ground to the sky which is the main flow of current. If you are in an automobile, the insulation of the tires will prevent the car from being a source of the upward leader.

rhhardin said...

the insulation of the tires will prevent the car from being a source of the upward leader

There's no insulation in the tires when they're wet, and it wouldn't matter anyway. Another eight inches is nothing.

If you get hit by lightning, you may not notice. There's no thunder, which is a broadside effect, not an end-on effect. Just sort of a pfft.

I've been hit in a DC8 and a DC9, and the house has been hit, blowing off some shingles across the yard, but no particular noise in any case.

Trhunder rolls, incidentally, because the noise comes from all parts of the lighting bolt, and some of it is much further away than the closest part. The bang takes a spread of time to reach you.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

How can anyone be stupid enough to still get hit by lightning these days? Except, of course, by being a climate denier.

320Busdriver said...

I was maybe 100 yds away from a gentleman who suffered a direct hit as he watched his child play in the surf on Daytona Beach. Initially I thought a car had exploded. It was still morning with bright sun and blue skies. The scattered airmass thunderstorms were just beginning to form some 20 miles inland, but there was not a hint of danger where we were. It took a few minutes to determine what had happened. The result was final.

St. George said...

When Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod, many of his potential customers refused to buy one for their homes...because, of course, they though it was God's will that lightning strike their homes, destroying them.

rhhardin said...

Thunder has an irregular loudness when it's rolling, too, because temperature differences in pieces of air bend the sound rays; for some paths they're focused on you and for other paths they're defocused, depending on where in the bolt the sound comes from.

320Busdriver said...

The times I have been hit flying an aircraft there has been a loud crack of thunder.
The trick is finding the tiny pinhole(s) created in the trailing edge of the airframe where the charge exits. That is usually the only ill effect.

Richard said...

There's no insulation in the tires when they're wet, and it wouldn't matter anyway. Another eight inches is nothing.

The point is that there will be much better sources than the car for the upward leader such as a tree or a building. Thus the lightning strike will preferentially be between those objects and the cloud.

rhhardin said...

The times I have been hit flying an aircraft there has been a loud crack of thunder.

Just the sound of what I imagined were breakers blowing, is all I ever noticed.

They always did a walk-around to see what was missing after landing.

rhhardin said...

The point is that there will be much better sources than the car for the upward leader such as a tree or a building. Thus the lightning strike will preferentially be between those objects and the cloud.

If there's taller objects around, you don't need the tire theory.

Charges are not stymied by a gap. If the road is negative, the bottom of the car frame is positive, and the top of the car frame is negative, just as it would be if the bottom of the car were on the ground.

320Busdriver said...

"They always did a walk-around to see what was missing after landing."

Static wicks, many times, are sacrificed.

Richard said...

Charges are not stymied by a gap. If the road is negative, the bottom of the car frame is positive, and the top of the car frame is negative, just as it would be if the bottom of the car were on the ground.

That is true, but the car by itself won't be able to provide the large flow of charge needed to create the upward leader.

rhhardin said...

That is true, but the car by itself won't be able to provide the large flow of charge needed to create the upward leader.

It gets it from the ground, the same way that the ground does it without the car, but a little more easily because the car is there shortening the electrical path by the car's height.

Imagine a 2000' metal pole standing on a half foot of rubber. It's pretty likely to get hit, as a thought experiment. Same for a 6' car.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Silly people. Electricity doesn't exist. It's a Soros-DNC-science conspiracy.

Amexpat said...

My dad used to say, when we were kids, that you were safe inside the car because of the rubber tires.

I was taught that as a kid. I learned, through long conversations with a lightening expert I had last summer (the guy flies planes into lightening storms to measure their effects) that the protection a car offers has nothing to do with the rubber tires. A car can act as a Faraday Cage, which means that the electricity goes along the outside of the car and not in the inside. The same applies with planes. They are often struct by lightening but passengers inside are usually not effected because of they are in a Faraday Cage.

exiledonmainstreet said...

If you are afraid of lightning, one place you don't want to be anywhere near is the Catatumbo lake in Venezuela, the most electric place on earth:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYVWb_QgQwU

I've been to Walter De Maria's lightning field in New Mexico, but not during a storm:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra3sLKN9J2U

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

All photoshopped.

Like I said, electricity doesn't exist. It's all just the gods showing their displeasure with us.

What are you, some kind of liberul or something?

Michael K said...

I've been hit in a DC8 and a DC9, and the house has been hit, blowing off some shingles across the yard, but no particular noise in any case.

We were in a 737 on approach to SeaTac about 30 years ago when the plane was hit by lightning,

A blue ball of fire went down the aisle but did not hurt anyone.

The instruments were affected and the pilot flew past the control tower so they could see if his wheels were down.

We landed without further trouble.

Flat Tire said...

I got caught crossing a dry lake in Nevada alone on a horse when lightening preceded a still distant storm. Steel horseshoes seemed like the wrong thing to be under me so I let him run faster and farther than he'd probably ever run before. I figured we'd get back to camp sooner and there'd be split seconds when no feet were on the ground. Probably faulty reasoning and not sure if the risk of running outweighed the risk of lightening but we made it. When we got to our camp he got double rations and I got several stiff drinks. I was 60 at the time and nobody in the world knew where I was. Good times.

LordSomber said...

Working in various fields and having close calls with electrocutions has conditioned me to treat any questionable electrical source with the back of my hand rather than the palm.
Knowing/not-knowing human reflexes can come down to life/death.

Michael K said...

"I got caught crossing a dry lake in Nevada alone on a horse when lightening preceded a still distant storm. "

George Crile, founder of the Cleveland Clinic, and his wife were out riding in the early 1900s. They were nearly electrocuted and their horses were electrocuted by poorly insulated underground power lines. He got interested in electrocution and did some good early work on it.

MisterBuddwing said...

A blue ball of fire went down the aisle but did not hurt anyone.

Ball lightning? (I thought that was an urban legend.)

Etienne said...

We started getting St. Elmo's fire off the aircraft nose descending in a storm. Shooting streaks like we were in the space shuttle with retro-rockets firing.

Then the weirdest thing I ever saw, the windows all looked like static on TV. Well, you have to be a senior citizen to remember static on TV.

Lucky we didn't get hit.

Flat Tire said...

Thanks Michael K . Went under some big power lines and over a huge new gas line. I'll read up on that.

James K said...

"There’s a good chance you’ll survive. But the effects can be lasting."

I remember learning that if you are actually struck by lighting there is zero chance you'll survive. The survivors are the near misses.

Regarding airplanes getting hit, my wife's father died in a Pan Am plane crash caused by lightning, back in 1963. He was the copilot. I presume that planes are better designed now to withstand lightning strikes.

jimbino said...

Why can't most folks spell "lightning"?

William said...

Thanks everyone for granting me a previously unexplored avenue of neurotic anxiety.

George Leroy Tirebiter said...

Re: Lee Trevino's 1 iron: He's been struck by lightning THREE times, thus very wishful dreaming and hoping on his part.

Yancey Ward said...

What It's Like to Be Struck by Lightning:
There’s a good chance you’ll survive. But the effects can be lasting


Sort of like Hillary! voters after November 8th.

urbane legend said...

Owen said...
Urbane: I am less confident about the Faraday Cafe effect in a ragtop. Modern segmented convertible tops are probably equivalent to a hardtop.

Ragtops aren't safe at all. No metal roof, no Faraday Cage. I'm not sure about modern segmented tops. Perhaps rhhardin can comment on that.

rhhardin, thank you for your contribution to this discussion. You have have expanded my understanding quite a bit.

Kevin said...

Re: Lee Trevino's 1 iron: He's been struck by lightning THREE times, thus very wishful dreaming and hoping on his part.

But every time he holds up the 1 iron nothing happens to him. So it's scientifically proven to work.

Owen said...

Urbane: ditto your thanks to rhhardin. I always learn a lot here. And laugh.

MadisonMan said...

Why can't most folks spell "lightning"?

Thank you. Pet peeve of mine. Drives me crazy.

"Lightening" is what happens when you turn on lights. Or when your baby drops. "Lightning" is an electrical discharge -- which can cause lightening if it's dark out. But the bolt itself? NO E.

Henry said...

Fascinating article.

Off topic, one of my favorite songs to sing to my kids is Lyle Lovett's If I Had a Boat.

If I were like lightning,
I wouldn't need no sneakers,
I'd come and go whenever I did please,
I'd scare 'em by the shade tree,
I'd scare 'em by the light post,
But I would not scare my pony,
on my boat out on the sea.

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joel Pastor said...

MM - Percy Shelley oft spelt it "lightening." Presumably for metrical porpoises, which are very difficult to please.

JAORE said...

I was on an airplane descending into Atlanta a dozen years ago. Rough ride through a storm. Lots of nervous passengers. Lightning struck the left wing. BLINDING flash and a loud noise.

Nervous lady across the aisle from me said, "There's a spot on the wing". I replied, "There's a spot on my seat too."

She was not amused.

urbane legend said...

Joel Pastor said...
Presumably for metrical porpoises, which are very difficult to please.

Huh! Or Ha! Try pleasing symmetrical porpoises sometime. Take balance very seriously, they do.

Michael K said...

I think Trevino was kidding but I do understand he's been hit. Maybe the !-iron acted as a lightning rod.

It is a serious risk on golf courses.

The blue ball that came down the isle was probably something like st elmos. It looked like a big static discharge.