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38
votes
6answers
7k views

Without seeing the lightning, can you tell how far away it struck by how the thunder sounds?

Is there any way to tell how far away a lightning strike is by how its thunder sounds? I thought one way might be by using the fact that higher frequencies travel faster than lower frequencies. Would ...
29
votes
1answer
1k views

Can lightning be used to solve NP-complete problems?

I'm a MS/BS computer science guy who is wondering about why lightning can't (or can?) be used to solve NP complete problems efficiently, but I don't understand the physics behind lightning, so I'm ...
27
votes
6answers
21k views

Lightning strikes the Ocean I'm swimming in - what happens?

I'm swimming in the ocean and there's a thunderstorm. Lightning bolts hit ships around me. Should I get out of the water?
21
votes
4answers
4k views

If air cannot conduct electricity, how can lightning happen?

If air cannot conduct electricity, how can lightning happen?
21
votes
1answer
2k views

Is it possible to overload a lightning rod?

A couple of weeks ago we had a big storm roll through the Chicago area. I watched as the city's skyscrapers were struck multiple times by lightning throughout the night and told my coworker about it ...
21
votes
4answers
609 views

Why is lightning more rare during snow storms than rain storms?

Lightning and thunder during a snow storm is uncommon. As far as I know, more uncommon than during a typical rain storm. Why is this? I speculate it might be one, or both, of the following two ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Why is the shape of lightning or an electric spark a zig-zag line?

Why is the shape of the lightning (or an electric spark) always of a zig-zag nature? Why is it never just a straight line? Image source.
14
votes
3answers
6k views

Does Fire Conduct Electricity? Why?

Recently, I have stumbled upon a YouTube video by Veritasium describing the conductivity of fire. My question is: how exactly does fire conduct electricity? I am a high school student; therefore ...
12
votes
3answers
167 views

Why does lightning generate multiple branches?

Everyone have seen and knows how lightning occurs. But then I realized that lightning never occurs in straight lines but it follows branching. But Why is that so? Why can't lightning goes in straight ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

Why do lightning rods have a sharp point at the top?

We know that a lightning rod or lightning conductor is a metal rod or metallic object mounted on top of an elevated structure and, if we look closely, most of them have a sharp point at the top. What ...
10
votes
5answers
21k views

Why stay in the car during thunderstorms?

So there appears to be quite a bit of misinformation on the web as to why people should stay in their cars during a thunderstorm. So I'd like to clear some things up. One such non-nonsensical answer ...
9
votes
3answers
439 views

Extended sound of thunder

Why does the sound of thunder last several seconds even when lightning lasts for only fraction of a second?
9
votes
5answers
3k views

Why does lightning emit light?

What exactly is causing the electric discharge coming from the clouds to emit light while traveling through the air. I've read and thought about it a little but with my current knowledge I cant really ...
8
votes
2answers
3k views

Tying knots in power cables to prevent power surge from lightning strikes

There are plenty of references to this claim on the internet that tying knots in power cables will prevent a piece of equipment e.g. television or computer from a power surge. How can this be ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Does lightning have mass?

My chemistry teacher/book states that lightning is just light, and therefore has no mass and takes up no space (we're not very far through the book yet, it's defining matter). However, I take issue ...
7
votes
3answers
6k views

Is it safe to use any wireless device during a lightning storm?

I need "educated" reasons whether it is safe to use any wireless device during a lightning storm. Most people said don't use it but they cannot explain why.
7
votes
2answers
6k views

Does a lightning rod prevent lightning strikes?

I was always under the impression that a Lightning rod worked to protect a building by being the tallest part of the building and having a low path of resistance to the ground, thus being a good ...
6
votes
3answers
181 views

What would it take to cause lightning to jump between the Moon and the Earth?

This question comes from @Floris' speculation at the end of his excellent answer about what it would take to kill everyone on the Earth with electricity. Doing all this in 1/10th of a second ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

Voltage and current of positive lightning

For a physics issues investigation I chose to investigate what effects lightning could have on an aeroplane while in flight if it was struck and then go on to discuss some possible implications of ...
5
votes
5answers
10k views

Can the lightning be captured and used as power source?

I would like to update my knowledge in this area, that is really out-of-dated and stopped somewhere like ten years ago. I asked the very same question on my physics lecture at my studies and got the ...
5
votes
1answer
39k views

How much energy is in a lightning strike?

According to Wikipedia an average lightning has 1TW, the whole world used 16TW in 2006. (I suppose this means the same as 16TWh in one year?) Sometimes the lightning reaches 100kA. This peak last for ...
5
votes
1answer
2k views

Does rubber insulate lightning more effectively than air?

Last week, an Ars Technica writer was struck by lightning. He says that the 911 operators were concerned about whether or not he was wearing shoes at the time, but he didn't think it would make much ...
5
votes
1answer
371 views

Why some thunders sound deeper while others sound snappier?

Why does some thunder sound deeper and lower in pitch while others sound snappier and higher in pitch? I don't think there should be any difference between the lightnings and so the thunders sound be ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

Do high voltage power lines attract lightning strikes?

I always thought that high voltage power lines would attract a lightning strike more than other structures in the same area. Turns out I was wrong. My neighbor's chimney got struck by lightning and it ...
5
votes
1answer
213 views

Phyics Explanation for the Tubular Shape of Petrified Lightning

When lightning strikes the ground in a sandy location it may fuze sand grains together to form a mineraloid known as Fulgurite. Is there a physics explanation for the tubular shape? Why is it hollow ...
5
votes
1answer
383 views

Why are cold thunderstorms rare?

FYI: I imagine the physics of thunderstorms involves wind stripping electrons from condensed water cells (raindrops or snowflakes). Like a Van De Graaff generator, sort of; I'm also using Wilson's ...
4
votes
1answer
287 views

Why is it that when driving in a car, and a lightning bolt strikes, my AM radio gets cut off for a while, but FM stays on?

I noticed this one day, a lightning/thunder occurred and my Fabulosa Spanish music died for a second. But not FM?
4
votes
2answers
1k views

How does lightning “know” where to go?

If lightning comes down in, say, a large flat field with a lightning rod sticking out of the middle, the lightning will strike the rod. How does it "know" the rod is there? Will it always strike the ...
4
votes
2answers
563 views

Algorithm of Lightning Strikes? [duplicate]

Given an array of charge for a given area (2D or 3D), what algorithm would describe the path that lightning takes? An example algorithm would be from the highest charge of the cloud, find the lowest ...
4
votes
4answers
15k views

Can Gases conduct Electricity?

Liquid electrolytes ionize and hence a current can pass through them. So if a gas can ionize, can it conduct electricity too? If so, what are a few such gases?
3
votes
2answers
3k views

Where does the energy of a lightning strike go?

Lightning contains a lot of energy, so where does this energy go after lightning has hit the ground? Does it travel all the way to the core? What happens after that?
3
votes
2answers
55 views

Antenna to characterise lightning

what is the power spectrum and frequency spectrum of lightning. Can we calculate the Wattage in a lightning storm, can we draw useful power from it. I would like to build an antenna and receiver to ...
3
votes
1answer
10k views

Is there any significance to 1.21 GW?

In connection with a related question on Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange page: does this number 1.21 GW make any sense? What is 1.21 GWatts? With what can you compare it? Can the ...
3
votes
2answers
125 views

Local real-time lightning tracker site?

Is there a site that tracks lightning strikes at a local level in real-time? Google results for "lightning tracker" yield several sites, but none do this. It seems easy enough to set up. Have ...
3
votes
2answers
232 views

Loopy lightning

What causes lightning to follow the path it does ? picture from BBC news: http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/62891000/jpg/_62891901_untitled-1copy.jpg main page: ...
3
votes
0answers
48 views

Nature of electricity [duplicate]

Suppose a lightning strikes and there is an iron rod and a coconut tree. How does the electricity know that rod is the least resistant path before hand.
2
votes
2answers
5k views

Why is lightning considered a plasma?

I was wondering why a lightning bolt is coined as "plasma", or a "spark" from an electrical wire/device is as well, yet flares, molten lava, and burning buildings are not(flares are pyrotechnic, ...
2
votes
1answer
124 views

How is the energy of a lightning calculated?

I was wondering how is the energy of a lightning measured? Is it based on the luminous intensity and/or the generated sound? What about the generated heat and energy spent in the production of ozone? ...
2
votes
1answer
64 views

Why do nuclear bomb explosions create an array of visible electric discharges in the form of lightening in the upper atmosphere?

I've seen videos on the internet, showing nuclear bomb test explosions, and there appears to be a large amount of visible lightening discharging numerous times over the development of the mushroom ...
2
votes
1answer
484 views

Lightning on my Car

Could anyone clarify to me the following: Lightning gives off high current when it hits a car/vehicle, and since the electrical components of the car is grounded on the chassis, are there ...
2
votes
3answers
1k views

is lightning attracted to pointy objects?

Advice I was given when growing up: in a thunderstorm, stay away from tall, pointy things. It's pretty obvious why lightning would prefer to strike tall objects, but pointy ones? Is there any truth ...
2
votes
2answers
379 views

Fork and Sheet Lightning

I've noticed that during British lightning storms, I have only ever seen sheet lightning However, on holiday in other countries, I frequently see Forked Lightning Q) Is this just caused by ...
2
votes
1answer
45 views

How can similar lightning strikes produce thunder with different time durations?

Here in Florida, lightning happens quite often. On occasion, I have noticed that one bolt will discharge and its resultant boom will be very very short, and then a second later another bolt will ...
2
votes
1answer
71 views

Protect drone from lightning [closed]

I am designing a dirigible, robotic drone. It is basically a polyurethane airship, approx 3.6 m length and 2.1 m diameter. I am worried about lightnings: as far as I know, a Faraday Cage should be ...
2
votes
1answer
150 views

Why does cloud-ground lightning occur so much less frequently over ocean?

I was talking with an acquaintance about lightning, and we came up with opposite theories and predictions for the frequency of lightning over ocean. My theory is that since seawater is a fluid ...
2
votes
2answers
666 views

Lightning driven electrolysis

Could a lightning bolt be harnessed to perform electrolysis, would a useful amount of hydrogen be produced? I'm imagining some industrial scale device in the ocean with some hydrogen capture ...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Electric field inside and outside a metallic hollow sphere

1) It is known that inside a metallic hollow sphere it will not experience outside electric field because of the charge separation of electrons and holes at the surface of sphere and creating an equal ...
2
votes
0answers
42 views

How does lightning flip a car?

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/car-flips-into-air-after-being-struck-by-lightning-in-freak-electrical-storm-accident-10366208.html and a few others ...
2
votes
0answers
54 views

Lightning Conductor Working

During a thunderstorm charges collect on clouds until a field which is more than the air's dielectric strength is created. Because now there is a potential difference between the ground (0 Volts) and ...
2
votes
1answer
116 views

Electricity from lightning

According to the internet, a lightning strike contains about 5 billion joules or 5 GJ. How was this calculated? Another thing: Once the lightning strike a metal grounded rod, a current will flow. ...