By the Power of Zeus

March 22, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

Many people claim to have been touched by a god, but a few people actually have proof.

Lightning strikes earth about 100 times per second. In Canada alone, this amounts to 2.34 million lightning strikes per year. When Zeus throws down a lightning bolt a lot of unfortunate trees wind up playing catch, but why?

Lightning generation requires the separation of positive and negative charges. The forceful winds and ice contained in the clouds associated with thunderstorms are an excellent method to separate charges within the cloud: positive at the top, negative at the bottom. This also means that positive charges will accumulate beneath the cloud as well. These positive charges tend to accumulate at the tops of tall structures, including buildings, trees, and even the dreaded umbrella in a thunderstorm.

In a cloud-to-ground strike, a channel of negative charges move down towards earth in steps (each about 50 meters). The lowermost step connects with an upward positively charged “streamer” from whatever is about to feel the wrath.

Every year 10 people are killed by lightning in Canada, and many others are seriously injured and have lifelong ailments resulting from the enormous surge of electricity, namely in the cardiac, respiratory and nervous systems.

Stating the obvious, the burns resulting from a lightning strike can be serious and life threatening. There are six manifestations of a lightning strike on the skin: feathering (Lichtenberg figures), flash burns, punctate burns, contact burns, blistering burns and linear burns. Whereas the majority of these represent true burns, the feathering is not a true thermal burn. Rather, it represents a showering of electrons on the skin and usually goes away within 24 hours. The resulting pattern looks like a feather, or fern pattern.


science in seconds, lichtenberg

Despite what it means for the patient, the pattern of the Lichtenberg figure on the skin is undeniably awesome. Real proof that they were once touched by the gods.



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