Heavy Lightning

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. – Mark Twain in a Letter to George Bainton, 10/15/1888

Lightning. It is a huge topic. I wanted to touch on it after my last post Lip Balm, Hand Lotion, and Rubber Gloves because, as a fiction writer there is so much to explore here. There are so many kinds of lightning that people can’t even agree on which kinds are real.

Is lighting just a giant static spark caused by friction and an imbalance of charged ions? The jury is still out. A big part of that is due to the numerous kinds of lightning. Heat lightning, dry lightning, cloud to cloud, cloud to ground, and many more.

Ball Lightning has long been thought a myth, but science is beginning to accept it as a possibility. It could possibly be the explanation for many curiosities such as foo fighters, earth lights (ghost lights, will-o-wisp, etc.),  and, of course, many UFO’s.  Perhaps even spontaneous human combustion  -but there is evidence of other causes there.

Upper-atmospheric lightning is some of the most fascinating of all. With descriptive terms like blue jets, sprites, and elves, how could they not be? These phenomena have only really come into view in the last twenty years and are poorly understood. Perchance in history humans have briefly glimpsed them and mistook them for other things?

But the true power of lightning is in its, er, power. Man has been ‘playing’ with lightning since before Benjamin Franklin tied a key to his kite (he didn’t really), and we are getting better at it. Tests using rockets to trigger lightning have been in use for a while, and now lasers are getting in on the act. Experiments in capturing the energy in lightning are underway.

Interesting things? According to National Geographic, you can be struck by lightning ten miles away from the storm, an individual bolt can be five miles long, and the odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000. A bit better than the lottery…

The surface temperature of the sun? Around 5,800° Kelvin. The air around lightning? About 30,000°Kelvin.

Lightning has been shown to produce both x-rays and gamma rays. The gamma rays, by the way, indicate that it may be actually producing antimatter.

If that isn’t the start of a good sci-fi, I don’t know what is.