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Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy UberDork
10/16/13 10:11 p.m.

This picture reminded me of a question that rolls through my mind now and then. Lets say you are sitting in the aluminum grandstands at the Milwaulee Mile. (Which is the last place this question occurred to me) Lightning strikes the opposite end of the grandstands from where you are sitting. Are you now dead? Unharmed? Tingly?

aircooled
aircooled PowerDork
10/16/13 10:17 p.m.

Electricity always takes the easiest path. I don't think you would feel anything. Maybe if you feet were on the ground, but otherwise I don't think so.

Wayslow
Wayslow Reader
10/16/13 11:03 p.m.

I work for an electrical engineering firm that, among other things, designs lightning protection systems for buildings. Electricity can do weird things. That lightning bolt may have just travelled through several miles of thin air. It will take the path of least resistance path but that path sometimes changes as it heats up. Heat equals increased resistance. Lightning may strike one object then skip to another object several hundred feet away.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 UberDork
10/17/13 7:07 a.m.

You are (generally) only in trouble if the lightning finds a way to ground through your body. If you are sitting on a large conductor, lightning will travel through the conductor to ground, leaving you unharmed. But no, I do not care to test this hypothesis personally.

davidjs
davidjs Reader
10/17/13 8:18 a.m.

In reply to Streetwiseguy:

Are you sure those aren't just cattle that died in that freak blizzard, who happened to be near a fence?

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane New Reader
10/17/13 8:23 a.m.

It looks like their cow trap worked. Mine hasn't been nearly as effective!

Seriously, you'd be fine unless you're an easier conductor to ground (as was stated) than the steel grandstands, which is unlikely...

It's the same reason birds can hang out on power wires.

RossD
RossD PowerDork
10/17/13 8:25 a.m.
WonkoTheSane wrote: It looks like their cow trap worked. Mine hasn't been nearly as effective!

If you're going to put out a cow trap, at least check daily. Those cows look like they're pretty ripe.

N Sperlo
N Sperlo MegaDork
10/17/13 8:27 a.m.

"Y'know, in a severe lightning storm, you want to grab your ankles and stick your butt in the air."

petegossett
petegossett UberDork
10/17/13 11:32 a.m.

Even if you weren't shocked by the strike, there's a strong possibility of severe burns from the heat.

You have to consider the fact that our atmosphere is one of the better electrical insulators in existence, yet lightning has no problems traveling dozens of miles through it. It's going to go wherever the berkeley it wants when it gets to/near the ground.

A former coworker was struck by lightning, standing in his kitchen, through the kitchen window(it was closed). He was fine, though obviously a bit upset about the event.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
10/17/13 1:29 p.m.

Lightening goes where it wants to. Cables the size of your wrist on lightening pole thingies on fire watch towers will go like a fuse with a direct strike.

See how the cows in the cow trap had their heads in the fence? I bet the fence wire might have took a hit, then it went through the cow to the ground. Guy at work who does kids' soccer says they have a rule that says everyone off the field or something if lightening is around. There's a youtoobes of a lightening strike on a soccer field and everyone dropping instantly.

cwh
cwh PowerDork
10/17/13 1:37 p.m.

A few years back, I was working on an outdoor fence line alarm. Was kneeling on the ground, about two feet from the barbed wire. Heard a distant lightning crack, and watched a 12" spark go from the barbed wire to the ground. Did not feel a thing, but needed to change my pants. Lightning is exciting.

TRoglodyte
TRoglodyte Dork
10/17/13 1:39 p.m.

Once heard of a man walking across his lawn toward the barn in front of a pending storm. Lightning struck a tree 50 feet from him,traveled through the ground up his leg to a file and crescent wrench he was carrying in his hip pocket. Killed him dead.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
10/17/13 2:02 p.m.
TRoglodyte wrote: Once heard of a man walking across his lawn toward the barn in front of a pending storm. Lightning struck a tree 50 feet from him,traveled through the ground up his leg to a file and crescent wrench he was carrying in his hip pocket. Killed him dead.

The crescent wrench and file in his pocket had nothing to do with it, he was just close to where lightning struck the ground, which can cause some of the charge to go through people near the strike point, like this:

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

Sky_Render
Sky_Render Dork
10/17/13 2:43 p.m.
aircooled wrote: Electricity always takes the easiest path.

WRONG. Electricity takes all paths. The path of lowest resistance has the highest current, but all paths have current on them.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
10/17/13 2:50 p.m.

I never looked at it that way, Sky_Render, but you're right. Teh Maths sez so.

NGTD
NGTD Dork
10/17/13 6:29 p.m.
Sky_Render wrote:
aircooled wrote: Electricity always takes the easiest path.

WRONG. Electricity takes all paths. The path of lowest resistance has the highest current, but all paths have current on them.

This is correct - parallel circuits all have current.

For the OP's question, sitting on the stands you are not a likely ground path, but I wouldn't take the chance.

The WORST scenario would be having the current pass through your body and through your chest. It takes 100 mA (0.1A) to interrupt your heart. So don't stand by the stands with one hand on them.

Jaxmadine
Jaxmadine HalfDork
10/17/13 6:35 p.m.

I was laying tile next to the slider when lightning struck in the backyard about 100 feet away. Went through thw ground, the frame of the sliding door, and then my index finger. Hurt like hell for a good hour.

Brett_Murphy
Brett_Murphy UltraDork
10/17/13 7:09 p.m.

I was about not far from a pine tree that took a lightning strike. The sap boiled and I was pretty much deaf for a while.

Luckily all of the splinters went the other way. I imagine that it would've been like being in a wooden ship that got hit by a cannonball if anybody was on the other side- some of those fragments were BIG.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
10/17/13 7:57 p.m.

The Human Body -is- a great ground. Why do you think you can get a good shock from an outlet without touching anything else for the power to flow to?

I have seen videos of Lightning striking a stadium during a football match (soccar to the US) and all the players on the field falling over from the shock.

NGTD
NGTD Dork
10/17/13 8:54 p.m.

The human body also has an interesting characteristic that as electricity flows through it, the resistance breaks down and current increases. Not a pleasant thought.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
10/17/13 10:06 p.m.

Ever seen the scarring that a lightning strike can leave? It's actually pretty cool looking

lastsnare
lastsnare Reader
10/17/13 10:10 p.m.

holy carp, those are actual pictures of lightning strikees ? I would have guessed tattoo if I nobody suggested anything else. wow

Curmudgeon
Curmudgeon MegaDork
10/18/13 8:07 a.m.
GameboyRMH wrote:
TRoglodyte wrote: Once heard of a man walking across his lawn toward the barn in front of a pending storm. Lightning struck a tree 50 feet from him,traveled through the ground up his leg to a file and crescent wrench he was carrying in his hip pocket. Killed him dead.

The crescent wrench and file in his pocket had nothing to do with it, he was just close to where lightning struck the ground, which can cause some of the charge to go through people near the strike point, like this:

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

There have been numerous lawsuits over lightning strikes. It appears that we humans are supposed to know when and where lightning will strike.

chknhwk
chknhwk HalfDork
10/23/13 4:51 a.m.

In reply to Streetwiseguy:

Due to the unpredictability of lightning it is difficult to say for certain what will happen. If you are sitting on one level of the bench or one point of contact you will most likely be fine. From the lightning itself. However like others have said electricity has a nasty habit of heating things up very quickly. If you are close enough and not a path to ground you can get heat burns.
If you have two points of contact and one is the ground and you are the only path to ground (doubtful but lets say you are) you are most likely dead. It does not take much current to cause a heart to stop beating and the Navy classifies 37 volts and higher deadly based on research on average body resistance.
Now say you have two points of contact and neither one are to ground. You can still get shocked and killed by step voltage (a friend of mine was actually killed by this). What happens (and what probably killed those cow) is that at the point of the induced voltage potential the voltage is the highest. The further away the less the voltage is. What happens when you create a path between two differing potentials? You create a circuit that allows electrons to flow and kill you. Side note downed conductors (high tension wires, phase wires, whatever they happen to call them where you are) are considered deadly from up to 60' away. If you ever happen to be close to a downed conductor and need to exit the premises the best thing to do is hop out of the danger zone. The further your feet are apart the greater the step potential.

curtis73
curtis73 UltraDork
10/23/13 1:17 p.m.
Dr. Hess wrote: See how the cows in the cow trap had their heads in the fence?

And did you notice that its not an electric fence, just a plain fence.

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