Human Lightning Rods

Human Lightning Rods: Some folk claim to attract undue attention from electrical storms. Some even insist it's hereditary. But what does science have to say about individuals who incur the wrath of Thor upwards of six or seven times? In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Julie explore the world of human lightning strikes.

Hygroelectricity Pulls Power Out of Thin Air

Actually humid air, or at least that's the assertion offered by some Brazilian researchers who've been trying to make Nikola Tesla's dream of taming and using natural electricity a reality. Hygroelectricity, as presented by Dr. Fernando Galembeck at the 2010 American Chemical Society meeting, goes after charged atmospheric water droplets and attempts to collect and convert them into usable energy, similar to the way solar panels operate. In the race for renewable sources of energy, this is welcome news, indeed. Plus, if we mere mortals aren't going to be able to throw lightning bolts around anytime soon, capturing them and making them serve our human needs is almost as good, right?

Ball Lightning II: Is it all in your head?

Last week's post on ball lightning covered the basics -- sightings, reports and deaths chalked up to the glowing orb. But what if some of those same occurrences were really just hallucinations? While Georg Richmann, ball lightning's unlucky 18th-century victim, might still argue for his case in particular, other, less tactile sightings could prove harder to back up. According to a recent study by Joseph Peer and Alexander Kendl at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, ball lightning might be all in your head.

Ball Lightning: Silicone, Plasma or Aliens, Perhaps?

Lightning isn't the kind of thing you want to see inside -- especially when it's a glowing orb ambling through the window and pulsing about. But that's exactly how ball lightning (purportedly) rolls. And according to the excellent HowStuffWorks article on the subject, such a seemingly freakish phenomenon isn't even all that rare: 30 out of 150 people believe they've seen it.

Lightning: Life's Secret Ingredient?

Dr. Frankenstein, if you're reading this, you have reason to feel a little vindicated. While the modern scientific community may laugh at your use of harnessed lightning bolts to animate a stitched-up monster, they're at least admitting that lightning may have played a vital role in the evolution of life on Earth.

Would you be scared if you knew that the aircraft you were flying in had been struck by lightning? Most of us would, whether we're frequent fliers who flash our platinum status or white-knuckled armrest grippers who've only flown once to visit grandma in Florida. The thing is, we shouldn't be scared. Not really. Because lightning strikes are ridiculously common. According to a fascinating article from AP, lightning strikes occur daily on passenger planes. If you're flying in the Northern Hemisphere or near the equator, the plane that's ferrying you to broker your business deal is an even likelier target because thunderstorms like to congregate there. Lightning also seems to favor those puddle jumpers used in commuter flights for the same reason. Now that I've scared the bejesus out of you, let me sound the voice of reason.