Lightning is, at its simplest, a spark of electricity that connects areas of positive and negative charges — within clouds or from a cloud to the ground, as seen here in the Arizona desert just before sunset. Photo © Marius Britt. Used with permission.

Lightning Strikes Twice, and Scientists Still Don’t Know What’s Going On

A pair of discoveries only reveals how clueless we are about how lightning starts and the “weird stuff” it does next.

What We Know

A painting by Benjamin West imagines Ben Franklin’s kite experiment and includes, for some odd reason, a bunch of kids who were not known to be present at the actual event (though Franklin’s son helped). Image: public domain via Wikipedia


A Positive Discovery

Lightning Strikes Again

Lightning Strikes Twice, Thrice and Quadrice

This still shot from a 1997 University of Arizona video shows two strokes from one lightning flash event striking the ground less than 100 yards apart. When there are more than two strokes, the subsequent ones are likely to strike exactly where the second one did, they found. Image: NASA/University of Arizona/M. Garay
The Eiffel Tower, acting as a giant lightning rod, is struck about 10 times a year and is thought to lessen odds of strikes in the surrounding area. This photo is from 1902, from the book “Thunder and Lightning” by Camille Flammarion. Image: Wikipedia/public domain
The average annual number of lightning flashes per square kilometer per year. Image: NASA

Struck by This

Independent health and science journalist, former editor-in-chief of LiveScience, writing about how we age and how to optimize your mind and body through time.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store