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Old 10-01-2008, 12:43 PM   #1
dmpi
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Default Physics Question: Lightning

Conventional wisdom say’s that lightning always finds the pass of least (electrical) resistance. My question is: Just how does lightning do this? Suppose there are two towers. Both identical except one have a lightning rod on it. How does the lightning “choose” the one with the rod? Does it try out the other tower and figure out there’s no rod on it? Does it also go around and check out all the tall trees and buildings in the area? It would need to check every square inch of the earth surface. If you think about it really doesn’t make sense.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:45 PM   #2
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It passes gas and then laughs.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:46 PM   #3
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It consults this guy, right here:

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Old 10-01-2008, 12:46 PM   #4
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Nissan programmed it to be able to go it's fastest upon approved routes only.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:47 PM   #5
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Lightning are smart. And it was designed and sent to Earth by God. And it is only 6000 years old.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:47 PM   #6
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Lightning is basically a connection between earth and sky. Ground objects send up positive feelers and lightning chooses the most convenient one. Once the positive and negative charges meet a bolt is created that goes down to the ground.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:49 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmpi View Post
Conventional wisdom say’s that lightning always finds the pass of least (electrical) resistance. My question is: Just how does lightning do this? Suppose there are two towers. Both identical except one have a lightning rod on it. How does the lightning “choose” the one with the rod? Does it try out the other tower and figure out there’s no rod on it? Does it also go around and check out all the tall trees and buildings in the area? It would need to check every square inch of the earth surface. If you think about it really doesn’t make sense.
A stepped leader of negative ions comes down from the cloud, forming the forks that you see with clouds. It can branch and take the different paths to the ground.

Meanwhile, a positive streamer comes up off any and everything it can from the ground up. This is why they say your hair stands on end before you get struck by lightning. In some photos of lightning, you can see visible positive streamers coming off of trees, houses, poles etc without actually being involved in the strike itself.

When the two meet, the actual flash is the charge moving from the ground to the cloud... the return stroke.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:49 PM   #8
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lightning doesn't strike so much as it forms. and it will form at the easiest/quickest path
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:49 PM   #9
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:50 PM   #10
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A) Lightning rods don't attract lightning. They bleed off electrical potential so that it's less likely that enough potential is generated to cause a strike.

B) The discharge occurs when the potential is greater than the resistance (air in an excellent insulator), and travels down the path of least resistance available to it. Just like conventional electricity travels down a copper wire rather than through a plastic barrier. It doesn't go all over the house looking for the thickest copper wire. If there is enough potential to transmit electricity from a negatively charged pole to a positively charged pole, it happens.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.Sparkle View Post
Lightning is basically a connection between earth and sky. Ground objects send up positive feelers and lightning chooses the most convenient one. Once the positive and negative charges meet a bolt is created that goes down to the ground.
Quote:
Originally Posted by chkltcow View Post
A stepped leader of negative ions comes down from the cloud, forming the forks that you see with clouds. It can branch and take the different paths to the ground.

Meanwhile, a positive streamer comes up off any and everything it can from the ground up. This is why they say your hair stands on end before you get struck by lightning. In some photos of lightning, you can see visible positive streamers coming off of trees, houses, poles etc without actually being involved in the strike itself.

When the two meet, the actual flash is the charge moving from the ground to the cloud... the return stroke.
That's the most accurate explanations I've read. I'd have said about the same thing. But yes, the actual, visible bolt you see is the positive charge going UP to the clouds, not down.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:52 PM   #12
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path of least resistance doesn't mean that other paths need to be tried to find that out, it means that the pathway in question has less resistivity based on material composition. and the such as.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:54 PM   #13
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holy 7 answers in two minutes...
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:54 PM   #14
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You can see a positive feeler going up from the tree in this picture.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:55 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Habu View Post
That's the most accurate explanations I've read. I'd have said about the same thing. But yes, the actual, visible bolt you see is the positive charge going UP to the clouds, not down.
After my little run-in with lightning while driving my Miata, I wanted to learn more about how it worked
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:55 PM   #16
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This guy controls it all.

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Old 10-01-2008, 12:56 PM   #17
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Electricity takes EVERY path and then goes back and takes the best path once it decides which it is. Sort of like old people.
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:16 PM   #18
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I'd like to see a double-slit experiment with lightning.
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:19 PM   #19
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DO NOT GIS "positive feeler" with the filter off!
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:21 PM   #20
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Serious question: if lightning finds the shortest path, why isn't it straight? Photos of lightning are always filled with jagged twists and turns.
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:22 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FiveDoorSVT View Post
Serious question: if lightning finds the shortest path, why isn't it straight? Photos of lightning are always filled with jagged twists and turns.
It's not the shortest path, it's the path of least resistance.
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:22 PM   #22
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DO NOT GIS "positive feeler" with the filter off!
Upset there was no porn in the search results?
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:23 PM   #23
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Isn't this sort of like asking why water flows downhill?
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:23 PM   #24
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So what's in the air that makes it more or less resistant to lightning? In other words, what's in the air that causes those twists and turns?
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:24 PM   #25
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Quote:
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Upset there was no porn in the search results?
At work.
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