Kevin and the rest of the folks from the TheBackyardScientist decided to ask what happens when you put 20,000 Joules of Energy into a watermelon and other things. Why? Why not? Is it science? Is it art? Who cares (except the neighbors who threatened to call the cops on them)? It’s cool, Dude! Watch their video and also learn about capacitors.
In the video below, the Slow Mo Guys, Gav and Dan, travel to Singapore at the height of the monsoon season to film lightning strikes that occur within microseconds in slow motion. They clearly capture the process whereby the current begins its descent from the cloud in the form of what is called “leaders”. These are root-like patterns of electric current that branch out until one of the branches reaches the ground. When this happens, an electric current rises from the ground to the cloud through the path of the leader forming what we actually see as the lightning strike.
If you don’t have the patience for the extended introduction, the actual video of the lightning strikes begins at 4 minutes and 50 seconds. Being the creative and learned guys they are, Gav and Dan play their breathtaking slow motion lightning video to the tune of Night on Bald Mountain by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. Even if classical music isn’t your “thing”, many of the older generations will recognize this music from its inclusion in Disney’s 1941 film, Fantasia (note: in Disney’s version, Night on Bald Mountain merges at the end with Franz Schubert’s, Ave Maria).
The German physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg discovered what are today known as Lichtenberg figures. These fractal-like figures are formed when electricity moves through an insulating medium. The electric current tries to find the best route to flow through the medium and in doing so creates multiple branches similar to the pattern made by the roots of trees. Lichtenberg figures are often generated when lighting strikes things such as a golf course or even the human body! The Lichtenberg figures produced in the skin after a person gets hit by lighting are not a burn. They are produced as a result of degradation of the skin with leakage of red blood cells to the superficial layers and normally fade within a few days. If you have the stomach for it, you can check some Lichtenberg figures produced in the bodies of people struck by lightning by clicking on this link. Lichtenberg figures are also used to produce awesome art as shown in the video below.