July 19, 2006

Beyond Astronomical

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On Saturday, I related the story about how I was hit by lightning, complete with an audio recording of the incident. I was amazed by being hit, wondering what the odds against that were.

Today, I found out something that makes the odds beyond astronomical, almost beyond belief: one of my co-workers, a professor whose desk is right next to mine, was also hit by lightning--same day, approximately the same time, and same intensity of electrical shock, but in a different part of town.

I know, your first reaction will be that they are pulling my leg. No way something that unlikely could happen. Probably they're having fun with me, maybe they didn't believe my story and are being sarcastic. What a sucker I am, right?

I'll admit, I can be gullible, but I can guarantee you that this is not the case this time. I trust this person implicitly; their personality is completely incompatible with that kind of a gag. My brother-in-law, that would be a different story. By this particular co-worker, not a chance. It's true: we were both hit by lightning the same day, at roughly the same time.

My co-worker, as it turns out, was jogging in a park near her home at the time (about 10 km away from where I was). Like me, she had misjudged the weather, and was caught off-guard by the sudden thunderstorm. In her case, it was already raining a little and she was wet when the lightning hit. She saw a flash and felt the electrical shock down her left arm as the thunderclap and lightning flash hit. Like me, she was startled, though my reaction right after that was, how cool was that! whereas my co-worker was much less enthralled by the experience. She ran for the nearest shelter, a small utility shed in the park, and waited out the lightning storm there.

But really, what are the chances? I calculated the odds, very, very roughly, of both of us being hit at 90 billion to one--but that's just for any two people being struck by lightning, and does not factor in the circumstance that we both work together in a small office. I have no idea how to factor that in, but I'm sure that if you did, the odds would go up to the point where you'd need a few sheets of paper just to contain all the zeroes involved.

Stranger than fiction....

Posted by Luis at July 19, 2006 06:09 PM

Perhaps this is the time to buy a lottery ticket.

I have a geography degree. Part of that meant taking a class on weather and climate, which it turned out, was quite fun.

A lightening bolt normally travels a charged current through the same path multiple times. That is a lighting bolt is usually 19 electric charges going up and down between the sky and the ground.

Near the ground, and up in the sky the chargers can scatter - like the nile river does when it get to the delta. But the main current is still there.

Normally, and I am saying this all from memory of a class I took 25 years ago, if you are struck by the main current, you would have fried instantaniously - people do not live through a direct current strike - remember all those gigawatts it took to send Michael J. Fox back to the future in his time traveling delorean?

People who live through a lightening strike have been hit by a 'branch' current of static electricity. Typically they are standing near a tree or something else towering above them. The main current strikes the tree to get to the ground faster, but static charges fly off the tree - as it the conductivity of the tree can only carry so much of a charge and hit the ground next to the tree.

To be struck by lightening and live through it is amazing. Count yourself lucky. I hope you don't experience any harmful side effects By the way the charge, as I recall, is the result of the shock or warp of the air heating up from the charge, though I've also heard that is the same as a sonic boom.

I hope you got yourself checked out by a doctor just in case.

Posted by: Tim Kane at July 20, 2006 05:11 AM

wow that is interesting. the odds are really really small but doesnt suprise me... life seems like full of wunders just like this one. you guys haded to meet and it was a life plan that was planned from long time ago.

Posted by: RisingSunOfNihon at July 20, 2006 06:03 AM