Up to 24,000 people around the world die every year from lightning, so you might think this natural phenomenon is something to be feared and avoided. That’s not always the case, however. For example, check this out:
This is an example of what is called a Lichtenberg figure, which occurs when an electrical charge — like a bolt of lightning — strikes a type of material and gets trapped.
The material can be made of any type of insulating substance — like glass, acrylic, or even human flesh — which are poor conductors of electricity. Imagine if you tried running through a sea of quick sand: That’s exactly what’s happening when particles comprising an electrical charge enter an insulator.
In the example above, someone has placed an insulating material (most likely acrylic) under a device called a cathode ray tube, which fires a beam of electrons travelling at 99% the speed of light. They collide and wrestle with the particles that make up the insulator, which then slows the electrons down almost as if they were moving through quicksand.
The result is that you get to witness the branches the electrons make as they try to travel through the material but get forever trapped within. The better an insulator the material is, the better trap it can usually set.
As it turns out, air is a pretty good insulator, too, which means that whenever you see a lightning bolt, you’re seeing a huge example of a Lichtenberg figure.
Check out the full video on YouTube below:
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