Do Mobile Phones Attract Lightning?

from the apparently-they-do-in-China dept

China is warning people not to use mobile phones during thunderstorms after a report that fifteen people were injured when a mobile phone acted as a lightening rod. The story certainly has all the elements of an urban legend, so it seemed worthwhile to dig a bit deeper on this one. According to a hoax-busting site, this story has been making the rounds over email for quite some time, with no facts to support it. In fact, many sites recommend you use a mobile phone rather than a fixed line phone in a thunderstorm, since they're much safer. While the news article quotes a professor claiming that "the electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phones are quite good conductors of electricity," the hoax busting site quotes someone from Motorola saying: "No, lightning won't 'follow the radio waves' back to your phone.... I really doubt that 600 mW of omnidirectional RF can ionize anything, let alone make a more conductive path between the clouds and ground. It does make a nice urban legend, though." From the sound of all this, it sounds like the injuries in question from the article may simply be because the people struck by lightning were the tallest items around (they were standing on the Great Wall) and not because of the mobile phone someone was using.

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