by Mike Masnick

Chinese Mobile Phones Attracting Lightning Story Strikes Again

from the details-please...? dept

About a year ago, we pointed to a story about people in China being struck by lightning on the Great Wall, where local officials were blaming the fact that they were using mobile phones. However, some quick additional research turned up that similar "hoaxes" had been flooding the internet for some time, and various experts pointed out that there was little in a mobile phone that would make it a target for lightning. In fact, many recommend that you use a mobile phone instead of a regular phone in a thunderstorm, as it's likely to be safer. However, that hasn't stopped the story from showing up again. Textually.org links to yet another story in China about a man at the Great Wall who was struck by lightning -- and again, his mobile phone is blamed. However, once again, the details are quite sketchy. The victim in question is never named. Also, why is it that this only seems to happen at the Great Wall? Isn't a much more likely explanation that standing on top of the Great Wall in a thunderstorm means that you're one of the highest objects around and therefore that much more likely to be struck by lightning in a storm?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Matt, Aug 15th, 2005 @ 4:42am

    No Subject Given

    surely you aren't saying it is dangerous to stand on an enormous tourist attraction? It MUST be the phone to blame

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Peet McKimmie (profile), Aug 15th, 2005 @ 5:47am

    No Subject Given

    I'd still leave room for the possibility that there aren't any mobile phone masts near the Great Wall, forcing the phones to emit the maximum amount of microwaves to maintain a connection; in a highly ionised atmosphere this *could* form a "trigger point" for a lightning strike. It's just a possibility...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    dorpus, Aug 15th, 2005 @ 6:25am

    How to black out your city

    If you fly a kite with a long tail made out of aluminum foil near high-powered lines, your local power company will be very upset.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Aaron, Aug 15th, 2005 @ 6:55am

    Re: No Subject Given

    No, no it *could* NOT form a trigger point. There is no possible way that RF will make anything more prone to a lightning strike. Do some research on why lightning does what it does... It has absolutely NOTHING to do with radio frequencies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    tym, Aug 15th, 2005 @ 8:08am

    Other things are more dangerous

    What about, in 1999, the two women in London's Hyde Park whose deaths by lightning strike were attributed to the fact they were wearing underwire bras? Guess there are things more dangerous than mobile phones in a thunderstorm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2005 @ 1:30pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    It's not like the RF is attracted to the phone, and an even dispersal even if it "formed a trigger point" wouldnt add to the probability of you being struck, it would just add to the lightning around. But I'll have to agree with the poster below, has nothing to do with RF.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Denver, Jul 20th, 2006 @ 2:49am


    lightning scares me

    is it normal for lightning to make lights in ur house dim until there is no light and then ligt re-appear suddenly???

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Mary, Jul 22nd, 2006 @ 7:45am

    Re: Re: No Subject Given

    During a thunderstorm I was walking along a side street with a pharmacy. It had a large neon sign saying "pharmacy" in the window. Just as I was passing the neon sign I could feel energy from the sign going all around me and arcing up into the air. The next second there was a white light, a bang and then what felt like a few seconds of blanked out silent whiteness. Then it stopped. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed. I wasn't hurt, the sign wasn't hurt. No one seemed to be around, so I just carried on with my day.
    Would you say that I was struck by lightning?

    I've been searching for this answer on the net for awhile.
    Thanks, Mary

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Jeremy Brown, Jun 27th, 2007 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: No Subject Given

    I'm no expert, but I'd say if you have to ask, then you were not the victim of a direct hit. But as I understand it, there are all kinds of secondary effects before during and, perhaps just after, the actual lightning strike.

    You might have experienced the "ground current" effect that happens near a strike.

    I believe what you experienced just before the actual strike was a phenomenon where the electrical potential between the ground (or the ground connection of the neon sign) and the clouds was building up and doing whatever it does to the air between to 'attract' the actual lightning strike. But fortunately for you there must have been a more favorable path to ground somewhere just next to you (a lamppost or something).

    I would think just being that close to a strike would probably send all kinds of semi-dangerous electrical fields through you, but a direct strike would have left you in no doubt that you'd been directly hit.

    This page is very informative:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.