Phones Don't Attract Lightning, They Just Make Getting Struck By It Worse

from the chances-are-slim dept

There have been lots of (very sketchy) stories about cell phones "attracting" lightning, with it appearing to be a particular problem at the Great Wall of China for some reason. Now, British doctors are warning -- in all seriousness -- that people shouldn't use mobile phones outside during thunderstorms. Not because they attract lightning, but because should a person be struck by lightning while carrying one, it (or any other metal object) could harmfully change how the current is directed through their body. The doctors looked into the matter after a girl in London was struck by lightning while on her phone and received serious injuries, and found three other similar cases where people died. So a tiny number of the already low number of people that get struck by lightning -- the chances seem pretty remote, but perhaps you should add phones to golf clubs, flagpoles and javelins on the list of things not to hold over your head during a thunderstorm. Update: Of course, that won't stop the press from still claiming that this means mobile phones attract lightning.

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  • identicon
    me, 23 Jun 2006 @ 9:59am

    Anything made of metal that you hold during a lightning storm should be shaped like a 1 iron. Not even God can hit a 1 iron.

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

  • identicon
    Joe T, 23 Jun 2006 @ 10:27am

    Sometimes I think that i work with some of the stupidest people alive - and then I read an article like this and realize that I'm wrong - they're everywhere - even in the medical profession.

    Thanks for both cheering me up and causing my to weep for the future.


    Just so that I can add *something* productive to this thread - why are these idiots outside during a thunderstorm in the first place? If you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning. These people are not dying from using a cell phone in a storm - they're dying from terminal stupidity.

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

    • identicon
      Ben, 23 Jun 2006 @ 10:44am

      Re: Don't blame the doc

      It wasn't the doctor who said that cell phones attract lightning, he said that holding a cell phone or anyother metal object to the body would prevent the "flash over", that usualy prevents serious internal injury during a lightning strike. The reporters turned it into a "Cell phones are dangerous" story..

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

    • identicon
      Posterlogo, 23 Jun 2006 @ 10:47am

      Re: Joe T

      Joe states that "why are these idiots outside during a thunderstorm in the first place? If you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning. These people are not dying from using a cell phone in a storm - they're dying from terminal stupidity."

      Dear Joe T: Next time you are stuck outside in a thunderstorm, put your money where your mouth is and don't use your mobile phone to call for help.

      You see where I'm heading with this? Is it not possible that a person's instinct may be to try and call for a ride or something if caught outside in the storm? The phones themselves aren't attracting lightning, so are they really putting themselves in so much more danger? Let's get something straight, being struck by lightning is a crapshoot -- it could be nothing, or you could die, and there may be some minimal correlation with how much metal you have on you. Don't accuse people of "terminal stupidy" when you haven't thought it through yourself, moron.

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

      • identicon
        JoeT, 23 Jun 2006 @ 1:17pm

        Re: Re: Joe T

        When you are stuck outside in a thunderstorm, you get to shelter. If you cannot (say, for example, you feel tingling in your arms, or your hair stands on end - both signs that a strike is imminent), you should get into a low crouch position. What you should NOT do is remain standing, regardless of what is in your hand.

        I taught severe weather spotting classes and a portion of that class covers how NOT to get killed by weather. While being struck by lightning is a crapshoot, you can certainly vary the odds wildly by your actions - and no, it has nothing to do with how much metal you have on you. With the voltage in a lightning strike (which determines how much resistance it can overcome), unless you are wearing a suit of armor, you are unlikely to influence a strike in any meaningful way.

        Trust me, I *have* thought it through. It is apparent, my friend, that you either have not, or do not have the requisite facts to make such determinations.

        I suggest a visit to http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/overview.htm

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

        • identicon
          Matthew, 23 Jun 2006 @ 1:43pm

          Re: Re: Re: Joe T


          When you are stuck outside in a thunderstorm, you get to shelter. If you cannot (say, for example, you feel tingling in your arms, or your hair stands on end - both signs that a strike is imminent), you should get into a low crouch position. What you should NOT do is remain standing, regardless of what is in your hand.


          The lady that was struck 3 times, the first outside, 2nd via phone -- hardline, and 3rd via the faucet, she never felt tingling or hair stand up anywhere. Just WHACK! However, if one is offered those warnings, you are correct.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2006 @ 10:33am

    Joe, my only comment to you is "Lighten up Francis"

    Me, thats an old one but a good one, although off the tee, I can be dangerous with my 1 iron. Course, if you happen to be 30 or so yards from the fairway in any direction, I can be dangerous to you with any club.

    Of course holding a metal object against your gourd would tend to not be a good thing if you got hit by lightning. Probably wouldn't be a good thing to be wearing metal shorts either, but thats a different story.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2006 @ 10:59am

    The difference in conductivity between air and any other object (metal, humans, buildings, trees) is immaterial at the voltages involved in lightning, so it

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

  • identicon
    Kevin, 23 Jun 2006 @ 11:10am

    Your criticisms are unjust. I am planning to hang around outside in the next thunderstorm and get struck by lightening. I appreciate knowing how to minimize the damage that may be caused by the 40 billion volts of electricity. Your arrogance is like not wearing a seatbelt next time you decide to crash your car into a tree.

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

  • identicon
    dorpus, 23 Jun 2006 @ 11:11am

    What if you catch AIDS from eating Watermelons?

    In China, rumors are flying that a serial killer is injecting HIV-positive blood into watermelons.

    http://www.chosun.com/international/news/200606/200606230393.html

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2006 @ 11:14am

      Re: What if you catch AIDS from eating Watermelons

      What the hell does that have to do with anything?

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

      • identicon
        Theoden, 23 Jun 2006 @ 11:23am

        Re: Re: What if you catch AIDS from eating Waterme

        I think this excerpt pretty much expalins why dorpus included the link:

        중국 화동(華東)지역 안후이(安徽)성 푸양(阜陽)시에서 난데없이 “에이즈에 감염된 사람의 혈액이 주

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2006 @ 11:13am

    Posterlogo, you sound like you are extremely offended. You must have been hit by lightning while talking on a cell phone yourself, I guess? Or perhaps you're accused often of terminal stupidity. Given the relative odds of each scenario and the content of your rant, my guess is it's the latter.

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

    • identicon
      Posterlogo, 23 Jun 2006 @ 11:21am

      Re:

      "Posterlogo, you sound like you are extremely offended. You must have been hit by lightning while talking on a cell phone yourself, I guess? Or perhaps you're accused often of terminal stupidity. Given the relative odds of each scenario and the content of your rant, my guess is it's the latter."

      I merely feel it is necessary to stand up for people who cannot stand up for themselves in open forums such as these. These are real people, no matter how bizarre the incident. They were seriously hurt. To just automatically label them stupid is wrong, and I think have nothing to be sorry for in stating that fact. Keep posting as an anonymous coward though, and show us all how much smarter you are.

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

  • identicon
    Josh, 23 Jun 2006 @ 11:19am

    Just how much metal...

    Has anyone bothered to consider just how little metal is in a phone in the first place? Probably 90% of it is made of non-conductive materials. I'd bet there's more metal on my keyring (and there's only 8 keys on it!).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2006 @ 11:56am

    Im just confused as to why they investigated this...

    "The doctors looked into the matter after a girl in London was struck by lightning while on her phone and received serious injuries, and found three other similar cases where people died."

    Oh I.... get... It... Now.......
    They were concerned that people getting hit by lightning were getting hurt and dying. Apparently, this is a new phenominon.
    *scratches head*

    and @ "at the voltages involved in lightning", its actually the amperage that you gotta watch out for, not the voltage

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

  • identicon
    JR, 23 Jun 2006 @ 11:58am

    Flamewar!!!

    I just love how easily an arguably scientific topic becomes a flame war for no good reason. Calm down guys or Thor is gunna go Nordic on both your arses.

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

  • identicon
    Wally, 23 Jun 2006 @ 12:32pm

    Don't forget what Homer does: stand under a tree while holding a piece of sheet metal over your head.

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

  • identicon
    Matthew, 23 Jun 2006 @ 12:40pm

    New Medical Breakthrough

    Metal boxers...the new Viagra without the pill! Climb up a tree today!

    I was watching a Discovery Channel show and they had a thing on electricity. They had a lady that was struck by lightning 3 times! She lived all three times to talk about it too.

    Not living in Tornado Alley myself, I don't worry too much about lightning. In the big city there's plenty taller to strike other than me. If it is going to get you it is going to get you. However, I'm not saying it is fate. You can lessen the risks and not having a cell phone on your ear when you are struck by lightning will increase chances of survival.

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

  • identicon
    txjump, 23 Jun 2006 @ 12:51pm

    so i should stand under my umbrella to keep my phone from getting wet while calling my friend to pick me up from the golf course while im holding a one iron and wearing my metal boxers?

    i think everyone knows that freak accidents are just that. but there are things we can do to reduce the possiblity of getting struck by lightning.

    however, im finding out that so many people have the mentality of "oh, thats not going to happen to meee..." instead of just being cautious.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2006 @ 1:00pm

    ficken

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

  • identicon
    WirelessGuy, 23 Jun 2006 @ 1:14pm

    Can we have the other side of this?

    Did they then place people in a storm WITHOUT a phone to see how many lived? Or maybe the fact that almost everyone in Europe has a cell phone, the likelihood of someone NOT having a cell phone makes the study biased. Are cell phones really the root of all that is evil in this world? Is my product the new power line cluster study?

    This is so stupid....wait, I just finished a new study....people wearing seatbelts are more likely to have an accident while NOT talking on their cell phone in thunderstorms in the Sahara desert on the second thursday following the fifth friday if there is a lunar waxing moment...

    I can guarantee that the amount of metal in a cellular phone has no electrical impact on whether you get hit by lightening or not. These people would have gotten nailed if they had a coke can, piece of wood, or the shrunken head of a the scientist who did the study. And before you try and say how would I know this, well I have spent the past 20 years doing grounding studies for cell sites, satellite dish locations and microwave towers in the Air Force, civilian world and as a lowly HAM. I do know what does and what does not attract lightening, how to mitigate the impact and how to build a proper EM field to redirect the energy.

    This is the same type of story as those saying that cell phones kill people by causing them to walk in front of trains. Cell phones don't kill people, stupidity kills people (and now lightning), age kills people, cancer kills people.

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

  • identicon
    Tim Quinn, 23 Jun 2006 @ 1:57pm

    actually a study of reading skills

    What this little exercise has shown is that people will see what they want to see, read what they want to read. Even if it isn't there to read.

    No one said cel-phones attract lightening, in fact they said cel-phones do not attract lightening.

    And real data is better than your theories any day . . .

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

  • identicon
    Bunova Sich, 23 Jun 2006 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Posterlogo...

    No longer an anonymous coward...

    Posterlogo: "I merely feel it is necessary to stand up for people who cannot stand up for themselves in open forums such as these. These are real people, no matter how bizarre the incident. They were seriously hurt. To just automatically label them stupid is wrong, and I think have nothing to be sorry for in stating that fact. Keep posting as an anonymous coward though, and show us all how much smarter you are."

    Waaaaaaa, oh these poor souls just need us to have sympathy for them and we can never criticize someone's judgement. We just have to be SOOOO sad. Posterlogo, you probably support free taxpayer-subsidized abortions because someone was dumb enough to go and get pregnant. While we're at it let's pay for more government scientific studies to tell us things that any reasonable person could figure out on their own.

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

  • identicon
    Steve Proper, 23 Jun 2006 @ 5:00pm

    the science part

    Some revelations have shown microwaves do have the effect or increasing plasma energy dispositions. This could have valuable applications for channelling future energy sources and energy transmittance.

    So there may be some validity to this claim. However, I know of no particular study to backup these claims. I kind of doubt the signal power of the cell phone is powerful enough to exhibit the increased plasma discharge effect. I'd love to read about the scientific method being used to study this.

    I strongly believe that a low power home wireless phone is safer than landlines during an electrical storm. Wired phones are an invitation to having electricity directly applied to the body through the head and ears.

    A cell phone could easily be designed to be an early alert device, if the air becomes ionized in the area where you are standing. Florescent tube gases, for example, often luminesce minutes before lighting discharge.

    Undoubtedly a ten cent sensor could be designed to pick up on this electrical feedback and warn the user about impending danger.

    People get struck all the time, it doesn't matter if you have something in your hand or not. Just stay inside.

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

  • identicon
    Tommy Holefiller, 24 Jun 2006 @ 1:58am

    This is truly a stupid finding by these so called researchers. So have they found there are more people struck by lightning while having a cell phone or more without a cell phone. Oh please people! what are the odds of getting struck by lightning anyway. this is truly stupid and I am only responding because I am board at the work. I guess thats when I always respond. is at work LOL!!!!

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

  • identicon
    Charles Darwin, 26 Jun 2006 @ 9:47am

    If you are standing outside in a thunderstorm, talking on a cell phone, you deserve to be hit by lightning and die so, you cannot pass on your obviously inferior genetic material.

    Publishing this otherwise obvious information can actually prove damaging to the human race because someone who might otherise not grasp this obvious concept (coming in out of the rain) may survive and pass on their garbage DNA causing all kinds of problems for future generations.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jun 2006 @ 12:55pm

    Did you read the article? It didn't say it increases the odds of getting struck by lightning, it said that if you get struck by lightning while holding a metal object near your gourd, it will make it worse since it probably directs the current next to your ear.

    Well, no shit.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2007 @ 10:49am

    cool

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

  • identicon
    Belboy, 5 May 2008 @ 4:25pm

    wowo last one

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

  • identicon
    tayler lavin, 16 Oct 2009 @ 10:29am

    this makes alot of sense to me i will definatley not hold my phone or talk on it during a thunderstorm. thank you for the information....:)

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

  • identicon
    john, 5 Aug 2011 @ 8:08am

    lightning safety thought

    I would think that everyone should carry a device that can alert and warn the person when lightning is nearby, giving the person a chance to escape. But I would think that maybe some type of lightning strike proof outfit could be made to repell lightnging or make the person wearing it not get hurt if he/she ever got struck by lightning.

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

  • identicon
    Javier, 1 Jun 2012 @ 7:59pm

    Bullshit

    Anyone who gets hit by lighting DIES end of story
    Thank u and good bye

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

  • identicon
    nimmy, 25 Nov 2013 @ 11:08pm

    Nice

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

  • identicon
    Donald, 31 Dec 2013 @ 7:21am

    response

    Oh really? Not God could hit a 1 iron? God is all powerful and can hit everything he chooses, careful wat u say dude, remember the shuttle challenger when ronald reagan say we goin to touch God face and the titanic when the makers say not evn God could sink it? What happened to it? Careful of your stupid remarks, no humans are more powerful than nature, one shake and we humans shiver

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

  • identicon
    Donald, 31 Dec 2013 @ 7:23am

    response

    Oh really? Not God couldnot hit a 1 iron? God is all powerful and can hit everything he chooses, careful wat u say dude, remember the shuttle challenger when ronald reagan say we goin to touch God face and the titanic when the makers say not evn God could sink it? What happened to it? Careful of your stupid remarks, no humans are more powerful than nature, one shake and we humans shiver

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

  • identicon
    Scarecrow, 6 May 2014 @ 8:39pm

    Light Ning

    Oops, I did get hit by lightning a couple of years back and it boiled my ass to jelly. Hence, I always look forward to geeting hit by mega volts of lightning. Keeps me in shape. I would seriously recommend it to anyone who needs a total body experience :-)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2016 @ 5:01pm

    lightning experience

    not long ago, i was operating my phone outside at front of my door when i had this lightning. I saw the lightning very close to me, is like it wanted to penetrate the phone, but i pull the phone backward. Then i enter house. But i keep wondering why would a lightning get closer to my sight, then i realize that i was operate the phone when the thunderstorm occur. So i have no doubt the phone attracted it

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

  • identicon
    Kenneth Eleseo, 10 Jun 2016 @ 9:05am

    One call away

    So . as a whole .. Is it okay to use cellphones during thunderstorms ?

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


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