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lightning

A Flash of Insight Winners and Explanation

Here's a little puzzle to ruminate on during a coffee break. Maybe you'll win a gift card! Give it your best shot in the comment section below. Enter as many times as you want. A $25 gift card will go to the first right answer. Another $25 winner will be selected from the other right answers. We need your email to send the gift card so make sure you're registered (and you have verified your registration via email) when you leave your comment in the box below.

“A Flash of Insight” puzzle winners and explanation (see original puzzle below):

First let’s look at each suggestion:

1.Reuben: “Throw yourself spread-eagled on the ground,” said Rueben…

Wrong advice. If a bolt of lightning should strike nearby, the electrical current spreads out through the ground. This can produce ‘step potentials’ of thousands of volts per foot. So being ‘spread-eagled could result in lethal voltage across your body.

2.      “Nope,” corrected Jessica, “You should have gotten into the jeep. The rubber tires, if they’re not too worn, provide insulation from the ground…

            Again, poor advice. The lightning bolt, having traveled perhaps miles through the air is hardly daunted by an inch of rubber tire. However, if the jeep had a top, Frank would have been safer to have gotten inside. The metal shell (and Farraday’s law for you geeks) would have protected him and the lightning current would have traveled over the jeep body to ground.

3.      Bob: “…you would have been safer if you had tightly hugged the trunk of a tall tree. Even better, you could have shinnied up a bit to get your feet off the ground.”

            Maybe Bob spoke without thinking. Tall trees are frequently hit. And they often explode. Standing near a tree exposes you to step potentials. So hugging a tree could be suicide.

4.      Waitress: …moving metal attracts lightning, so the jeep’s no use. You should have hunkered down as low as you could get and ran as fast as you could until the hairs on your neck went down again.

She should stay in school! A speeding jeep doesn’t attract anything except maybe the cops. Hunkering down low is not a bad idea. But trying to outrun a thunderstorm probably won’t work.

5.      Alissa said softly: “I’d carefully squat down and hug my knees in a fetal position…..

Alissa is right, but not because of the aura, good thoughts or Universal Energy. Getting low is always good and touching the ground with only your feet close together is the best option that’s offered.

And the winners are:

Dennis Cyor: “Squatting down and hugging your knees. Smaller target, less ground contact and closer to the ground. As far as the aura, lighning is usually negatively charged, so you would need to project a negative aura to repel the strike. Projecting a negative aura is bad karma, and could disturb the time-space continuum.”

Dan Olsen: “Alissa has the best response: Squat down and hug my knees in a fetal position, but disregard the philosophical babble!”

Dennis and Dan will both receive gift cards.

(Bruce had the first right answer but unfortunately he wasn’t verified. So make sure you are registered and verified, otherwise we have no way of sending your gift card!)


Five lineworkers, Rueben, Jessica, Frank, Bob and Alissa were eating lunch at a diner when they heard the distant rumble of thunder. Frank said “That reminds of when I was out hunting last fall. The rain started pouring and my old jeep has no top, but worse than that, the lightning was getting closer and then I felt the hair on my neck stand up. I’ve heard that that means a lightning strike is coming. I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing and soon the storm passed. What do you-all think I shoulda done?”

“Throw yourself spread-eagled on the ground,” said Rueben. “Stay as low as you can. That way you don’t look like a human lightning rod. Lightning tries to strike the tallest objects. Then lay there until you can count to 60 between seeing a flash and hearing the thunder.”

“Nope,” corrected Jessica, “You should have gotten into the jeep. The rubber tires, if they’re not too worn, provide insulation from the ground and the lightning current can’t complete the circuit so it won’t go through you. Of course the tires are wet from the rain, but pure rainwater has very low conductivity and is a good insulator.”

“Well, the answer’s not so simple. You gotta consider the terrain and other factors,” said Bob. “You were in a forest, Frank, so you were lucky. Rueben’s right that lightning usually hits the highest objects, so you would have been safer if you had tightly hugged the trunk of a tall tree. Even better, you could have shinnied up a bit to get your feet off the ground. That way the lightning would strike the tree instead of you and the trunk would have carried the current directly to ground without going through your body.”

Alissa said softly: “I’d carefully squat down and hug my knees in a fetal position. Then I’d close my eyes and focus on my inner light, repeating my personal mantra as I clear my mind of any thoughts, particularly fear. My aura would be a shield against the lightning, reflecting any negative energy back into the sky where maybe it can be transformed for Universal Good.”

There was silence until the waitress came to refill the coffees.

 “Excuse me, folks” she said, “but I’m working on my degree in electrical engineering and I couldn’t help overhearing. Maybe I can help. Now, high voltage is tricky and unpredictable, so the best thing you can do is get out of the area. But moving metal attracts lightning, so the jeep’s no use. You should have hunkered down as low as you could get and ran as fast as you could until the hairs on your neck went down again.”

What’s the correct answer? Any of these? None of these? And why? The best two answers each get a $25 gift card. (Register on tdworld.com and leave your answer in comment box below. Please make sure you follow up with verification of the registration through email so we can find you.)

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