Rainwater may increase survival chances in lightning strikes

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A new study from the Technical University of Ilmenau has brought to light a fascinating discovery: rainwater on the scalp could significantly increase a person’s chances of surviving a direct lightning strike to the head.

This research, recently published in Scientific Reports, suggests that a wet scalp not only reduces the number of injuries but also decreases the electrical current reaching the brain during a lightning strike.

For years, the theory that wet skin might offer some protection against the electrical current of a lightning strike circulated among scientists, but it lacked practical evidence.

The team at Ilmenau took on the challenge, conducting experiments with human-like model heads designed to mimic the layers of the scalp, skull, and brain.

They used materials such as water, sodium chloride, graphite, and agarose to replicate the electrical conductivity of human tissue.

In their experiments, the researchers exposed these artificial heads to high-energy electrical discharges that simulated the conditions of a natural lightning strike.

They compared the effects on a dry head model with those on a model sprayed with artificial rainwater. The findings were striking: the wet model showed fewer perforations and less damage in the areas surrounding the lightning strike sites.

Moreover, the intensity of the current reaching the brain was significantly lower when the head was wet, suggesting a reduced risk of injury.

These results offer compelling evidence that wetness can indeed play a critical role in mitigating the effects of a lightning strike on the human body.

A wet scalp, as it turns out, can act as a protective barrier, reducing the electrical current’s impact and, consequently, the potential for severe damage to the brain.

Despite these promising findings, the researchers caution against underestimating the dangers of lightning. A direct strike is a severe event, and seeking shelter to avoid lightning is still the safest course of action.

Nevertheless, this study sheds new light on the interactions between the human body and natural elements, offering hope for better protection and survival strategies in the face of such powerful natural phenomena.

The research findings can be found in Scientific Reports.

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