Faraday’s Cage

We left Tenkiller Lake before the cold front which we later learned was Winter Storm Yogi. It was a pull remarkable only because the cold weather ahead of us was visible. There was a huge fogbank, and once in it, the temperature immediately dropped 20 degrees. We found our campsite on Kaw Lake and quickly set up. Half an hour later we heard thunder. Severe weather was expected – there was a tornado warning out for our neighborhood – so we went out to see where the trouble would come from. All we could see was a thin line of dark clouds on the southern horizon. And then a lightning flash within those clouds dispelled all doubt. We went back inside, poured some wine, and came out to watch it approach. As you may or may not know, I sure love thunderstorms and neon signs (Wayne Hancock’s trademark song.)

And surprise, surprise! The band of black clouds was now, a bare three minutes later, almost upon us. And then comes a bolt of lightning, close. I counted the seconds, got to ten before WHAM!, and figured “two miles away”. It’s time to get back inside the trailer. We closed the door just as rain began to fall, big drops with an occasional clink that sounded and then looked like hail.

You’re thinking, “Wait! Who gets into an aluminum trailer to avoid lightning?” Hey, it makes perfect sense. Why? Faraday’s Cage, that’s why. In the 1830’s English physicist Michael Faraday somehow figured out that static electricity (such as lightning) only effects the outside of a cage made of conductive material. A car, for example, is equally safe, unless you happen to have your arm hanging out the window when lightning hits. Rubber wheels have nothing to do with it; nothing, I tell you. You’re just as safe riding Amtrak on steel wheels on steel tracks. Static electricity follows the external skin of the cage to ground, without even raising a hair on those inside.

It’s true. You could look up Faraday’s Cage, but I know you won’t.  Here’s a picture.  They thought about using a chimp, but this guy used to be a homebuilder, so they knew he’d work cheap.


It got very cold overnight. We have run into the rear guard of Old Man Winter, and judging by the ground vegetation here, we are about two months behind spring in north Louisiana. South Dakota is 600 miles north. Soon we must decide whether to tour South Dakota in earliest spring, or make a quick dash up there for driver’s licenses, then head back south.

2 thoughts on “Faraday’s Cage

  1. For your birthday I’m updating all your SEO 😉

    Did you know this post is the one most often reached by random internet searchers?? You’re helping people learn new things!


  2. Yes, I know. Science is very interesting when presented properly, a la Carl Sagan 30 years ago. I saw this happen to a construction crane in Dallas, and mentioned the incident to a chemistry prof at Texas A&M on one of Bret’s Aggieland Saturdays. He grinned and quickly explained Faraday’s Cage. Hence this article.

    But it does feel good to feel safe inside your tinfoil house with 8 million volts hitting trees nearby.


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