How did lightening strike this motorcyclist?

From here.

Like, WTF? Big rubber tires and all that.


If it was raining (as it often is in thunderstorms, and appears to have been in this case), then it’s actually quite difficult to insulate yourself from ground, because water conducts electricity (well, impure water does).

Also, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re insulated from ground, as long as you are part of a path to ground that offers less resistance than nearby objects and/or the surrounding air. For example: wear rubber boots and carry a tall metal pole, and the increased resistance of the jump through or around the rubber boots is offset by the greatly reduced resistance of the path down the metal pole as opposed to down through the equivalent amount of air.

Oh, and sorry if this is pedantic, but there is no e in lightning.

Yeah, I caught that post-posting.

Thanks. Talk about the exact wrong place at the wrong time. I’d have guessed that the lightpoles, signs, etc that go with a highway would have been better conductors.


I suppose it’s possible that a rising hot plume of exhaust gases could contribute to an easy path to ground, if there are ionised components - although this seems less likely for a bike moving at speed.

Considering that the bolt travelled for a mile or so through air already, I have a feeling it can jump the gap from the rider’s foot to the ground pretty easily. Rubber tires won’t protect you.

It’s not the insulating tires that allow people in cars to survive lightning strikes but a metal cage around them which allows the electricity to flow around them - after all that bolt traveled 1000’s of feet you think an inch of rubber is going to stop it?. This cage does not apply to a motorcycle.

There is when I spell it! :slight_smile:

That is one of my common mistakes.

With high energy electromagnetism, almost all the assumptions we have regarding insulation are wrong. Rubber tires won’t matter, because the current will flow over the surface of perfectly dry tires; being wet helps even more.

Even if he wasn’t hit directly, there’s still the possibility that he was electrocuted by the field in the roadway created by the dispersal of the bolt, or the explosive concussion of the strike was enough to stun him and he died of more regular trauma from wrecking the bike.

I don’t have an answer but it was strange to run into this thread. My wife was caught in the traffic jam caused by this and mentioned it to me when she found out what caused it.

What a crazy thing! One minute you are riding your bike and then WHAMO. Gone.

Sobering… I feel for his family.

You’re supposed to make a hair coloring joke, not point out the misspelling. Geez!

**Cheesesteak ** and **VunderBob ** are correct.

Another thing to consider: I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of high frequency content in a lightning bolt. So even if the tires had infinite volume and surface resistivity, and even if an arc won’t form from your foot to ground, you could still get zapped. How? Because the bike + rider also has capacitance to ground. One “plate” is the road, the other “plate” is the motorcycle, and the dielectric is the tires. AC current will flow through a capacitor. :wink: