# If I had a lightbulb in my mouth and a lightning bolt hit me, would it incandesce?

Say I’d like to do the whole Uncle Fester thing.

I stand in the rain in the open field. I sprinkle some salt on my tongue. I place the contact of the bulb, and wait. Then, zap.

Before my shriveled body shorts the circuit, is there any time, however brief, that the light would go on? I guess wattage, resistance, and voltage must be analyzed first…But can anyone suggest any outlines of a solution?

No, but you would.

Given that the positive and negative terminals of the bulb would both be in electrical contact via the wet interior of your mouth, I don’t see why current would pass through the filament and make it glow.

http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/faq/faq_ltg.php/

Is that number right at all? If so how do people survive lightening at all?

Anyway I was hoping to answer the op’s question. OP your light bulb is at best probably 100 watts? It’ll be over loaded and burn out like a camera flash, and probably explode in your mouth.

IIRC, it’s because skin is a fairly good insulator, and most of the energy tends to pass over the body instead of through it.

Anyway to make me just an anode?

INA electrician, but I did sleep through, no, take physics class in college.

There maybe wouldn’t be much voltage difference between the two terminals, so not much impetus for current - but heck, there could be hella voltage between the base of the bulb and the outside of the bulb, or other wierd, transient differentials - so there could be current through the filament - but maybe not the same way things normally work. We’re not talking ‘normal’ here. So I think that it would be as TTR said, prolly all explode together (and let’s not dwell on this), and yeah, a brief flash before all the lights went out, for good.

Van DeGraff generators can jolt you with small (250,000 V, more or less) lightning bolts. Incandescent bulbs held in one’s hand (or mouth) don’t light up when the generator zaps you, but it’s fun to light up a fluorescent tube that way.

Therefore, if you want to light up a bulb you’re holding while getting struck by lightning, go fluorescent. Neon tubes should work, too.

just about everything is a conductor for lightning, it has just traveled miles through nonconductive air.

people live because not much of the energy of the bolt has gone through them. lightning bolts split many times as they approach the ground because there is much energy to dissipate.

trees get hit where the energy of the bolt goes into the tree and the trunk can explode.

Fantastic! (Civil Guy was informative, but not very civil.)
Can you put this in a little more detail so that I can tell it to people in cocktail parties? Length of x-watt bulb/human life proportions based on x parameters…?

When people get hit by lightening, they often have internal burns along the path the lightening took to ground, even if you don’t see damage on the outside. So anyone who is hit by lightening, even if they can walk away, should be taken to the ER. Sometimes, these burns are in very bad places, like the heart or kidneys, and they may survive the bolt, but die of their internal damage later. Sometimes, these burns are in not-so-bad places, like the connective tissue, and they may survive both the bolt and the burns.

You don’t need lightning to make a fluorescent tube glow. Just hold it in the air under a high-voltage transmission line.

The argon inside the incandescent bulb would flash briefly like a strobelight.

Similar: put an incandescent bulb in your microwave oven. Argon plasma forms.

I’d like to apologize to Civil. I read the beginning of his post incorrectly.

This - maybe/probably. You need a significant voltage across the two terminals of the light bulb in order to drive an electrical current across the filament. Those terminals are maybe a 1/4-inch apart.

Lightning does produce voltage gradient in the earth wherever it strikes, often called step voltage; this is why it’s possible for lightning to kill you even if you aren’t directly struck by it. In the same way as a voltage gradient is created in the earth, if you’re struck in the head it’s reasonable to expect a voltage gradient through your body, from head to toe. Is the gradient across your body strong enough to produce an adequate voltage differential in a 1/4" of distance to cause the filament to actually incandesce? Hard to say. Lightning is insanely powerful, but this may be asking a lot of it.

You actually DON’T need a voltage between the terminals on an incandescent bulb to make the filament glow. You need current through the filament. You could weld the terminals together and make the filament glow, if you could cause a rapid enough change in the strength of the magnetic field where it passes through the loop formed by the filament and its supports.

This is actually a common mechanism by which lightning damages things. A bolt occurs someplace nearby, and a loop of conductor acts like a winding in a generator and passes current around. Or, a nearly-complete loop, such as two insulated wires that cross in a couple locations, develop enough voltage to blast through the insulation.

This is entirely wrong. The air is ionized before a lightning bolt. Negative charges at the base of a cloud induce positive charges on the ground. Lightning bolts do not split as they approach the ground. Negative step lightning from the cloud will induce positive step lightning from the ground. Wikepedia:

Where/how need/would I be acting, theoretically, as per OP?

I think the best thing to do - well, assuming you want to stay safe, the worst thing to do - would be to stand near or inside of some kind of conductor that preferably has a bit of a curl to it, like a partial loop, or even better an entire coil, that the lightning bolt is going to get conducted through. Then you will want to make sure that the plane of the filament and its supports is parallel to the plane of the loop or coil, so the two are most fully coupled. It’s transformer windings you want to imitate, here. You also want to complete the circuit between the terminals. I guess if you have a gold front tooth, that might be best. Get fitted for a new grill, yo.