Proof positive that lightning rods work...

It is important to do complete research before making any conclusions about such difficult subjects. It is also a good idea to consider the motivation of the so-called experts in the field.

The NFPA has an agenda and I’m certain that there are political as well as job security considerations to their standards.

In the spirit of completeness, I submit to you the writings of an independant expert:

PS :slight_smile:

This was actually the topic of one of my first questions to GQ:

So why didn’t Cecil deign to answer my question back in February? (Answer: because it was wayyyy too long of a post.) :frowning:

(BTW, I never did get the link in the previous post to work, even after “cleaning out” the adware supposedly installed on my computer.)

Robby, the link in the OP, which works fine for me, goes to an “essay” by Mark Twain called Political Economy. It’s quite humorous. Try this link.

And welcome to the Straight Dope, rehowes. I trust you’ll enjoy your stay here.

For everyone else, this link will take you to Cecil’s column.

I once spent two whole days at a university physics library trying to track down the answer to this question, and came away with more questions than answers. I do remember reading in one of the books or journals there that if the lightning rod did attract a lightning strike, the heat of resistance in the conductor might be enough enough to cause a fire in a wood-frame house. I wish I could remember where I read that.

Delicious piece of reading the one quoted by rehowes. And very real too. Ignoring the satire side, that might have happened today.

AFAIK, the whole business of lightning protection is based on empirical data so far not sufficiently correlated as to have a reliable predictive theory. We are still far from being able to explain, let alone protect ourselves completely from lightning.

Which reminds me of an old saying one of my teachers used to advise: “If we have the best experimental design, the most stringent metrological standards, the best technicians and the best scholars working on a given experiment, then nature will still do whatever it darn pleases.”

I don’t intend to minimize the current knowledge, but we still have some way to go before we can say we’re mastering lightning control.

This is going to come as a great shock to the Disney Company. Every building in Walt Disney World in Florida has lightning rods on their roofs (the Franklin type). So does Sea World and Universal Studios. (Central Florida has more thunderstorms than any other part of the USA.) Did they all waste their money?

So, how exactly would you go about testing whether lightning rods work?

The major purpose of a lightning rod is to prevent the house from burning down due to a lightning strike, correct? So, do there exist statistics on the number of fires caused by lightning strikes in houses and houses without lightning rods? Is the cause of a lighting-induced fire always (usually? sometimes?) clearly apparent? Does any agency keep track of whether or not houses have lighting rods? Insurance companies, maybe?

Isaac Asimov wrote an essay about lightning rods that showed using historical evidence that they worked. It wasn’t the point of the article, but that was the device used to prove the point. Here’s information on the article:

The Fateful Lightning
Subject: Franklin’s lightning rod/and its impact on rational thinking
First Published In: Jun-69, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
1971 The Stars in their Courses
1985 The Edge of Tomorrow

Basically, the article describes how religious institutions go against scientific discoveries. When Franklin developed the lightning rod, people started to use them. Except for churches which really needed them since they were often the tallest buildings in town. Buildings that used them didn’t have the lightning damage they used to, but churches didn’t use them because they thought that lightning was God’s wrath and that installing a lightning rod was in effect diverting God’s wrath. So church buildings continued to suffer lightning damage, but all the other buildings that had them were escaping such damage.

Anyway, that’s my two cents.