The weight of a lightning bolt.

I was struck with a thought during a storm the other day. I recall being told that a bolt of lightning is about the thickness of a pencil, and I’d imagine they could be thousands of meters long seeing as they fork and zig zag from some considerable height. Text books tend to agree that an electron’s mass is about one 2000th of a proton. What I can’t figure out is the number of electrons that contribute to an average bolt of lightning. So, whats the mass of a bolt of lightning?

It’s the same as the air (more or less).
The electrons don’t “squirt” out of the cloud (or ground, more often) and travel the length of the bolt. The bolt is generated from the electrons in the air molecules being knocked out of their shells temporarily. Any given electron only travels a short distance before it is re-captured.

Mass, or weight? Your title says one thing, but your closing sentence another. :confused:

Hoboy. Confused, my butt.
Why not just explain the difference?

Weight changes based on gravity. Mass does not.

Mass is a physical property of matter. The more massive an object is, the more inertia it has.
Weight is the force that mass exerts in a gravitational field.


Texas Aggies say

A coulomb is the amount of electric charge transported by a current of 1 ampere in 1 second. It’s also the amount of electrical charge in 6.241506×10^18 electrons or other elementary charged particles. A single electron masses 9.10938188 × 10^-31 kilograms.
One coulomb of electrons thus masses 5.68562617 × 10^-12 kilograms.

If all the current in a 25 coulomb lightning bolt were carried by electrons, those electrons would mass 0.142 micrograms.

Exactly. I was inquiring precisely what the OP was wanting to know, since mass and weight are not the same thing.

And now tvvat knows that, thanks to Wooden Taco and others.
Which is a good thing. :slight_smile:

My only sin was in crediting the OP with knowing the difference and merely erring in phrasing the topic. :wink: I think they do know the difference, just didn’t choose a good title. ETA: But when I asked, I wasn’t certain which they were asking for, mass or weight. I now realize it must be mass, which is what I would have asked, since I don’t see how you could weigh electricity.

Sorry, ‘mass’ in the title didn’t seem to flow, possibly even pretentious. But it is indeed mass that I’m interested in, and a nod to <b>Squink</b> for going to extra step with metric. No one really knows what a Newton feels like anywho. Sorry for the confusion.

And I suppose to clarify I should have said “What is the mass of the electrons <i>involved</i> in a lightning bolt”.

All the wiser for it.

>No one really knows what a Newton feels like anywho.

Just heft a stick of butter.