At the time when the sky above is so covered with the tumultuous, and tar-black cumulonimbus clouds, a great clap of thunder often came marching from far away with an increasing tread that brightens the pitch-black heaven—even for just a split-second.
a) The sonic boom of thunder and lightning, flashed across the sky, frightened us all, but even so much more to people caged in a plane hovering beneath the storm and, not to mention, above the ground. One could only fear and hope the safety for these passengers against the danger of the natural force of lightning flashing into their haven, erratically. Indeed, lightning can be scary and perhaps, this fear from many years ago had compelled people with ingenious minds to figure out a resolution to travel across the globe via airplanes without compromising the safety of the people inside. But how? The answer lies with the Faraday Cage a.k.a. Faraday shield, discovered by an English physicist Michael Faraday in 1835, which is “an enclosure formed by conducting material, or by a mesh of such material that blocks out external static electrical fields” (Wikipedia, 2017). This can be said the same with the material wrapped around the airplane. In simplest words, it has something to do with what they’re made of. According to howthingsfly.edu, planes are usually made of metals like aluminum (a strong, yet lightweight metal) and the ones with parts that don’t usually have metal frames or fibers in their shells. These materials are used primarily because they’re good conductors of electricity, bringing to light the secret of safety when lightning hits the extremity of an airplane allowing the current to flow through the skin from the (entry) point of impact to some other shortest possible (exit) point without compromising the interior of the plane. What’s more, a piece of metal normally in a fiberglass rod called “static wick”, fixed as an antenna-like devices on wingtips, is used. This disperses the static buildup in the air, which minimizes the intensity of a lightning strike and sends the lightning through the rod (Yoon, 2005)). This also provides a path for the excess electrons to flow back into the atmosphere, rather than being held up in the air frame. Upon the strike, the electrons of the lightning strike flow onto the metal surface, but electrons have the characteristics to push themselves away from each other as they have the same negative charge. Correspondingly, the outer skin of the airframe gives the electrons more space to separate from each other rather than on the inner surface of the metal, thus, protecting all on board from the dangers of electrical current (Captain Joe, 2017). To that end, the electricity flows along the route of least resistance, the metal skin, and exits harmlessly before continuing its natural journey to earth.
But when landing on land, the airplane technicians have to perform a thorough search for the entry and exit point of the lightning strikes as the extreme heat of the strike creates nasty burn marks or even holes on the airplane skin.
b) It would seem that not all vehicles are safe anywhere by the time the world has gone cellar-dark with ominous sky overhead, inducing jagged streaks of lightning outstretched to the ground that sometimes skips to the buzzling streets and onwards to the cars it seize! Despite the growing telltales of risk, the lightning strikes hitting a car is surprisingly not uncommon these days and it’s exactly not that dangerous so long as the person refrain oneself from being grounded by touching the parts from the inside of the car and getting all overwhelmed with terror all at once. That being said, a car in fact provides some protection from lightning, although not fully. Like airplanes, cars also have been designed for years to deal with lightning strikes pretty well and it’s definitely not the rubber tires on a car that predominantly help to protect the driver and occupants from a lightning strike as some has incorrectly thought so, thereby, a myth is what this is (Leberfinger, 2014). The point often overlooked is what’s sitting on top of the tires that makes the difference—the metallic skin of the car. When lightning strikes a car, Warrilow and Erdman (2016) asserted that the current is carried around the metal body and jumps over the rubber tire to the ground. In essence, an all-metal car body will act like a mobile Faraday cage, keeping the people therein safe and sound from any hurt and damage. Be that as it may, not all vehicles are created alike and be on the same condition, in this case, metallic skin and added conductive materials. For instance, convertibles do not have metal roofs, only fabrics and other nonmetallic material, which compromises the Faraday cage affect. Plus, with some vehicles manufactured out of non-metal parts, there is a tendency for them to impede electricity’s ability to flow through the car.