Friday, February 10, 2012
Okay, so we’ve all heard the Ben Franklin-kite flying-electricity story enough times, but what some of us may not realize is that those experiments led to one of the most important inventions in history. One that has arguably saved more lives than any other: The Lightning Rod. Pachow, pachow!
You see, most building materials like wood and drywall and… roof, are horrible conductors of electricity, so when hit with a streaking supercharge of juice, they tend to burst into flames. This can cause quite a predicament for those contained within. Back in Franklin’s day most homes and buildings were constructed with wood based materials, so it was common for lightning to ruin a perfectly good evening for many an unlucky household. The Lightning Rod offered a simple and effective solution. A pointed metal rod placed at the highest point of a structure would attract and conduct the energy a lightning bolt produces and pass it by wire down the side of a structure and into the ground where a much larger rod absorbs the bulk of the load. Genius.
Back in the day, lightning rods were very decorative and most contained glass bulbs, which, when shattered, offered clear evidence of their awesomeness.
So next time you find yourself in a tall building, a dwelling on a hill, an airplane, or a yacht or something, during a crazy lighting storm, give a quick thanks to Mr. F for keeping you perfectly safe.