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Injury from lightning strike while using mobile phone

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 22 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1513

Rapid Response:

Re: Mobile phone letter may increase lightning casualties worldwide

I would like to comment on Mr. Hartono's response. If my memories of
high school and college physics classes are reliable, I think that
lightning preferably aims for 1) sharp objects pointing upwards; and 2)
the more conductive the material, the better. This is so because transient
electrical charges, which are good at attracting lightning strikes, tend
to accumulate at sharp tips, and metals are particularly prone to such
phenomena because of the high mobility of electrons in this material.
Indeed, lightning conductors make use of these properties very
effectively. That being stated, cellphones are probably not more efficient
than any other object at attracting lightning, notwithstanding the
contribution of metal that may be present in the object. Whether a person
holding a cellphone increases its chances of being struck relative to
another person who is not bearing a cellphone would require a controlled
experiment. Are there any volunteers?

I encourage other readers with a background in physics to comment on

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

28 June 2006
Jean-Francois Leblanc
Scientific Information Specialist
Hema-Quebec, Sainte-Foy, Canada, G1V 5C3