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South African Journal of Science

On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353

Abstract

BLUMENTHAL, Ryan  and  WEST, Nicholas J.. Investigating the risk of lightning's pressure blast wave. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2015, vol.111, n.3-4, pp.1-5. ISSN 1996-7489.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2015/20140187.

We investigated the pathology of human trauma associated with lightning's pressure blast wave. Within what range is a human at risk and what are the risks? Two theories for the trauma currently exist: the flash moisture vaporisation theory and the sixth mechanism theory. We performed a simple proof-of-concept experiment in a high-voltage laboratory to determine which theory makes for better predictions. The experiment confirmed the existence of a non-discriminant pressure blast wave around a spark in air. The lightning data were compared with the known medical data. Findings may now help explain some of the more curious lightning injury patterns seen on lightning-strike victims.

Keywords : lightning; flash moisture vaporisation theory; sixth mechanism theory; barotrauma; keraunomedicine; keraunopathology.

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