Lightning is the natural force that in any epoch was really scary for people as its strikes bring destruction, death and fires, and leave millions of people deeply shocked.
When the lightning-conductor was invented and tested at the cost of lives of several physicians, the euphoria caused by the apparent triumph was immense. But was the invention the real triumph over the natural forces? That was not a final triumph at all, and we see that every year the number of people killed or injured with lightning is increasing. In France, about one million of lightning stokes are registered every year, and they bring death to dozens of people and some 10,000 cows.
It is not ruled out that the number of victims killed with lightning strikes would be higher if the lightning-conductor were not invented. However, this invention is not an absolutely effective protection from lightning. To be more exact, lightning-conductors wonderfully protect us from "disruption from the clouds", in other words from what lighting was believed to be after electricity was opened.
It is known that lightning obeys to majority of laws on the spread of discharge, but experience shows that not all of them and not always. Lightning consists of electric discharge and something else besides electricity. Otherwise, people do not know exactly what electricity is. Majority of weather forecasts precisely name the days when lightning is possible, but there is hardly a forecast that can predict how lightning will behave in this or that case. What is more, lightning behavior is in most cases beyond understanding indeed.
Witnesses tell incredible stories about lightning strikes. Lightning can burn down underwear but at the same time the coat may remain intact. It can also shave man's hair off. People tell that they saw lightning snatch metal items out of people's hands, cast them away at a long distance and at that those who were originally holding the items were absolutely safe. A girl said that she was caught in the rain with lightning and the latter completely destroyed a metal medallion pending on a chain, and the girl found only an imprint of the chain and the medallion on her skin which was visible within several years.
The above instances of lightning strikes were rather lucky for people. However, lightning may cause death to people in a rather original manner. Once, people found the dead body of a man killed by lightning. When the man's body was examined it turned out that lightning left on his body a smaller image of the tree under which the man was sitting when the lightning struck. A group of people hid from lightning under a tree, and after lightning struck the tree the people tragically died but still remained sitting in the same poses and it seemed they were still alive. And when passers-by approached the group and touched some of them all the bodies turned to dust. We also know stories telling that lightning may split people from top to toe as if with an axe.
Some places on the planet fix a particularly great number of lightnings which is explained with climatic, geological and anomalous peculiarities of the place. Tororo in Uganda is the place where lightning occurs 251 days a year. Russia's Caucasus is the place where lightning frequency is explained with some geological peculiarities of the place, and the Medveditskaya Ridge in the Volga Region is frequently hit with lightning for some anomalous reasons, experts say.
But it is difficult to explain why lightning runs after some particular people. Former park keeper American Roy Sullivan was struck with lightning seven times in different places. In 1942, lightning burnt the man's toe, in July 1969 he had his brows burnt down, in July 1970 lightning burnt Roy's shoulder, in April 1972 his hair was scorched with lightning. The man had his legs burnt with lightning in August 1973, his ankle-bones, chest and belly were burnt with lightning in June 1976 and June 1977. Those persistent attacks of lightning absolutely finished the man, and in six years after the last lightning attack, in September 1983 Sullivan committed suicide.
A more amazing story occurred to husbands of Marta Maikia from Bulgaria. The woman's first husband, American tourist Randolph Eastman was killed with lightning two months after their marriage. Marta's second husband was killed with lightning on the spot when the couple traveled about Spain. The widow got back to Sofia and underwent medical treatment to cope with her terrible depression. A German doctor who treated the woman became her third husband. They got married in Berlin, but when the couple was approaching the French border the third husband was also tragically killed with lightning. It is known that no other men risked to become Marta's fourth husband.
The selectivity of lightning is incredible. In one and the same case lightning kills a horseman and his horse remains intact, and the other rider remains alive while his horse is burnt to ashes. In Japan, experts still fail to explain the reason of a terrible tragedy. Pupils of a school class went for a walking tour; the teacher accompanying the group told the pupils to hold on to a rope. When lightning struck it killed every second pupil, exactly half of the teenagers. Others remained alive.
One of the most incredible but still very credible hypotheses says that our planet is a huge living being, and according to the hypothesis lightning's role is an honorable one. It says that the huge living and intelligent organism needs a strong nervous system, organs and channels of communication between its remote parts. The Earth has no quicker and more effective ways for information transmission than lightning discharges.
What is more, thunderstorms that rage somewhere on the planet every day (up to 3,200 lightning discharges are registered in the equatorial zone within one night) also perform the self-regulation role. When lightning sets forests on fire it thus reduces the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere if its content is too high. On the contrary, when the amount of oxygen drops like we have it now then wood reluctantly takes fire and there are fewer fires in green forests. At the same time, fires in dried forests result in better growth of fresh shoots and consequently make for renewal of oxygen on the planet. This is how the percentage of oxygen is being maintained on the planet within millions of years.
Translated by Maria Gousseva
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