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Benjamin Franklin discovered that lightning was caused by electrical discharges from clouds, and he is credited with inventing the lightning rod. Almost three centuries later, high-speed photography in the twenty-first century has revealed precisely how a lightning discharge happens, and it is much more complex than previously thought. Slowing down the flash observed by the human eye revealed that normally unseen negatively charged branches, called leaders, fork their way from the cloud towards the ground. Meanwhile, positive leaders grow upward from high places, like lightning rods. When two leaders make contact, the electrical connection is completed and a channel is made. Instantly a massive high-current discharge (a return stroke) occurs between the ground and the cloud along this pathway. This return stroke is what the human eye sees. This fascinating video captures the channel being made.
Last month, European researchers published a report in Nature Photonics about using a high-powered laser on the ground to create a virtual lightning rod that would guide a leader to a physical lightning rod (Interesting Engineering, January 16, 2023). By ionizing the air, the laser creates an artificial pathway directing the leader to the lightning rod.
This scientific phenomenon bears a striking resemblance to the Creator’s own description of lightning. God challenged the patriarch Job, “Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, or a path for the thunderbolt?” (Job 38:25), or as the King James Version renders it, “a way for the lightning of thunder?” How fascinating that modern, high-tech equipment has revealed details of the Creator’s design of this part of Earth’s electrical system that fit so precisely to the Bible’s own description, written about 4,000 years ago. To learn more about God’s fantastic creation, be sure to read or listen to “God and the Foundation of Science.”