Lichtenberg Figures: The Fractal Patterns of Lightning Strike Scars

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(Click through to the page to view the article properly.) The lighter side of being struck by lightning. The horrific beauty of nature.

TwistedSifter

 

Being struck by lightning is a dangerous and scary experience and can even be fatal. Sometimes, the electrical discharge can leave a tattoo-like marking or scar known as a Lichtenberg figure. The patterns created are known to be examples of fractals.

Lichtenberg figures are branching electric discharges that sometimes appear on the surface or the interior of insulating materials. They are named after the German physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who originally discovered and studied them. When they were first discovered, it was thought that their characteristic shapes might help to reveal the nature of positive and negative electric “fluids”.

In 1777, Lichtenberg built a large electrophorus to generate high voltage static electricity through induction. After discharging a high voltage point to the surface of an insulator, he recorded the resulting radial patterns in fixed dust. By then pressing blank sheets of paper onto these patterns, Lichtenberg was able…

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