View Full Version : Lighning strikes and Feynman paths
06-12-11, 01:17 PM
Trying to visualise Hawking's description of the path integral formulation I immediately think of lightning. Sure, I know that lightning is caused by positive and negative electrical attraction between two points but these two forces must some how "know" something about each other prior to the strike taking place. Is this the right way to visualise the process (even if the mechanisms are different)?
06-12-11, 01:43 PM
Lightning is caused (simplistically) by the completion of a circuit by two leaders, one from the cloud and one from the ground. As electrostatic potential builds during a storm, there are multiple potential paths that begin to grow. Where the lightning ends up discharging is just a matter of where the short circuit ends up.
Wikipedia has an animation in their lightning entry that shows this, and there are pics on the web showing leaders creeping up into the air. Lightning researchers even simulate these ground leaders by launching model rockets with wires, to try and force lightning to strike at a given location so they can sample the effects.
06-12-11, 01:59 PM
With regards to the leaders creeping up into the air, they always appear to head upwards in the general direction of the storm. How do they know to do this? I can only assume that there are many similar but different leaders because in the time it takes to make a connection the most suitable path has shifted many times. What I really want to know is are the properties of a lightning strike analogues to quantum principles?
Powered by vBulletin® Version 4.2.0 Copyright © 2013 vBulletin Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.