Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 23/06/2006 Talking about being struck by lightning, the BBC is reporting a sorry tale from the British Medical Journal of a girl who got zapped while nattering on her phone during a thunderstorm in 'a large London park'. A particularly large current flowed in the phone, causing a lot of damage to that side of the girl's head and leaving her with permanent problems.

Friday 23/06/2006

Talking about being struck by lightning, the BBC is reporting a sorry tale from the British Medical Journal of a girl who got zapped while nattering on her phone during a thunderstorm in 'a large London park'. A particularly large current flowed in the phone, causing a lot of damage to that side of the girl's head and leaving her with permanent problems.

There's nothing special about mobile phones and lightning – if she'd been whispering sweet nothings to a damp mackerel at the time, the same thing would have happened. Any metal or other conductor in proximity to the body will concentrate the current and create localised heating, explosive and electrical effects. But people have vague race memories of the days when radios had long aerials and the advice their grandmothers always gave of switching off during a thunderstorm, and doubtless that will get munged up with the whole 'mobile phone masts are killing our children with deadly rays' notion. That's despite the fact that the BMJ managed to find a whole three people who'd been killed by being struck by lightning while on their mobiles. That's three. Ever. More people will choke to death on aardvark bones this weekend.

The rules of lightning are simple. Don't stand around in a field when there's a thunderstorm on – and if you must, don't handle lumps of metal. Umbrellas are really silly, and I'd give pole-vaulting a miss. Get inside a building. Get inside a car. If you can, get inside a cage made of chicken wire; that way, you can enjoy a direct hit with nothing more than ringing in your ears and a noseful of ozone. And if that really appeals, you should get in touch with the Lighting On Demand people or the UK Tesla Coil Builders, who may spark your enthusiasm further.

None of that matters, from now until the end of time there'll be people who think that mobile phones attract lightening – which means there'll be people selling magic patches that de-ionise the hertzian waves and repel the thunder gods.

I hope they work. I'm buying a whole pile, because it's the weekend of my birthday picnic on Hampstead Heath. Find out where it is, and you can come too! But please – no pole vaulting.

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