I’m back. My biological clock is almost half a day behind me, but that’s its problem…zzzzzzZZzzz.
Where was I?
Right, I promised to share my cut entry from the latest Cracked article with you. Here it is:
“Lichtenberg Figures” and Captured Lightning
Say you had the power to tame lightning itself. How would you wield such power? If you answered anything other than “Bend the world to my will and make them all twerk non-stop until I am appeased,” I am thoroughly disappointed in you. You clearly have much to learn when it comes to supervillainy.
There are a couple of not-quite-as-psychotic alternatives. You could carry a miniature lightning with you wherever you went and scare the shit out of passersby. You could make the world’s only functional replica of an Iron Man suit. Or, you could trap lightning in a transparent block, and make it do this:
“That’s boring–it’s just the same old lightning in a box,” some of you may say, because you are dead inside and have forgotten how to feel joy.
To you, I offer a mesmerizing video of the process that created it:
Still not impressed? How about I offer you a bit of “what the hell is wrong with you?” Seriously, it’s a goddamn real home-made lightning inside a block. Aren’t you at least curious as to how it was made? Oh, you are? Well…
How the hell did they do that?
Like most awesome things in life, it all starts with a Dynamitron—a “four-story-tall, five-million-volt particle accelerator.” A team of electrical engineers and physicists use the Dynamitron to blast a bunch of electrons into pieces of acrylic sheet, entirely overlooking the machine’s potential as a doomsday weapon. Acrylic is a great insulator, so it keeps all the electrons trapped inside, with no means to escape (which sounds like a premise for the nerdiest horror movie you’ll ever see).
When blocks of this electron-rich acrylic are struck with a sharp object, it instantly creates an escape route for the electrons. In their mad rush to get out, all the electrons flow towards that single exit point—a sort of reverse Black Friday, if you will. In the process, they create the branching lightning patterns, otherwise known as “Lichtenberg figures.” It’s kind of like when many smaller streams flow into each other until they finally join into a river. Or like when real-life lightning is formed from smaller lightning branches. That’s a much more appropriate analogy, I should have just gone with that.
The escape path of the electrons remains etched in the acrylic, resulting in impressive “captured lightning” figures. See, now wasn’t that…enlightening?
These “captured lightning” figures can even be shaped to resemble different things. Like this one (I’m not exactly sure what it’s supposed to be):
Or “Yin Yang”:
You can even make your own Lichtenberg figures. All you need to do is go outside during a thunderstorm and get struck by lightning. Lightning will occasionally etch similar “captured lightning” patterns directly into your very skin. More often, though, it will kill you in a most spectacular way, so I should probably advise against it. You may want to get your hands on a Dynamitron instead.