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December 12, 2013

Experts' Expert: When caught in a lightning storm, should you stay in a car or get out?


C. Claiborne Ray's always informative and useful Q&A feature in Tuesday's New York Times Science section addressed this as follows.


Q. When caught in a lightning storm, should you stay in a car or get out?

A. Stay in the car — but not necessarily for the reason you may think. The four rubber tires of a car provide no insulating protection, most authorities agree.

Instead, the National Lightning Safety Institute advises, it is the conductive nature of a mostly metal vehicle that actually offers the best chance of protection from lightning. Most of the current is carried on the outside of a conducting object. This phenomenon is called the skin effect, and the protective shield is sometimes referred to as a partial Faraday cage (named for the English scientist Michael Faraday, who developed shielding based on the effect).

So the best advice for a driver in a lightning storm is not only to stay within this protective perimeter, but to make sure not to touch any conductive object that might penetrate outside it, like door and window handles, the radio dial, the gearshift, or the steering wheel. A school bus is the type of vehicle likely to offer the most protection, the institute says.

Lightning is capricious, and many variables — among them whether the vehicle is wet or dry, metal or fiberglass, a hardtop or a convertible — can have an unpredictable effect on what happens to a car and its passengers.


Graphic by Victoria Roberts.

December 12, 2013 at 08:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Flyin' Drunk Luggage Tag — Think outside the flight space


Major Tom to ground control: plenty of applications on the surface, no need for wheels-up.


Too bad it doesn't come in UVA's colors: Mincer's would sell a ton of 'em.

$7 (bag not included).

Wait a sec... what's that music I'm hearing?

December 12, 2013 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Elevator doors at Amazon Japan


Added Diana Adams: "Brilliant!"


I finally got going last night reading Brad Stone's biography of Jeff Bezos: it is as good as advertised.

Compelling stuff.

What's especially interesting to me is that Bezos is only 49 years old (he turns 50 a month from today).

He has made a career of astonishing us with the seemingly out of the blue directions he's pointed his company in — and the surprises just keep coming.

I'm very much looking forward to his next couple decades at the helm of this singular company.

FunFact: when I emailed him (jeff@amazon.com) a month or two ago, though I didn't hear back from him directly I did in fact get a very nice reply from a woman who appears to have spoken with him about my email and passed on his comments.

I like being one degree of separation away from this unique, über-inventive man.

December 12, 2013 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Glow-in-the-Dark LED Chess Set — No power? No worries


From websites:


• Chess pieces light up only on or near the board

• Requires 4 AA batteries (not included)

• Glossy black high-tech board

• Board: 15.7" x 15.7" x 1"

• Translucent pieces glow

• Power adapter included



December 12, 2013 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Night Eyes — Through Google Glass

Coming home the other night around 7:30 p.m., I noticed Gray Cat's shiny eyes glowing back at me when I shined my iPhone's very bright flashlight at her favorite window perch.

I happened to be wearing Google Glass as an experiment so I simply looked back at her.

What you see above is what I was looking at but not what I saw, alas: Glass has a long way to go when it comes to recording video in low light conditions.

Nevertheless, there it is.

Or isn't.

December 12, 2013 at 04:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

30X Pocket Microscope


6 inches long.



December 12, 2013 at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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