Physics KS3/GCSE: How can you survive a lightning strike?

Greg Foot investigates whether a human being can survive when struck by lightning.

He uses a Tesla coil to produce very high voltages of static electricity that simulate lightning strikes. He starts by using an electric fence to show how completing an electric circuit allows the current to flow.

He then explains that water containing minerals makes a good conductor of electricity and the human body contains about 73% water and this makes our bodies a good conductor. This is important because we need small amounts of electricity for our muscles to work.

He explains that lightning can stop muscles, like our heart muscle, from working. Greg then demonstrates how anything containing water makes a good conductor and demonstrates how a Faraday cage works by conducting the lightning away to earth.

He completes the demonstration by showing that the safest place in a storm is inside a metal car.

Teacher Notes

This short film could be used when discussing electric circuits, current and voltage. It would also be good for the study of electrical conductors and insulators and how they work.

Students could use a Van der Graaff generator to investigate the effects of current with a high voltage on the human body.

This would also be useful when learning about famous scientists and their work such as Benjamin Franklin flying a kite in a lightning storm, Michael Faraday and the Faraday-cage and Robert Van der Graaff.

Curriculum Notes

These short films will be relevant for teaching physics at both KS3 and KS4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4/5 in Scotland.

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