BBC Science Focus
IS IT SAFE TO FLY A KITE IN A THUNDERSTORM?
No, it isn’t – though it does have its place in the history of science. In June 1752, the American polymath Benjamin Franklin flew a kite during a storm, using it to investigate his theory that lightning is a form of electricity. Knowing the wet string could conduct electricity, he thought he could protect himself by standing in a doorway and looking for signs of electric charge on the dry part of the string, rather than waiting for a direct strike. But he was still very lucky. He doesn’t seem to have realised that as voltages during storms allow electric currents to flow even through air, the dry string would not have stopped a lightning strike reaching him – with potentially fatal consequences.