Science News


Sun, 15th Jul 2007

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A paper in this week's New England Journal describes a man admitted to hospital with a rather strange pattern of skin injuries including ruptured eardrums, a broken jaw and burns to his chest, neck and the insides both ears!

Doctors discovered that the 37 year old had been out jogging in a thunderstorm, whilst listening to his iPod. Lightning had hit a nearby tree and jumped onto the man as he ran past, a phenomenon known as side flash. This triggered muscle contractions that threw him eight feet. The man's burns ran in two lines up his neck, across the sides of his face and entered his ears. They corresponded to the position of his headphones when the accident happened. Although Eric Heffernan and his colleagues who described the case are at pains to emphasise that iPods aren't a specific risk factor for being hit by lightning, in this instance the combination of sweat, metal wires and headphones channeled the electricity into the patient's head. The sudden heating effect caused by the dischage into the ears caused rapid expansion of the air in the auditory canal, bursting the patient's ear-drums.

It's not known what he was listening to on the iPod at the time the bolt hit, but my money's on Pink Floyd's Delicate Sound of Thunder...


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