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When Lightning Strikes Sand?

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Image of the Week #99, July 8th, 2013:


From: What Really Happens When Lightning Strikes Sand: The Science Behind a Viral Photo by Kyle Hill at Overthinking It.

Source: Unknown, all over the Web. Update: Original image seems to be by SandCastleMatt.

Did you catch this incredible viral picture this week of what happens when lightning strikes sand? It’s not hard to imagine that a massive amount of energy that’s concentrated where lightning strikes could do something spectacular to sand when it hits a beach. There’s only one problem: this photo is not it. It’s fake. Kyle Hill explains how you can tell and shows us what lightning really does to sand in his post “What Really Happens When Lightning Strikes Sand: The Science Behind a Viral Photo“.



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  1. 1. Glendon Mellow 7:16 am 07/9/2013

    Sorry to be late to the party. I had more luck with Tineye than Google Image Search this time.

    It appears to be a photo by “SandCastleMatt” for use/sale on EveryStockPhoto.

    Link to this
  2. 2. EmilStenstrom 3:59 am 07/10/2013

    This is (unfortunately) not a result of lightning striking, but a man-made sand castle. Here’s the original author saying “The biggest sand castle I’ve ever made…”: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandcastlematt/388839090/

    So the title of this article is all wrong, especially on a journal claiming to be “scientific”.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Bora Zivkovic 10:26 am 07/10/2013

    This is a psychology question for @EmilStenstrom – can you explain why you put in the effort to write that comment, yet did not put in the effort to a) notice the question mark in the headline, b) read the blurb, c) click on the link and read the post? Seriously, I am interested, professionally, in why people post comments without reading.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Confushon 9:55 am 07/11/2013

    I like how many people did not even read past the title and than commented about how the picture was fake. You made me lol. The whole article was talking about how the pic is fake.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Daniel35 7:54 pm 07/11/2013

    I suspected when I saw the name of the originator. The “science ” is about how easily people are fooled. I’m guessing it started as a limb sticking out of the sand, maybe only three feet or so high. Pour slurries of wet sand on it to build the columns.

    Link to this
  6. 6. matanbz 1:34 am 07/12/2013

    Perhaps I’m wrong but the ladies in the back don’t cast the same shadow as the erected sandblast.
    Is it possible that it’s photoshoped (and I’m not talking about the ladies shadows…)?

    Link to this
  7. 7. way2ec 2:20 am 07/16/2013

    I like the evolution of this image… starts as a sand sculpture (we call them drip castles), goes “viral” as lightning fused sand, becomes an article about the science behind a viral image and finally becomes a very good article about what really happens when lightning strikes sand with links to tarantula fungi weirdness and a Martian sunset. Resonates beautifully with my ADHD randomness genes. Science rocks and geology does too!

    Link to this

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