Applied Science - Physics (3B)
Post Lab 

   
OBJECTIVES:
  • Investigating lightning.
  • Exploring myths about explaining lightning.

VOCABULARY:

  • electricity
  • lightning
MATERIALS:

Students research Ben Franklin on the Internet.

BACKGROUND:

Throughout the world, many myths have evolved around lightning and thunder. Many of these myths include gods who controlled the phenomena. Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Roman), Iko (New Zealand), Kvum (Pygmies/Africa), Wakan (Dakota Indians/North America), are just a few names that lightning has been associated with. There are many beliefs that also revolve around lightning. Some made sense and others are nonsense. For instance, in the United States, France and Germany, it was thought that only milk could extinguish a fire caused by lightning.

Any discussion of electricity always seems to lead to lightning and Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was always curious about natural phenomena. In the mid 1700's, electricity was the "rage" in Europe. Scientists, inventors, and people curious about electricity, wanted to learn more about it. Franklin researched the subject and conducted several experiments. He published a short book on the subject that literally made him famous. In France, Franklin did several experiments but he conducted his infamous kit flying experiment in a thunderstorm in Pennsylvania. It is Franklin's description of electricity that is still used today and includes such terms as positive, negative, battery and conductor. You may want to focus on Ben Franklin's life to illustrate his curiosity. Franklin invented the lighting rod which allowed lighting to strike the rod and then the energy goes harmlessly into the ground. Many times lighting would strike a home and burn it. The lighting rod was so successful, that Franklin sold fire insurance to people if they installed a lighting rod. 

Lightning occurs when atmospheric conditions create centers of negative and positive charge. There is a point where a lightning flash or a large electrical spark in the atmosphere is created. There are many forms of lightning from streaks to even small beads in the sky. Lightning is an example of static electricity which seeks to go through a ground. This is usually metal or the highest object in an area. The mechanisms responsible for lightning are complicated but children are fascinated by the power of lightning.

PROCEDURE:

  1. Have the students do some research on Ben Franklin, by either using the Internet or books you may have available. You may want students to write a paragraph about Ben Franklinís accomplishments as a scientist.
      
  2. As an added activity you may want students to develop their own myths about lightning. Suggest they ask people at home what they think lightning is. From that information have them create a story.

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