Big, Bright Zap

Did you know Florida is a lightning capital of the world? When it comes to the latest in lightning, national media like the Discovery Channel look to Florida Tech. Lightning researchers here first discovered X-rays from lightning. Heard of tornado chasers? Florida Tech has lightning chasers. They run down lightning by jeep and find it in nature—snap! zap! It blackens a tree. They hop in a plane and chase it in the clouds, checking it out on instruments. They make it in the lab. Florida Tech collaborates with University of Florida researchers to study how it originates—they observe lightning and create it at researchers' control central—Camp Blanding. A lightning tower there looks innocent in daylight but dances with megavolts at night. The fearless Ph.D. lightning cowboys launch rockets and trigger lightning. Triggered lightning and strong winds—an awesome combination! And they live to write about it, presenting and publishing papers so the world can learn more about lightning, too.