Trickster Thunderstorm Halloween

Halloween is saw as a dark, electrifying, quasi epic day that lot of people fatigue to forgot. You have to celebrate it…

You know, I am not the kind of person that put attention on stereotypes but I’ve always associated this day with a thunder dark night, maybe because of this dark and bleak atmosphere this day is carrying. I remember that when I was teenager this evening was the occasion to feel the misters of the nature that shows its beauty through thunders and twilight atmospheres.


But let’s give some historical background to one of the oldest and most popular holidays that is still celebrated at operating speed.

Why? well, I put attention that millions of people have fun, put on costumes, go house by house to see multiple faces reactions after the trick-or-treating mantra, gets amused competing for the best and accurate costume representing the most fashionable ghost or the spiritual creatures now available on the market. I need to recognize that you can find really beautiful pieces searching through multiple specialized online websites.

Every element of Halloween has a potential to be fascinating. History has a role in that.

In past, October 31st was considered by local the last day of the Celtic calendar, a pagan holiday in honor of the dead. In fact, Halloween culture derives from Druids, a Celtic tribe in Ireland that gave a first name to this occasion. The original name was ‘All Hallows Eve’, the evening before All Saints Day, a response of that habit created by devoted Christians who wanted to convert pagans. Perhaps is the reason why it was set up on November the 1st; still unchanged nowadays.

Celts were very creative (look at what they’ve created!) believing that the souls of the dead wander with no set destination streets and villages by night. But they were friends to living humans, so some gifts were given to them to discard any possible ill omen and ensure plentiful crops during the whole year. This is the origin of the treat-or-treating habit that you’ll recognize today by the multitude of little colored children knocking on your house.

OK, you might think now where is the link between all this historical discussion and the post title that refer also on thunders and electricity. You’re right…

Yesterday I read some section of the book Experiments and Observations on Electricity made at Philadelphia in America by Benjamin Franklin. As the title says, his work was based on the observation of reality and on the construction of experiments able to show some elements related to his research. As many of you know yet, I believe that people (scientists) who tend to use experiments to talk on physics and mathematical knowledge are a span forward by respect of colleagues that are only servant to mathematical beauty to write on and communicate important scientific truths.

Let me give you some context on the reason why Benjamin Franklin was considered a genius for its time.

Franklin fascination on electrical phenomena derived from an extensive research based on the dispersing power of the bits able to correlate the conductor geometric features with the electric field. If, for example, a ball is charged, the charge is symmetrically distributed evenly over the surface, which does not occur on irregularly shaped bodies.

Since the charges are distributed in such a way, as to undo the internal field obtaining a potential equal value at all points, we have that in the irregular bodies the field is not the same across the surface. At different points of the conductor it is inversely proportional to the radius of curvature. On the charged points the field is particularly intense, and among it electrically charged objects tends to form an electric attraction force that can give rise to sparks.

A confirmation of this theory was soon confirmed by Franklin.

It was at that time, the idea of being able to capture the discharge of a lightning strike for lounge games. The receiver object that was supposed to attract the lightning should have been isolated for safety, but Franklin did not care very much on this aspect. What he expected to was that a pointed rod would catch the lightning electricity slowly, so that the experimenter would be safe.

In 1750 he proposed that a small sight building was mounted on a tower. An iron rod rising for twenty or thirty feet at its apex would have grabbed the lightning strike, blowing it out in the form of sparks.

This was the first example of lightning rods!!! Here you can see a contemporary one.


In 1752, Buffon presented Franklin’s experiments to the King of France and showed him (in a region not far from Paris) a real practical translation of Franklinian theories. It was at Marly-la-ville, assisted by his assistants, that Buffon planted a sharp metal rod in the ground and, on a thunderstorm, went to the place to carry out his demonstration. At the time of discharge, his assistant Dalibard was ready to approach the auction with a brass wire … when the auction was attracted by the lightning, it was noticeable that sparks came between the wire and the latter.

This moment, when man intentionally attracted lightning from the sky, is fascinating… right?

After this episode the scientists “run” to catch thunders was officially started. It was also an opportunity for many scholars to note that to attract electric shocks from storms it was not necessary to have sharp surfaces.

Apparently was Franklin who invented the first model of lightning rods, which over the years were only be updated in some details.
He decided to arrange an experiment at his home in Philadelphia, disposing metal strings along the sides of some buildings from their roofs to the ground. When they were struck by lightning, attracted by suitable metal rods positioned on the roof, the charge would choose the least-effective line to reach the ground without causing damage.

The discharge was due to the metal strings rather than to the masonry of the houses.

It was a huge success and it is also been said that the news of this experiment carried out came to the ear of the scientists of the best Italian universities. One of them was our Giambattista Beccaria, professor at Turin University, that received funds and a wide process schedule to start the research for a new branch of physical science of the time: electricity.

It was the year 1754 when Benjamin Franklin (resuming a Watson idea) elaborated the theory of the uniqueness of the electric fluid. What did he say? well that the electricity was made up of a single electric fluid composed of particles that repelled each other, while attracted by the particles that made up the material. If the fluid was excessive, it had glassy (positive) energy, while if it was defective it had resinous (negative) energy.

Franklin’s observations laid the basis for the theory of the characteristics that define electricity, as well as the various electrical phenomena connected to it by scientists who followed it. I’m talking about Michael Faraday, Luigi Galvani, Alessandro Volta, André-Marie Ampère and Georg Simon Ohm. Moreover, all of them (except Galvani!) have been honored with the intent of specific units of measurement related to electricity.

What you’ll read now is a report of some of Franklin’s considerations ans studies on electricity, just to give you the idea on how significant was his work at that time.

  • Do you remember that electrical fire loves water and it is strongly attracted by it? this is the reason why they can live together…
  • Air is considered an electric element per se. It will neither receive any external electrical charge, nor give it to other bodies.
  • No body surrounded by air could be electrified positively and negatively.
  • Every particle of matter electrified is repelled by every other particle equally electrified. Thus the stream of a fountain, naturally dense and continual, when electrified, will separate and spread in the form of a brush, every drop endeavoring to recede from every other drop. But on taking out the electrical fire, they close again.
  • Water that has been strongly electrified (as well as when heated by common fire) rises in vapors in abundance. Its particles tight cohesion in parallel stimulated by the power of repulsion introduced with electrical fire and when any particle is disengaged it flies into the air.
  • A potential friction between a non-electric and an electric channel (per se) will produce electrical fire collecting it capturing what is equally diffused in our walls, floors, earth, and the whole mass of common matter.
  • The Ocean is a compound of water that is electrical charged due to the abundance of salt. Conductivity increases as salt content of the water increases.
  • When there is a friction between the parts upon water’s surface, the parts below can convey electrical charge. This phenomena is plainly visible in the night. It appears at the stern and in the wake of every sailing vessel. Every dash of an oar shows it and at every surf of storms the whole sea seems on fire…. Wow, that’s beautiful from him, right? An authentic poetic glance on electricity storm.
  • If detached and repelled by an electrified surface, the particles of water can carry off the fire as collect it. The will rise and gave birth to clouds highly electrified until the right moment when they’ll have the opportunity to release it in the atmosphere.
  • The particles of water rising in vapors, attach themselves to particles of air.
  • The particles of air are said to be hard, round, separate and distant from each other.
  • Every particle is strongly repelling other ones through which they move further away from each other by gravity effect.
  • If three particles tend to (equally) repel each other, the representation you need to visualize is the one of an equilateral triangle. If the air is compressed, these triangles are smaller while if the air is rarefied they are larger.
  • Common fire joined with air, increases the repulsion, enlarges the triangles, and thereby makes the air specifically lighter. Such Air among denser air, will rise.
  • Common fire, as well as electrical fire gives repulsion to the particles of water, and destroys their attraction of cohesion; hence common fire, as well as electrical fire, assists in raising vapors.
  • Particles of water mutually attract each other. Imagine that three particles of water attached to the three particles of air, would – by mutual attraction – operating against air’s repulsion. The sides will be shorten and the surface of attraction will decrease forming clouds, while, if the portion of air is dense it will fall to the Earth surface.
  • If “adverse” winds compress water or drive against mountains, the molecules within it start to contract and the air that surround water will descend as condensation. If the water that surround a particle of air comes in contact with the water that surround another one, they coalesce and form a drop. The following step will be a rain episode:-)
  • The sun supplies (or seems to supply) common fire* to all vapors, whether raised from earth or sea. * Franklin is speaking about fire probably intending the properties of sun energy represented by photons. Photon represent the energy of electromagnetic radiation. Precisely an electromagnetic wave can be thought of as consisting of particles, namely photons.
  • Clouds are defined by electrified particles close when they lose their fire*. The particles of the other cloud close in receiving it: in both, they have thereby an opportunity of coalescing into drops. The concussion or jerk given to the air, contributes also to shake down the water, not only from those two clouds but from others near them. Hence the sudden fall of rain immediately after flashes of lightning.

If you’re are still interested I recommend to read his book, experiments and observation on electricity, where these content came from.

But first let me go, very quickly through a description of an easy experiment that came from Benjamin studies. You’ll notice the actuality of it. Even if more than two hundreds years passed it is still able to show how the proceedings of scientific methodology allow the monitoring of punctual results. As I read them, some passages of it were not so clear, so I tried to reconstruct, simplify and clear the process presentation. Let’s start:-)

For this simulation of rain what you’ll need to do is to take two round pieces of pasteboard; two inches diameter will be good. Having as reference the center and circumference of each of them, you need to suspend (Franklin should like fine silk threads!) seven small balls of wood (eighteen inches long) or seven peas equal in dimensions.
The balls appending to each pasteboard have to form equal equilateral triangles. One ball must be in the center, while the other six at equal distances from that one and from each other. They distance is important and need to be replicated as they represent particles of air…

Now is the time to dip both sets in water. Some should be attached together to each little ball to represent air loaded. I am not sure why and how you can electrify – Franklin recommend to do this step (by skill!) for one set, and see how its balls will repel each other to a greater distance, enlarging the triangles.

Moreover he said that if the water supported by the seven balls come into contact, it would form a drop or a couple of drops (very heavy) able to break the cohesion it had with the balls, falling afterwards without restrain.

I am not sure if this experiment can be easily replicated at home but it is time to  conclude this post wishing you a great Halloween time! For all of  who like to breath its symbolism and show to people and friends the fantastic costumes that has been studied and prepared for weeks in advance.

wake the dead





Have a good time then, handing out treats to costumed children during this livelong night.

And even if today no thunderstorms or Franklin’s fanatics are expected to come at your party I’m sure you’ll embrace Halloween play, friends, food specialties, unknown tricksters, going through a wide sort of nice remarkable emotions.



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