Previous Index Next
Page 399
(previous) (Page 000399) (next)
 
DEATH BY LIGHTNING. 399

been able to testify that no pain was felt prior to the loss
of consciousness.

The time required for a rifle-bullet to pass clean through
a man’s head may be roughly estimated at a thousandth of
a second. Here, therefore, we should have no room for
sensation, and death would be painless. But there are
other actions which far transcend in rapidity that of the
rifle-bullet. A flash of lightning cleaves a cloud, appearing
and disappearing in less than a hundred-thousandth of a
second, and the velocity of electricity is such as would carry
it in a single second over a distance almost equal to that
which separates the earth and moon. It is well known
that a luminous impression once made upon the retina en-
dures for about oneésixth of a second, and that this is the
reason why we see a ribbon of light when a glowing coal
is caused to pass rapidly through the air. A body illumi-
nated by an instantaneous flash continues to be seen for the
sixth of a second after the flash has become extinct; and
if the body thus illuminated be in motion, it appears at
rest at the place where the flash falls upon it. The color-
tOp is familiar to most of us. By this instrument a disk
with differently-colored sectors is caused to rotate rapidly;
the cOlors blend together, and, if they are chosen in the
proper proportions, when the motion is sufficiently rapid
the disk appears-white. Such a top, rotating in a dark room
and illuminated by an electric spark, appears motionless,
each distinct color being clearly seen. Professor Dove has
found that a flash of lightning produces the same effect.
During a thunder-storm he put a color-top in exceedingly
rapid motion, and found that every flash revealed the top
as a motionless object with its colors distinct. If illuminated
solely by a flaSh of lightning, the motion of all bodies on
the earth’s surface would, as Dove has remarked, appear
suspended. A cannon-ball, for example, would have its
flight apparently arrested, and would seem to hang motion-

Previous Index Next