Monday, October 05, 2009

Rain, rain, go away. (Not really; you're cool rain)

It's been raining around here a lot. That's ok on its own, but it's also getting cold, and the cold is empirically bad. It is a proven fact that people who like cold weather are sociopaths. I know you are probably thinking, "Ted Bundy killed people in Florida!" Aha! He was born in Vermont. Count it.

With these rains, though, comes thunder storms. It got me thinking about how when we were kids and somebody would say, "I saw thunder!" and then the other little smartass kids would say, "HA HA HA! You can't see thunder!" I was probably one of those smartass kids. I had a pretty vicious habit of correcting people when they made innocuous blunders when I was younger. Then I learned that people don't like it when you point out their flaws so pointedly, so I tried to lay off. I'm a recovering correctaholic.

The thing, though, is that there are two separate words, thunder and lightning, for basically the same thing. If you take a gander at my handle there, you can probably guess I know a little about sciencey things. So for those of you who don't know, I'll lay a little meteorology knowledge on you.

The exact mechanism of lightning forming is not well understood, but it's a discharge of static electricity (static electricity is the bitch kind of electricity) from a cloud to [usually] the ground. Even though it's the bitch kind, it's still a horrendous bolt of electricity that travels through the air, kind of like the boy in A Boy Named Sue. If you've ever held electricity in your hand, or things like extension cords, you notice that they kind of heat up. The lightning bolt named Sue is like that times a million. I don't know if a million is enough, but the air gets super hot and that expansion and re-contraction of air makes a boatload of noise. Think of the pwoompf sound that you hear when you light something on fire really fast. Except times a million.

Here's the thing: thunder is the sound that lightning makes. They are different sensory reactions to the same event. It's just that you see the lightning sooner due to the fact that it's really bright and you can see it from far away and light travels faster than sound. But, they aren't really different. If a cop asks about a barfight and the guy says he heard a slap, nobody's going to say, "HA HA HA! You can't hear a slap!"

So the moral of the story is, lay off on thunder and lightning. It's just a universal shared experience and the concept of language developed before we understood high energy fluid mechanics.

Also, I am writing this as I am watching the Green Bay-Minnesota game, and I have to say that I would not be that disappointed if I never heard Brett Favre's name ever again.