Do Thunderstorms Pose A Radiation Risk To Air Travelers?

Scientists are getting closer to understanding how "dark lightning" produces bursts of gamma rays that may come in contact with a plane's passengers and crew.

What's the Latest Development?


On Wednesday scientists from the Florida Institute of Technology unveiled a physics-based model that they say will help determine how thunderstorms produce bursts of gamma rays known as "dark lightning" and how such bursts might affect air travelers flying near or through a storm. Using this model, they were able to determine that people flying in the middle of certain storms could unknowingly receive an amount of radiation "roughly equal to a full-body CT scan" in a matter of minutes. The team presented their research at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna.

What's the Big Idea?

Unlike regular lightning, dark lightning doesn't produce much visible light, and yet the energy it produces can "blind" instruments in outer space. Plus, it often originates at the same altitudes populated by commercial aircraft, which is why scientists have been searching for ways to explain the phenomenon. It's still not known exactly how often aircraft experience these bursts, if ever. Team member Joseph Dwyer says, "Although airline pilots already do their best to avoid thunderstorms, occasionally aircraft do end up inside electrified storms" which would theoretically expose passengers to radiation.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at ScienceDaily

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less