Monday, July 10, 2006


I'm going to take a moment here and go off on the stupidity of the mass media. It's nothing new, everyone knows the willful ignorance is a shallow dig for viewers, and I doubt anything I say here is new. But I am annoyed enough to say it.

Worse yet, my gripe is about a simple, petty story, too: not some national, international, or global issue about the evolution of humankind's insensitive and barbaric relationships with one another (though the lack of coverage on these types of concerns is just as emotionally inflammatory). It's about a teenager who happened to be struck by lightning while wearing an iPod.

For one, the pseudo-celebrity status of the novel iPod brand is almost the only reason this is being covered: the uniqueness of the combination of elements barely comes in first if at all. The sensational aspect of this is the emphasis that one with an iPod must somehow exercise greater caution as they are seemingly placed in a higher risk category; supported by the fact that there were taller trees "nearby" (we're not told how near) which were un-touched.

The graphic imagery is trotted out of a burned line down each side of his head from the extreme heat generated when the electricity discharged through his ear-bud wires and miscellaneous other minor burns. His mother is cited as believing that the cords acted as an antenna and attracted the lightning to him.

It all sounds like a setup for lawsuit from the nearly implausible event.

Very few sources I've seen on this yet have made mention of the comments of qualified meteorological personnel that the device probably had nothing to do with it, and then only in a line or two blurb near the very end of the text. Televised renditions have been completely silent on that observation, as well as the following facts and details:
  1. Lightning arcs to the ground in order to dissipate - the only way it could actually have struck the iPod is if it contained enough electrical potential (several hundred millions volts) of an opposing charge to the static building up in the atmosphere to be able to satisfy the difference.

  2. Much of the damage suffered by lightning strike victims is based on the thunderous concussion of rapidly expanding air, leaving many deaf from the event. The fact that the current had some place to travel more efficiently than ionized air means that the local effect of the thunder was likely significantly reduced and may have softened the blow to his hearing (possibly to be destroyed again by the high-gain volume of an iPod in the future? - as reported in other recent trends). As my brother pointed out, when lightning does discharge through a person (rather than the more typical "flash-over" event, which travels across the surface) it uses the circulatory system and places the heart at significant risk. Thus it may also be argued that an additional life-threatening risk was completely mitigated.

  3. The victim was MOWING THE LAWN. Hanging on to a large hunk of metal much closer the earth, making far more use itself of electricity than was the iPod and even generating atmospheric static with the rotating blades - although any effect those would have had is minuscule next to that of the metallic content.

  4. The lightning didn't come out of nowhere: proper caution was not being shown in the first place.
I wish him well in his recovery, and am sympathetic to the harrowing ordeal he's been through. I fully expect these feelings of good-will to vanish if someone decides to sue Apple or the hardware manufacturers and distributors; making them (the feelings) conditional and perhaps petty of me as well.

I normally try not to apply contingencies to my sentiments, as it causes me to be subject to forces beyond my control (having surrendered them). I'll work on that in this case, too - but will still in all probability be annoyed for a while all the same.

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