Featured Event: The Science Circle presentation (“Lightning”)

When: 2016/05/28 10 AM SLT (PDT)

Destination: The Science Circle

We’re attending: The lecture about the science of lightning, presented by Patio Plasma, PhD

Next time: Weekly on Saturdays at 10 AM SLT (PDT)

Next class subject (2016/06/04): Unknown for now, but something awesome

More information: Science Circle Students in-world group (click the link while logged on in Second Life to open the group profile), The Science Circle website

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Before the lecture

The morning time in Second Life on weekends seems to be the best for learners. Especially since nights get shorter and the sun is far up in the sky by 10 AM SLT, when people from all different walks of life gather at The Science Circle amphitheatre where The Science Circle, led by Chantal (nymf.hathaway) and Jesaurus (jes.cobalt), holds their weekly classes every Saturday. The attendees take their places – some on the seating tiers, some on the couches placed conveniently before the screen where the slides that accompany the lecture are displayed. The lecture itself will be given via voice. Everybody takes the pose they find most comfortable in preparation to learn today some more about the phenomenon everybody knows, but not many understand – the lightning. The choice of subject is very well-times, I must say, with the summertime coming around and bringing the thunderstorms along with it.

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Patio Plasma (left, NOT RIGHT) and the presentation

Every lecture given in The Science Circle is provided by the experts of the field who generously share their time and knowledge in Second Life to hold classes for other residents. And of course, the science of lightning requires an expert in physics to be explained – The Science Circle has got one right there! He is known in the real world as Paul Doherty, PhD, the physics professor, and in Second Life as Patio Plasma (that’s one rad name to have) – please go ahead and get acquainted with him through his Biography page, he is one fascinating individual! Today, it is our luck to have him in Second Life willing to share his expertise, as well as personal experience (he himself has narrowly avoided close encounters with lightning) on the subject of lightning – both what is known and what is yet to be known. If you need some more good news, here: this is not the only lecture Patio gives at The Science Circle – he is actually a pretty frequent presenter and gives lectures on a range of physics-related subjects.

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Positive lightning is a serious business. That tree stood no chance.

Throughout the lecture, we learn about various types of lightning, about the physics component behind the lightning bolt (kudos to Patio for making this part self-contained for those who hadn’t brushed up on Electricity & Magnetism in a while), about a variety of phenomena and trivia related to lightning (and thunder as well), including the both tragic and fun fact about the famous Benjamin Franklin kite experiment and the attempt to replicate it, as well as some information on how not to get struck by lightning and the cases of spotting lightnings on other planets in our Solar system. And many more. Actually, rather than taking my word for it, you can always head over to The Science Circle website media section, where most of the presentations that had accompanied the past lectures are published. At the moment of writing this post, the slides from the today’s lecture are not published yet, so check out the page with past presentations from time to time.

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Lightning safety position

A great thing about giving classes in Second Life is that one is free to not limit oneself with slides and the lecture itself, but also bring about the prop for the live demonstration of a certain concept, which is relatively easy to make. Patio took advantage of that opportunity, and when he was talking about the lightning discharge, he actually ran a live demo in a form of a scripted object to visualize the process of the paths of ionized air, also called “leaders”, propagating from the cloud towards the ground and then discharging via the “return streamer”, all step by step.  With the thunder and the rain following, of course! This part of the lecture was both very fascinating and illustrative.

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The aforementioned live demo (behind Patio). Down, down, down, DISCHARGE!

As the clock strikes (hehe) eleven, the class comes to its conclusion, when Patio takes questions from the audience and the attendees thank him for generously sharing his time with us to talk about lightning and the story behind it. We’re ready to enter the weekend with our heads fully awake after such a fantastic learning experience shared together in the digital classroom. When the next thunderstorm comes around, whenever it is in the real or the second world, I know I will not see the lightning in the same way again.

Stay digitized and be safe!

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