Lightning for Dramatic Effect

Question from Jacob:
Hey, this is going to be a short one. So I heard that lightning allegedly struck the Vatican just moments after the former pope resigned. What are the chances of that happening?

Answer by SmartLX:
Lightning did strike the Basilica, there’s video of it. The chances are “in fact quite high” according to this article on this exact subject. The dome and spire are the top of a very tall structure with no comparably tall neighbours, and no protection against lightning strikes, so if there’s a thunderstorm it’s a prime target. It rains an average of 6 days out of February in Italy. While the lightning bolt was a remarkable coincidence it certainly wasn’t prohibitively unlikely.

8 thoughts on “Lightning for Dramatic Effect”

  1. EINSTEIN elaborated PROBABILITY very extensively and nicely for us lay people.
    Google it and read it. Or, perhaps, you believe that your granny has also a say in it!


    Almost anything can happen, given large number of incidences. Even the Universe from nothing, as happens to have been the case, then, living matter from non living, as it did. And then us, humans, homo sapiens sapiens, the love child of evolution, from chimps or bonobos. And, finally, you, asking a fairly (relatively) lay person, as is smartxl, instead of reading Einstein yourself.

    You distrust science. Shame on you.

    1. Look through my post and tell me where I ever was against science. that being said I love Neil deGrasse Tyson. and is it wrong to challenge someones belief

  3. (Sorry – DISCLAIMER – tongue in cheek response follows)

    Lightning struck the vatican when the pope resigned?!
    Well … could have been Thor fighting Loki too. As good an explanation as any other.
    Hmm … Feb 2013. No wonder my asset portfolio wasn’t performing that well that month. God was upset and sent a piddly lightning bolt to show his upset-ness.
    Better than giving humanity a plague I guess.
    Those anger management classes seem to help (!)

    Whether the chances are high or low is immaterial. The problem is that our brains are geared to see correlation where there is most likely none. This seems to be one such case. Else, I would have expected god to follow through with some more dramatic visual effects.
    I am still betting it was thor and loki and we saw nothing else apart from that one lightning bolt coz Odin intervened and told those two (again) that they should not let us humans know of their presence.

    1. The same building is often hit multiple times during the same storm. It happens to the Empire State Building all the time. When the storm isn’t moving anywhere, the tallest and most conductive target does not change and one bolt will strike it for the same reasons the last one did.

    2. Oh … well … sigh … Odin is getting old, y’know. He probably couldn’t stop them as quickly as he should have 🙂

      (Absolutely to disrespect meant to anyone. In-fact I request that this post be removed if it offends. Apologies for missing that lightning struck twice, not once … should have researched this better).

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