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Remember those cartoon kids shows where lightning bolts sent you flying into the sky with your pants on fire? I’m talking about a Team Rocket blasting off again sort of scenario. I always thought those were pretty funny, but how would they work in real life?


Let’s assume that by the Laws of Disney magic, being struck with lightning instantly converts all of its energy into kinetic energy for the object hit. So, a 50 kg cartoon character gets pegged. The average lightning bolt has about 5 GJ of electrical energy in it, and contact lasts only about 30 µs. The character starts at rest. Kinetic Energy = .5mv^2, so we can calculate the new speed of the character to be 14,142.14 m/s. Let’s say this is actually James from Team Rocket, so of course he shoots up into the air at an angle of about 75° with the ground. Using the kinematics equations this time we can find that his maximum height is about 9,510,832.84 m.


I guess they were right all along: James would disappear almost instantly, like a flash in the sky. Huh.

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