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"Dark Lightning" Could Expose Airline Passengers To Radiation

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,8 days | from the amtrak-doesn't-cause-cancer dept.

Transportation 263

mbstone writes "Lightning researcher Joseph Dwyer of the Florida Institute of Technology claims that thunderstorms unleash sprays of X-rays and even intense bursts of gamma rays which could cause airline passengers to receive in an instant the maximum safe lifetime dose of ionizing radiation — the kind that wreaks the most havoc on the human body. Dwyer hopes his sensor aboard the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, will provide more data."

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263 comments

Hrmmm (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399127)

I smell a boost in tinfoil hat sales skyrocketing ....

Re:Hrmmm (4, Funny)

telchine (719345) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399155)

I propose that we should legislate to ensure that all the passengers are wrapped inside one metal enclosure before take-off!

Re:Hrmmm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399183)

Good thing a random slashdotter knows far more about the topic than some hoighty toighty "researcher", eh? I mean, what does he know. Democracy dictates that your ignorance is JUST as good as his knowledge and that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Re: Hrmmm (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399279)

Normally I would say Whoosh.
In your case I have to say Douche.

Re:Hrmmm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399683)

Good thing we finally have a hoighty toighty "researcher" to explain to us why all these people are suddenly dying of unexplained causes.

Re:Hrmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399887)

It wouldn't be "unexplained", it would be cancer. And while it may be a coincidence, A lot of people in our general circle of friends are being diagnosed with varying forms of cancer (brain cancer was the most recent). I'm not sure whether or not these people travel by air a lot bit it's worth looking into. Current aircraft would offer some protection as they are basically a big aluminum shell (same thing the ISS uses) but the next generation of aircraft are being made out of composites, which I don't think offer anywhere near the protection.

Re:Hrmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399807)

Are you a complete retard, or are you just a raging asshole?

I'm betting on a raging asshole that doesnt even wipe that has an IQ of 74.

Re:Hrmmm (1)

boaworm (180781) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399261)

I always wear my tinfoil hat for this reason. It is a bit of a hazzle to get through security, but after that it's great!

Re:Hrmmm (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399365)

Tinfoil does not set off metal detectors.

Yes, I have first-hand knowledge of this.

Re:Hrmmm (4, Funny)

myowntrueself (607117) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399417)

Tinfoil does not set off metal detectors.

Yes, I have first-hand knowledge of this.

That can't be right, I saw a tinfoil covered cucumber set off a metal detector in the Spinal Tap documentary!

Re:Hrmmm (1)

cffrost (885375) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399483)

Tinfoil does not set off metal detectors.

Yes, I have first-hand knowledge of this.

Where did you get the tin foil? This is the closest I can find, [amazon.com] but at 0.008" thick, it's more than ten times thicker than standard aluminum foil.

s/aluminum/aluminium/g (1, Offtopic)

maroberts (15852) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399517)

FTFY

You crazy Americans insist on misspelling everything

Re:s/aluminum/aluminium/g (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399603)

FTFY

You crazy Americans insist on misspelling everything

That's exactly how we spell 'everything', what are you talking about?

Re:Hrmmm (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399495)

That word [urbandictionary.com]. It doesn't mean what you think it means. You mean hassle.

Yikes (1)

jimmetry (1801872) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399129)

That's almost as bad as old television!

Fuck you shit head! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399177)

Q: What do you say to a New Yorker with a job? A: Big Mac, fries and a Coke, please!

Re:Fuck you shit head! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399241)

Q: What do hillbilly girls say after sex? Get off me Daddy, you're crushing my cigarettes!

FUD summary as usual (4, Informative)

N1AK (864906) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399161)

However, because there’s only about one dark lightning occurrence for every thousand visible flashes and because pilots take great pains to avoid thunderstorms, Dwyer says, the risk of injury is quite limited. No one knows for sure if anyone has ever been hit by dark lightning.

It's an interesting claim and I look forward to hearing more about it but there is effectively no risk to people flying being suggested. Unfortunately /. has decided to focus on the non-existent risk rather than the rather interesting properties of 'dark lightning' and what study of it could help us to understand.

Re:FUD summary as usual (5, Interesting)

macraig (621737) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399247)

Not so fast, mister cynic. First the article says "one dark lightning occurrence for every thousand visible flashes" and then shortly afterward "thunderstorms produce about a billion or so lightning bolts annually".

So that's one million "dark lightning" incidents every year, and how many global aircraft flights? Avoidance of thunderstorms or not, odds are it's been happening and we didn't know to look for symptoms until now.

Re:FUD summary as usual (3, Interesting)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399341)

we didn't know to look for symptoms until now.

Still, if you have to looking for symptoms, it can't be that bad.

Re:FUD summary as usual (5, Insightful)

OolimPhon (1120895) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399373)

Still, if you have to looking for symptoms, it can't be that bad.

The symptoms, in the form of radiation damage, don't appear until many years afterwards. Like the damage cigarettes cause, for example.

How do you associate your cancer to the airplane rides you took 20 years previously?

Re:FUD summary as usual (2, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399393)

Most cancers from cigarettes are I believe caused because the layer of tar prevents the body from repairing itself normally. After a couple of years off them the tar and other negative effects should have dispersed for the most part.

What I don't get about this research is why they don't just stick a few geiger counters and recorders on planes and fly them near thunderstorms, surely that would be the best way to test the theory? Also, is there any chance this could lead to the return of zeppelins, because that would be awesome.

Re:FUD summary as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399511)

That's because this story is a scientist pimping his experiment. Why would he mention a simpler solution?

Re:FUD summary as usual (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399587)

Citation required. My understanding is that the hot gases damage cells via the obvious thermal mechanism, and every time a cell is repaired there is some chance of it turning cancerous. It's the same reason you can get throat cancer from vomiting too much (e.g. in bulimia), and oesophageal cancer from a hiatus hernia.

Tar build up prevents the lungs from effectively functioning, which is why smokers don't function well aerobically, but I'm not sure there's evidence that it causes cancer.

Could be wrong though, do you have a link?
 

Re:FUD summary as usual (1)

ultranova (717540) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399701)

Also, is there any chance this could lead to the return of zeppelins, because that would be awesome.

Well, I guess having the whole thing go down in a blaze and burning everyone inside to ashes is one way to ensure they don't get cancer.

Re:FUD summary as usual (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399925)

Well, I guess having the whole thing go down in a blaze and burning everyone inside to ashes is one way to ensure they don't get cancer.

The majority of people got off the Hindenburg. Jokes are funnier when they're based on truth.

Re:FUD summary as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399711)

And you'd be wrong. The smoke you inhale in a cigarette contains hundreds of different chemicals, dozens of which are carcinogenic (cancer causing). Yes many are constituents of the tar, but then the tar is actively causing the cancer not just preventing your body repairing itself.

Denied! (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399897)

Also, is there any chance this could lead to the return of zeppelins, because that would be awesome.

Of course they'd need radiation shielding. Something like lead?

Re:FUD summary as usual (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399503)

If only we had a set of folks who were very easily categorized, routinely subjected to the suspect phenomenon, and received high-quality routine medical examination that are reported to a central authority that has in-house physicians doing research on that dataset. Perhaps we could make it better by ensuring that they're all upper-middle class people in good health. We could call the project the "Flying Atmospheric Anomoly" (FAA) and put their headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Re:FUD summary as usual (1)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399825)

"How do you associate your cancer to the airplane rides you took 20 years previously?"

Well mostly lung cancer from them allowing smoking at that time....

Re:FUD summary as usual (1)

gadzook33 (740455) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399865)

Also, I was under the impression that there was an unexplained increase in the number of cancer incidents in the last several decades. Clearly it's a long-shot but it does seem like it's worth investigating...

Re:FUD summary as usual (2, Interesting)

N1AK (864906) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399371)

A billion lightning bolts really doesn't tell us very much and I'd be disinclined to just pretend that 'dark lightning' behaves in the same manner; however if it was, and if it did, then the odds of being hit by lightning ~1/1,000,000, thus odds of 'dark lightning' hitting you is ~1/1,000,000,000. If you're making any kind of decision based on a 1 in 1 billion chance of something happening to you each year then you are wasting your time.

As I said, the research is interesting and I look forward to seeing what they find out; However, one of the least important things about this research is the fact that it may or may not indicate that a tiny number of people are being exposed to radiation. ~24,000 people die each year from the emissions of coal power plants in the US, it would make far more difference to your chances of dying/getting a medical condition if you chose a house ~1% further away from the nearest coal plant than the risk of dark lightning while flying does.

Re:FUD summary as usual (3, Funny)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399445)

“Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one. But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.”

Terry Pratchett, Mort

NOW what do you say.

Re:FUD summary as usual (3, Insightful)

Splab (574204) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399475)

Well, to make it a million to one chance he'd need to have one pilot blindfolded while a stewardess dances a waltz down the center, with the airplane going directly through a thunderstorm.

Re:FUD summary as usual (2)

cffrost (885375) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399429)

So that's one million "dark lightning" incidents every year, and how many global aircraft flights? Avoidance of thunderstorms or not, odds are it's been happening and we didn't know to look for symptoms until now.

I think it'd be interesting to find out if whole plane-loads of cancer patients could be traced back to individual flights — and to consider that this phenomenon could have been occurring since the beginning of the airline industry.

Re:FUD summary as usual (1)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399617)

I don't get why the guy wants telescope to do the job though.

just put some sensors on the airplanes...

Hold on there - Avoidance. Inverse square law (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399743)

Avoidance of thunderstorms or not...

What's this "or not"?

Back when I had my aviation receiver, I was listening in on the traffic here at ATL - and we get LOTS of thunderstorms in the Summer. As soon as the pilots saw lightening, they were on the radio telling ATC to redirect. Pilots come nowhere near thunderstorms. They have dispatchers, weather systems, ATC, and specialized weather avoidance systems. IF it did happen, something is terribly wrong and Dark Lightening would be the least of their problems. And as a priavte pilot myself, I can tell you that it was beaten into me to stay away from lightening at all costs.

Back to the radiation. At what proximity is this a problem?

I can tell you that a plane wont get within several miles of a thunderstorm. TFA mentions nothing about the distance - except for that completely fictitious and false representation of an aircraft in a thunderstorm.

And X-Rays like all electromagnetic radiation have the inverse square law. I other words, a plane will never get close enough for it to matter.

tl;dr - These scientists are making a big deal out of nothing - at least when it comes to airline passengers.

Re:FUD summary as usual (2)

Xest (935314) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399875)

"So that's one million "dark lightning" incidents every year, and how many global aircraft flights? Avoidance of thunderstorms or not, odds are it's been happening and we didn't know to look for symptoms until now."

You can't just dismiss avoidance of thunder storms, have a look at this map:

http://geology.com/articles/lightning-map.shtml [geology.com]

You're far more likely to be close to a lightning strike led in your bed at night, than you are in a plane on a transatlantic flight or whatever because as the map shows, there's very little lightning over the atlantic and so forth. By far the vast majority of lightning occurs in the Congo which isn't exactly known as one of the most common flight paths on Earth.

Taking an average of about 8 lightning strikes per square kilometre per year from the graph at the above link, it seems that across the whole of Europe these sorts of strikes would occur about once per year for every 125 square kilometres of land mass. The chance of a plane being in exactly the right spot at the right time of year in that 125 square kilometre area to be hit by one of these "dark lightning" bolts is pretty negligible.

The risk is obviously a bit higher in the Americas, much of Africa, and South East Asia, but even in these places I'd be inclined to agree with the GP, this seems to be a non-issue in practice. Unless you're flying a little Cessna around over the Congo below or at cloud level for a combined few weeks a year then I can't see you have much to worry about.

P.S. Damn you data and facts for taking the fun out of films for me, having spent 5 minutes gazing at that interesting lightning map now, each time I watch a film where the protagonist is stuck in the middle of the Atlantic, Pacific, or wherever with a raging thunderstorm going on with lightning hitting everywhere, instead of taking in the awe of the dramatic effect and fearing for the safety of said protagonist I'll instead be thinking "What a load of bollocks, the chance of one lightning strike, let alone many like that hitting in that part of the world is basically non-existent". That's another not uncommon plot line ruined then.

Re:FUD summary as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399313)

If I understand this correctly, the Gamma/X ray flux is just one _more_ reason to stay out of thunderstorms. There are plenty of reasons already so it's not exactly as if flying trough thunderstorms is something that's done if one can avoid it. However, if you -do- get into a thunderstorm this research may shed shed some light on the question of wether it might be a good idea to carry a dosimeter, just in case your lifetime exposure is exceeded in which case you will then know that you really should stay grounded to avoid further exposed until you die of natural causes ;)

Re:FUD summary as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399883)

Lightning also creates small quantities of natural antimatter [space.com] that gets ejected to space. If only containment lasted longer than 16 minutes, orbital refueling stations around planets with dense atmospheres could become a real possibility (i.e. every local planet except Mercury and Mars).

Dosimeters in all planes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399181)

You would think that this would be a really easy thing to do. Maybe they don't want us to know how much exposure we get up there in the skies? ;-)

Why haven't we seen the effects then? (5, Insightful)

Dodgy G33za (1669772) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399185)

Should be really easy to study - are aircrew more likely to suffer the ill effects of ionizing radiation, whatever those are.

It would be the sort of thing that an established Airline and staff (or air force) would probably already have noticed, particularly any that fly through and around the intense storms in the tropics. The fact that they haven't leads me to think that this may be a non-story.

Re:Why haven't we seen the effects then? (5, Informative)

telchine (719345) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399421)

Should be really easy to study - are aircrew more likely to suffer the ill effects of ionizing radiation, whatever those are.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/557340.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Why haven't we seen the effects then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399777)

C'mon mods; not informative. The referenced article talks about the well-known increased exposure to COSMIC RAYS experienced by frquent flyers.
Nothing at all to do with dark lightning.

Re:Why haven't we seen the effects then? (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399933)

It is plenty informative if you read the article: "The study, published in the Lancet, examined Danish male jet cockpit crew flying more than 5,000 hours." The contention was that any effect of 'dark lightning' radiation should already be apparent in studies of airline crews. The study referenced by the article is full of valid data even if they didn't know about dark lightning back then.

Re:Why haven't we seen the effects then? (5, Informative)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399541)

It's been studied. Airline pilots get more melanoma than the rest of us, probably from hanging out on nice beaches too much. They don't get any of the other cancers you'd predict from large bursts of x-rays or gamma rays any more than anybody else.

Re:Why haven't we seen the effects then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399727)

Or from the sunlight coming into the cabin and hitting their skin having passed through less of the atmosphere that does a good job of filtering most of the nasty UV etc stuff out for us.

Re:Why haven't we seen the effects then? (1)

johnsnails (1715452) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399639)

My first thought. My uncle is a captain @ Qantas. He is paranoid about mobile phones. I should ask him if he has heard about this kind of thing.

No Dosometers on Board (4, Interesting)

nukenerd (172703) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399195)

It being common knowledge that flying is subject to higher than normal radiation levels, and there is therefore a worry about crews, I had assumed that aircraft carried dosimeters so that crew members' total personal doses were monitored. No? If so, then this would not be a theory - it could be checked from the monitoring.

If they do not carry dosimeters, why not? Ground level radiation workers have to by law. I am a nuclear engineer and do so on visits to plant - yet my total life dose over some years of this is tiny, less than typical aircrew would have I believe.

Re:No Dosometers on Board (1)

Archtech (159117) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399237)

If they do not carry dosimeters, why not?

It's an avoidable business expense. As most airlines are either bankrupt or teetering on the edge, they don't spend a red cent more than they absolutely have to.

Re:No Dosometers on Board (5, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399259)

If they do not carry dosimeters, why not?

It's an avoidable business expense. As most airlines are either bankrupt or teetering on the edge, they don't spend a red cent more than they absolutely have to.

Plus why carry something that could only give your airline bad publicity, and open up the possibility of being sued for "not taking sufficient evasive measures".

Re:No Dosometers on Board (1)

b4upoo (166390) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399859)

Maybe there is a lot of money in owning bankrupt airlines. In all seriousness we do see endless parades of airlines coming and going out of business. If they are such an awful monetary risk would we really see them cropping up? One way or another airlines make money whether the books and "official" paper work indicates it or not.
                                It is rather like a valley full of farmers who know that raising carrots in their valley simply fails every time. If that is true you would only see total idiots starting a carrot farm in that valley. So if investors see one airline after the next pleading poverty and going out of business they would have to be drooling imbeciles to invest in another airline start up.

Re:No Dosometers on Board (5, Interesting)

jma34 (591871) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399295)

There are dosimeters on board. I have completed several radiation safety courses during my work and radiation levels for airline crew are monitored and tracked just like they are for workers in nuclear and other research fields. Frequent fliers are not monitored and tracked. I work at CERN and I know exactly how much ionizing and neutron dose I receive during my work, but I also have to travel between my home at Fermilab and CERN and I have no idea how much dose I receive on my trans-Atlantic flights. The pilot of the plane is monitored and his dose is tracked. That pilot should also have access to his personal dose, but I don't know what the level of transparency is in the airline industry. So if there were a significant likelihood, the data is there.

Speaking from a physics point of view, a huge acceleration is need to produce x-ray and gamma rays. And they aren't hard to detect. It would seem that a balloon experiment flying some CsI or other crystals in some thunderstorms would quickly detect this phenomena even if it is 1/1000 or even 1/10000.

Number of photons? (1)

DrYak (748999) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399891)

(Taking the opportunity that there's a physicist around)

And what about the numbers of photon? (Sorry, not the correct term, but I think you see what you mean. I'm an MD and currently too lazy to dig the correct terminology).

I mean, yes X-Rays can be highly energetic and Gamma even more so. But I'm under the impression that the higher the energy, the lesser the amount of produced rays.
Ultimately, we might find real proof that indeed very high energetic Gamma rays might be produced occasionally, but practically it's only 1 single ray which might be produced by chance very infrequently. So in practice there isn't much danger because one single ray will never do enough significant damage.

Gamma Ray can break atomic bonds. But if only a single bonds get broken in the body, it won't even be noticed, it will be lost among all the other random events that the body copes with on an everyday basis.

Re:No Dosometers on Board (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399487)

Dosimeters? Shouldn't they use Macimeters instead?

Re:No Dosometers on Board (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399493)

It's very well researched and known. High flying aircraft (higher than most conventional commercial aircraft) are exposed to this. Concorde had this problem. It's nothing to do with dark lightning, but radiation from space because of the thin atmosphere.

Re:No Dosometers on Board (1)

dywolf (2673597) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399709)

theres a huge difference, both type and quantity, between the radiation a fligth crew is possibly exposed to and the radiation a nuclear plant worker is possibly exposed to.

Flying abobe clouds (1)

Cockatrice_hunter (1777856) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399207)

Don't most planes fly above the storms?

Re:Flying abobe clouds (1)

geogob (569250) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399239)

Most commercial aircraft cannot fly high enough to fly above CB clouds, especially in the tropics where the are at their most intense and where the tropopause is higher. The only avoidance route is to fly around them. Simply put, thunderstorms are too high to fly over them. On the other hand, normal rain showers can be easily avoided by flying over them.

Re:Flying abobe clouds (5, Informative)

Archtech (159117) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399263)

Don't most planes fly above the storms?

Not necessarily. Airliners in which I have flown commonly go no higher than 36,000 feet - occasionally perhaps 40,000 feet. The tops of thunderstorms often reach 55,000 feet and can be even higher. One extreme case reached about 70,000 feet. Moreover, it is necessary to fly well above the tops of the visible clouds, as bad things can happen up to a mile higher. Check out, for instance, http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/tech_ops/read.main/152684/ [airliners.net]

So pilots almost always opt to fly around storms instead.

Re:Flying abobe clouds (2, Interesting)

cffrost (885375) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399453)

Airliners in which I have flown commonly go no higher than 36,000 feet - occasionally perhaps 40,000 feet.

I thought flight levels were odd-only starting at and above FL290 — or do the airliners in which you fly not adhere to flight levels?

Re:Flying abobe clouds (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399499)

I thought flight levels were odd-only starting at and above FL290 — or do the airliners in which you fly not adhere to flight levels?

Not since 2005 in the U.S. - under a program called Reduced Vertical Separation Minima, the 2000-foot separations apply at FL410 and above. Below that, it's based on heading (or actually ground track); 0-179 will be assigned odd FLs; 180-359 get assigned even FLs.

Re:Flying abobe clouds (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399505)

I was on a plane flying near NYC when they were having a thunderstorm and we climbed to 41,000 and it was still apparent the cloud tops were even higher. I love how awesome thunderstorms are.

Re:Flying abobe clouds (2)

gmclapp (2834681) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399553)

Note that it doesn't actually matter whether you're above or below the storm. If this dark lightning is releasing gamma radiation it is likely doing so in all directions. Including *up*

Re:Flying abobe clouds (2)

dywolf (2673597) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399717)

thats just the thundercell itself, essentially the motor that drives the rest of the storm system. the rest of the storm system will still produce rain and lightning without rising higher. the thundercell is essentially a self-reinforcing vortex (though vortex isnt really the right word) that builds and builds on itself, and provides the energy to the rest of the storm.

Thunderstorms reach into the stratosphere... (2)

mha (1305) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399269)

...and no commercial passenger airplane can fly that high, only some very special aircraft (hint: some spy planes... by now replaced by cheaper satellites, though).

Re:Flying abobe clouds (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399437)

But that's where the red sprites and blue jets [wikipedia.org] are, and most likely where the majority of radiation comes from in regards to lightning discharges. Stay well clear of those and you should be good.

Just goes to show darkies cause all the problems (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399251)

Just goes to show darkies cause all the problems

Re:Just goes to show darkies cause all the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399329)

All right fool, let us know when you're ready to join the rest of humanity in the 21st century.

Another instrument measuring this soon as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399303)

Later this year there is also the ASIM (Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor) to be launched and mounted on the Columbus module of the International Space Station. Currently there is not very much knowledge about these terrestrial gamma ray flashes (TGF) and Xrays coming from thudnerstorm systems, it will be interesting to see how these really affect us in general and air plane travel especially.

http://www.space.dtu.dk/English/Research/Projects/ASIM.aspx

Make it a Little Harder for Our Kids to Get Gunned (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399363)

http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obama-lets-make-it-little-harder-our-kids-get-gunned-down_714689.html

"This is about these families, and families all across the country, who are saying, let's make it a little harder for our kids to get gunned down."

Says the man who has 24/7 armed protection for himself and his family.

Rules are for the little people, like YOU!

What about the pilots? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399397)

If it was so dangerous, it is surprising there are so many pilots still alive today. Pilots fly more than average and live longer than average. Perhaps those regular gamma ray bursts are healthy and give the pilots superhuman strength and abilities? Now I know why planes fly!

Re:What about the pilots? (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399543)

Pilots (I am one) live longer because of the strict medical requirements imposed upon them, and the fact that the moment a pilot shows any sign of sickness, especially with respect to the most common health problems in the US (Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Hypertension), they are grounded and do not get included in the long-term studies of pilot lifespan.

The studies of pilot lifetime have the unfortunate bias of the FAA weeding the unhealthy from the sample group long before the "bad" samples can be included in the statistics.

"Lightning researcher" (-1, Flamebait)

Gothmolly (148874) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399427)

a) people have been flying in planes for years
b) there's nothing you could do about this
c) total waste of government funding

The article (1)

jbolden (176878) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399501)

The article basically says no one has probably ever been hit. The incidence of dark lightening is about 1/1000th the incidence of visible lightening and pilots avoid thunderstorms.

implausible (2)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399523)

People have been flying for many decades. Epidemiologically, there is a significant increase among airline pilots only of melanoma and breast cancer, not of other cancer types. That's not consistent with occasional large bursts of x-ray and gamma radiation (it may be due to leisure activities).

Does it really exist? (1)

jamesh (87723) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399525)

As usual I wikipedia something like "dark lightning" that i've never heard of before. Nothing found, but wikipedia search is pretty crap.

Anyway the best I could find was Relativistic-runaway-electron avalanche [wikipedia.org]

Re:Does it really exist? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399583)

As usual I wikipedia something like "dark lightning" that i've never heard of before. Nothing found, but wikipedia search is pretty crap.

It sounds similar to and is probably as dangerous as the dark quickening. Now imagine *that* happening to an airplane full of people!

regulations (4, Funny)

ssam (2723487) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399527)

Airlines should be subject to the same regulations as nuclear power. All planes should have a few meters of lean and concrete shielding to protect the passengers. Anything that saves one childs life should be done.

Great... flying was already uncomfortable (1)

FingerDemon (638040) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399563)

Now, instead of those flimsy blankets on long flights, I'll have to wear the lead aprons you get when the dentist is x-raying your teeth. And probably pay extra for the weight increase, too.

What is this "maximum safe lifetime dose"? (2)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399703)

Radiation damage isn't cumulative. If it were, you would see greater incidences of cancer in areas with higher naturally occurring background radiation, or in workers with greater exposure. Unless you overwhelm your body's repair mechanisms, the damage is essentially harmless and repair is a natural part of everyday life. Low levels of radiation are much less dangerous than ordinary carcinogens and particulate that we are dumping into our environment by the billions of tons every year.

Granted, this so-called dark lightning may exceed safe levels over short periods of time. Then again, if you are struck by lightning, you will also probably exceed a maximum safe number of electrons transiting through your body. This would appear to be an extremely rare, if not entirely imaginary problem. To my knowledge, there have't been any planefuls of people who have died of acute radiation exposure.

Worse with use of "Composite" aircraft (1)

bradgoodman (964302) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399849)

Do the use of "Composite" aircraft (i.e. Dreamliner) skins make this worse - as there is less of a Faraday cage around people?

Hurricane Hunters (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43399855)

Put some radiation instrumentation on the aircraft of the USAFR 53rd WRS and NOAA's Hurricane Hunters. I imagine they see a lot more lightning than the average airline flight.

Intense bursts of gamma rays? (4, Funny)

QilessQi (2044624) | 1 year,8 days | (#43399905)

Then don't get those flight attendants angry. You wouldn't like them when they're angry.

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