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News Picks : Can earthquakes cause lightning?

By: Physics Today
06 March 2014

BBC: A shaken tub of flour generates an electrical charge, according to Troy Shinbrot of Rutgers University and his colleagues, who presented their findings at the American Physical Society’s March meeting. The discovery could explain the mysterious flashes of lightning sometimes reported just before an earthquake. In their experiments with powders and grains, the researchers found that the rubbing of two layers of the same material against each other generates a voltage. Shifting soil layers could trigger similar electrical charges on a much larger scale, which could seed lightning in the air. Although the researchers don’t yet know why the phenomenon occurs, they say it could be used as an early-warning system for impending earthquakes.

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