Most fulgurites we recovered were short fragments, though the longest ones found were a yard or two long.
It takes a specific amount of energy to vaporize sand into gas.
Hollywood considers it powerful enough to allow strangely designed cars from the early 1980s to break the space-time continuum.
In the comic book world, it’s an ingredient in the formula for developing superpowers.
These sand mines probably have about one million year’s worth of fulgurites buried inside of them.
They’re easy to find – since glass isn’t something you want in commercial sand, the mine filters them out.
At one site, we collected several hundred fulgurites; more than 250 lay in the field, with many more found in spoil piles, filtered out of the sand prior to its being loaded onto trucks.
These sites are not really any different than any place else in Florida – they aren’t some sort of lightning magnet – but the geologic setting was just right for keeping them around for a long time.
Nonetheless, lightning’s strength still lingers in our imagination.
Florida’s unique geology provided an interesting route to answering this question.
Florida tends to be a fairly boring state for a rock enthusiast. Not much else, and all of it is young, geologically speaking.
A volt is a measurement of the amount of energy released as each pack of electrons flows from one side of an object to another – for instance, a battery.
When lightning strikes, we can determine the voltage it induces on nearby powerlines; measurements range from hundreds of thousands to millions of volts.