Join the Unexplained Mysteries community today! It's free and setting up an account only takes a moment.
- Sign In or Create Account -
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
schadeaux

Was Benjamin Franklin's kite experiment a hoax?

8 posts in this topic

Was Benjamin Franklin's kite experiment a hoax?

June 1, 2003

BY ROBERT MATTHEWS

LONDON--It was one of the most famous experiments in science: Benjamin Franklin, the 18th-century American inventor and statesman, risked his life flying a kite directly under a thundercloud to prove that lightning was a form of electricity.

But a new book suggests the inventor actually invented the story.

In June 1752, according to one version of events, Franklin constructed a kite fitted with a metal spike and flew it during a thunderstorm. Textbook accounts say electricity ran down the kite's cord to a key tied near the end, creating a spark when Franklin brought his knuckle close to it.

His work led to the invention of the lightning rod, which has saved countless lives and protected buildings and ships from lightning damage. But according to a new book about the historical evidence, the experiment took place only in Franklin's imagination.

North Carolina researcher Tom Tucker first began to suspect the story while working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He examined the original documents describing the experiment and found differing accounts of it by Franklin that were vague about when or where it was performed.

"There was no witness identified in the announcement, no location named--and nowhere does Franklin say he actually performed the experiment," Tucker said.

Franklin claimed the kite and the twine connecting it to the ground had to be wet to conduct electricity. In practice, this would have led to all the electricity leaking away into the ground. Tucker's suspicions were confirmed when he tried to re-create the experiment exactly, using materials available in the mid-18th century. "I followed the design of the kite and tried it several times--and it just wouldn't fly," Tucker said.

Tucker sets out his evidence in Bolt of Fate: Benjamin Franklin and His Electric Kite Hoax, the first detailed analysis of Franklin's kite-flying claims, to be published June 17. But he emphasizes that Franklin's theory was correct. "I think he invented the story to claim some active involvement in the science--to show that he was not just making a suggestion," he said.

Sunday Telegraph

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

maybe he is a liar.....but that must be a good imagination

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

maybe he had the idea of the experiment and never got around to doing it, so when he was asked about it he panicked and made it up. And it then stuck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

if thev'e covered up Kennedy this long, god only knows what Ben did!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Likelyhood of that story is as likely as...me wasting any more time writing about it BYE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Old Ben was probably a better conductor than a wet string, thus he could get a spark at the key. In normal fair weather the atmospheric potential difference increases at 100 V/meter, but this can be much greater if there is a nearby thunderstorm. Look at the term "atmospheric electric field" in the following URL:

http://www.met.tamu.edu/personnel/faculty/...le/Glossary.htm

Several years ago I ran across a book which described "standing stones" that would create a shock when a man would reach up and touch it on the top, and I thought this was somewhat incredulous. These standing stones were just over 2 meters high and once I ran across information on earths atmospheric potential it made me wonder about them again . The potential difference between a raised object and the atmosphere just above it is difficult to measure with any of our current instruments because once you insert a probe it interferes with the electric field.

A wet string is not a good choice for a conductor as it will have a fairly high resistance, but this doesn't prevent there being a high potential difference along the string.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the whole original post was about promoting Tucker's book regardless of whether Ben did or did not actually do the experiment. I find some of the statements made in the article uninformed or careless.

"In practice, this would have led to all the electricity leaking away into the ground."

The statement is not quoted in the article so I suspect it is not Tucker's conclusion. The wet string (even metal conductors) has a finite resistance and the electricity source is constantly replenished.

One of Tucker's quotes is interesting as nothing is said whether he tried to fly the kite(s) in the same weather conditions alleged by Ben.

"I followed the design of the kite and tried it several times--and it just wouldn't fly," Tucker said.

Having made kites many years ago I found that the wind conditions definitely detemined whether a heavy sturdy kite would or would not fly. How would a flimsy kite hold up in the erratic wind conditions existing near thunderstorms?

Another question is concerning the manner in which Ben kept his journals and notes. Did he consistently detail the time, place, witnesses, etc. for everything he did? I have not been able to determine whether Tucker's book explores this question?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Even if he did it or not, the fact is, Michael J. Fox would have never got back, if it wasn’t for Benjamin Franklin's kite idea! Whether its true or not, it saved the day. And he was Back to the Future to make the next exciting movie… blink.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.