Math Science

Speed of Light and Sound – calculating the distance of a storm

Hot girls know light travels faster than sound, but did you know that there is a practical, life-saving application to this fairly complex physics equation?

You may or may not remember this trick from your days of youth…to figure out how far away a lightning strike is from you, start counting. Approximately every 5 seconds that pass between seeing the flash and hearing the roar of thunder equate to 1 mile of the vicinity. How? Let’s break this down.

  • The speed of sound is ~761mph
  • 1 mile = 5,280 feet
  • 1 hour = 3,600 seconds
  • 761 x 5,280 = 4,018,080ft / 3600s = 1,116.13 feet per second
  • 5,280/1116.13 = 4.73 miles per second

*Note: The speed of sound is affected by air temperature. The above equations are based on a temp of 59 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level.

So if you don’t hear thunder for 15 secs  – the strike is about 3 miles away; 25 seconds is ~5 miles, etc. If you hear thunder right away, it is very close! You should seek immediate shelter whenever you see and hear the signs of a storm. Stay away from anything related to water and electricity; lightning can strike within 25 miles of a storm’s radius!

Hot for more? 

WATCH: Does Counting the Seconds After Lightning Strikes Work? 

READ: How Far Away Was That Lightning?

Featured photo by Max Larochelle from Unsplash

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