When the only tool you have is a hammer

Looks as if terrestrial lightning strikes are producing punches similar to a nuclear bomb or meteor impact, according to recent research reported by the Daily Mail. The clue lies in the formation of ‘shocked-quartz’ in rocks hit by terrestrial lightning strikes.

The problem with this explanation is that it is the physical ‘impact’ of the lightning, along with this ability to melt some of the rock, that is thought to produce the high pressures. Hence shocked quartz, found also in interpreted meteor craters, is caused by physical impact. This is the only mechanism available to you if gravity is the only force in the universe, and much like the allegory that if the only tool you have to hand is a hammer, then everything tends to look like a nail.

Perhaps not.

Terrestrial lightning is essentially an electrical short-circuit between the ionosphere and the Earth’s surface, (lighting also strikes the oceans), in which intense electric currents flow momentarily through the rock. As most rocks are formed of silicate, SiO2, and if melting occurs, then the high pressures are not caused by the impact of the electric current, but from the intense Z-Pinches formed by the Birkeland currents comprising the lightning bolt. Z-Pinches produce immense localised pressures capable of compressing matter which then reorganises its crustal structure to adapt to the increased pressure in the Z-Pinch. The same mechanism is responsible for the formation of micro-diamonds in some lightning dominated volcanic eruptions.

As for the association between nuclear explosions, meteor craters and shocked-quartz, nuclear explosions are near instantaneous releases of energy from plasma, while what we call meteorite craters are more likely electrical discharge craters in which the physics of plasma dominate, along with the operation of short duration Birkeland currents, etc.

Shocked-quartz is a plasma-effect and not one from Newtonian dynamics as commonly assumed. It’s another variant of the logical fallacy of arguing the consequent, a common error made in geoscience.

About Louis Hissink

Retired diamond exploration geologist. I spent my professional life looking for mineral deposits, found some, and also located a number of kimberlites in NSW and Western Australia. Exploration geology is the closest one can get to practicing the scientific method, mineral exploration always being concerned with finding anomalous geophysical or geochemical data, framing a model and explanation for the anomaly and then testing it with drilling or excavation. All scientific theories are ultimately false since they invariably involved explaining something with incomplete extant knowledge. Since no one is omniscient or knows everything, so too scientific theories which are solely limited to existing knowledge. Because the future always yields new data, scientific theories must change to be compatible with the new data. Thus a true scientist is never in love with any particular theory, always knowing that when the facts change, so too must he/she change their minds.
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