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Lightning Strikes

Just found a remarkable book, Schott’s Almanac 2007, written by the amazing Ben Schott, author of Schott’s Original Miscellany. It’s hard to describe the book other than to say it’s an extraordinary array of information and data about the past year, along with lots of other stuff thrown in. An example is a chart on p. 264 of annual fatalities in the United States due to lightning, from 1940-2004.  Population has increased a lot since 1940 but fatalities have fallen pretty steadily from a peak of 432 in 1944 to only 32 in 2004. Why? Schott speculates that there’s improved education (don’t walk around holding a sword in the air when there’s lightning), but he makes the very thoughtful observation that the movement from rural to urban living reduces the chances of being hit by lightning. And these data are presented in an elegant chart that is clear and simple. Every page has something interesting.