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Out of the Blue: A History of Lightning: Science, Superstition, and Amazing Stories of Survival Hardcover – May 20, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"When you see a TV meteorologist display a map of lightning strikes or see a picture of a lightning bolt, you are unwittingly being introduced to a new era in lightning research. Author John S. Friedman pans through time from ancient myths to scientists who are now delving through the mysteries which have surrounded this awesome and frightening subject. His greatest gift is painting a humanistic picture of a subject which has affected man since he began walking this earth."—Frank Field, TV weatherman

"Who would believe a book on lightning could be not only informative but fascinating reading? Friedman's Out of the Blue is both. He intersperses dozens of human-interest stories along with excellent research. Best of all, he writes as if he's sitting across the campfire and says, "Let me tell you about…"—Cecil Murphey, co-author of the New York Times bestseller, 90 Minutes in Heaven

“Intended for outdoor adventurers, sports enthusiasts, science and weather buffs, nature lovers and anyone who is awed or frightened by lightning…. Fascinating stories.”—Deseret Morning News

About the Author

The producer of the Oscar-winning documentary Hotel Terminus, John S. Friedman has written for the New York Times and other publications, and contributes regularly to The Nation. The editor of The Secret Histories, he lives in Connecticut.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press (May 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385341156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385341158
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,395,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on June 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author of this book makes a valiant attempt at covering the subject of lightning from most angles: the science, the history of thought about lightning, the superstitions, the damage caused and the effects (both physical and mental) on those who have been struck and have survived. The author has conducted interviews with scientists, physicians and several lightning strike survivors; in fact there is much more on the human side of lightning strikes than anything else. On the positive side, this book is written in a clear, friendly and very engaging way. It is a quick, pleasant and easy read. On the negative side, a few passages on the science contain errors, e.g., p. 103: "... the area of positively charged electrons on the ground ....".. However, the direct quotations from scientists seem accurate. Also, there is one entire chapter on tornado chasers where lightning is hardly mentioned; this chapter may have been more suitable for a book on tornados. Finally, three entire chapters are devoted to the detailed play-by-play rescue of a team of mountain climbers, some of whom were struck by lightning; a few pages, as in the case of the many other amazing survivor stories, would most likely have been sufficient. Notwithstanding these minor quibbles, this is an excellent, indeed thrilling, book that can be enjoyed by absolutely anyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Meltzer on June 26, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
"OUT OF THE BLUE," John S. Friedman's comprehensive study and report on the frightening phenomenon of lightning is, well, enlightening, to say the very least. It is all here - the history, the pre-history, the theories, the facts and the fables surrounding this timeless subject. Friedman has traveled the land and come back with insights and anecdotes you will long remember, including hair-raising, if not hair-scorching, first person accounts of several multiple-strike lightning survivors. The author is a seasoned journalist with an ear for a good story and he knows how to tell it to us. As perfect a summer read as you will find. Just don't nestle with it under a tree in thunderstorm.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anne on June 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a wonderful surprise. It is inspirational and filled with suspense, adventure, and human interest. It is about religion, faith, and the ways humans cope.

The author writes about lightning in a unique way. Instead of looking at it through a dull, scientific lens, he tells how people have reacted to lightning through the ages. We learn how the Greeks and Romans perceived lightning, about lightning in the Bible, about the conversions of St. Paul and Martin Luther that were possibly caused by lightning, about religious beliefs in the Middle Ages, the criticism of Franklin by clerics, the daring laboratory experiments of Charles Steinmetz and Nikola Tesla, and the latest discoveries by researchers.

But what I found most fascinating in Out of the Blue were the stories of survivors--including an incredible rescue on the Grand Teton. Many survivors describe out-of-body and near-death experiences and how lightning spurred them to greater faith, changed their lives, and made them better people. There are lessons here for all of us.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There is something pointed about lightning that seems to show purposefulness. We have earthquakes, we have tornadoes, we have many other worrisome planetary characteristics, but lightning seems aimed, it seems to pick off individuals in ways that cry out for a reason such a thing ought to befall them. The pointedness of lightning is one of the themes running through _Out of the Blue - A History of Lightning: Science, Superstition, and Amazing Stories of Survival_ (Delacorte Press) by John S. Friedman. It has a more-or-less historic run of chapters dealing with how we have come to our current understanding of lightning as a natural rather than supernatural phenomenon, intercalated with the story of a dramatic rescue of climbers struck by lighting on a peak of the Teton Range and with many personal stories about what lightning has done to survivors. Don't call them victims. The Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Victims was founded in 1989, but changed those "Victims" to "Survivors", and the organization thrives with 1,500 members each of whom have insights no non-member will ever have. Friedman, a writer who made the Oscar-winning documentary _Hotel Terminus_ twenty years ago, has interviewed many of the survivors whose stories make up the most arresting part of the book.

Lightning not only seems aimed, it is fast, conducting its devastation literally before those it hits knew what hit them. The gods who use lightning in the stories are the ones quick to wrath. When Benjamin Franklin had invented the lightning rod, priests argued against it, saying that they were impious tools to thwart God's will. Though the folklore described here is amusing, the science of lightning is just as well described, although there are still large holes in our understanding.
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