Tech Physics Professor Sonnenfeld Featured on "Pulse of the Planet" Radio Show

By Thomas Guengerich

SOCORRO, N.M., March 18, 2009 – New Mexico Tech physics professor Dr. Richard Sonnenfeld will be featured in a “best of” series of radio spots for “Pulse of the Planet.”

The radio show is broadcast on more than 200 radio stations around the world, including KANW in Albuquerque and KABR in Alamo.

Sonnenfeld’s one-minute spot focused on his research into lightning. Recorded at Langmuir Lab, Sonnenfeld talks about using weather balloons to record lightning strikes and how he uses physics to further the understanding of lightning.

“Physics-wise, we want to understand where the charge goes,” he says. “Is it the top or does it leave charge behind? We’d like to measure exactly what happens, so we can understand more about how lightning propagates.”

He says that scientists have found that electric charges flow in two directions. Packets of electric charges flow toward the tip of the lightning bolt and, conversely, another packet goes backwards away from the tip.

“This was never observed before,” he says.

Sonnenfeld recorded himself while at work at Langmuir. Those recordings were converted into several Pulse of the Planet radio spots. One in particular will be rebroadcast April 21.

For more about the show, visit pulseplanet.com.

– NMT –