Power line 1, tree branch 0

Computers & Mobile Science Technology

Video courtesy YouTuber BozkurtTekinTahsin.

In case you didn’t believe Louie the Lightening Bug when he said “ya gotta stay away from power lines,” consider the fate of this gentle tree branch, who apparently never got to watch Saturday morning PSAs, or at least wasn’t paying attention if it did. It screams, literally, for about 14 seconds before bursting into flames like a vampire in a tanning booth.

[via Neatorama]

32 thoughts on “Power line 1, tree branch 0

  1. Nate says:

    “Burst into flames” doesn’t describe the end of that video at all.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think the English language necessarily has another way of putting it ;)

    Great share, Sean!

  2. MadRat says:

    By the look of it I’d say they burnt out each other. Looks like a tie to me.

  3. SkipJ says:

    Looks like the relaying cleared the fault. I once got a shock from a branch of a tree a power line had fallen on. It felt like something stung me. The whole tree was energized. Apparently, there was enough resistance to ground that the relaying saw it as a load.

  4. thecolor says:

    I feel bad for the little branch. Just newly dead or snapped from a living tree. Poor thing. It JUST started it’s afterlife and dies again! Ugh! /palmface

  5. cairn says:

    Thanks for starting my Monday off right; great video!

  6. cyenobite2 says:

    Does anyone know… the “flame” appeared blue, and a bit unusual in shape… Is that considered “plasma”? Any resident scientists able to comment?

    1. Ken says:

      I’m not a scientist, but yes, flame is plasma (ionized air). And it conducts electricity, and can get shaped in funny ways by strong electromagnetic fields while doing so.

  7. Alex Dickman says:

    Plasma makes me smile

    1. machright says:

      A plasma arc is just a smile turned upside down!

  8. RocketGuy says:

    Really interesting how when the branch finally “flamed on” it produced enough of an aerial bridge for a big ole arc to form through the air. I’m guessing that the breakers finally tripped at that point given the sudden cessation of sound.

  9. Toaste says:

    Here’s a play-by-play:

    1) Tree branch falls across different phases of a power line with several kV of potential across them.

    2) Current flows through the branch, which acts as a resistor and heats up.

    3) The water in the branch boils; you get smoking, popping noises, and that squealing sound.

    4) The last of the water boils off, and the branch rapidly heats to its flash temperature and fully ignites along its length.

    5) The flame ionizes the air around the branch

    6) A large current arcs across the flames

    7) The arc grows and stretches, leaving behind a sheet of plasma.

    8) Upstream, a circuit breaker activates and disconnects the load, saving the camera person from getting a face full of melted-in-half power line.

    1. justpassingthru says:

      Actually, I was also thinking along these same lines (not the electrical kind) as what made the “screams”. It was caused by the moisture in the wood and the heat from the current.

      I would like to relate something that I experienced in 1991 during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

      I, being a retired Navy veteran, was working as a shift supervisor for the Naval Supply Depot and was driving around and checking the outlying guard posts which were in the jungle and overlooking the fuel tanks. None of the posts were manned as all the local hired guards, Filipino, had abandoned their posts.

      Now, you have to imagine the scene. It was past midnight, no moonlight as the sky was full of wet, sticky, fine sand or other matter, all from the eruption. There was a typhoon also blowing at the time. It was pitch dark, no electricity as the transformers had all shorted out due to this wet sand.
      As I drove around I could hear all around me, no distinct direction, but surrounding me, screams which slowly, yet steadily increased in volume. They were to me, human screams of great agony. It was as if I was listening to Dante’s Inferno. The hair on my arms and neck stood up, I had chills, goose bumps, the whole nine yards of emotions gripped me. I was scared. I then knew why the guards had fled their posts, being Filipino, they are a pretty superstitious lot.
      You can bet, I, too left the scene, but much faster, I had a government vehicle, whereas they had to have climbed down from their watch towers and braved it on foot at least a half mile to the nearest main roadway on the base.

      I will never forget those awful screams in the night. I wish I now had a recording of it.

      I went back during the daylight hours and was astonished at the amount of destruction I saw. The entire area was laid waste and looked like a lunar landscape. All the beautiful hard wood trees had been stripped of their limbs, lying broken or barely hanging on by its bark.
      The wet sand, or lahar’s weight had slowly built up and the increasing force of this weight bent the limbs past their capacity and this was the screaming I had heard.

      The forces of nature at work. And to me, also very spiritual in the mind and heart, especially when you cannot actually see it happening because of the dark. A night I’ll always remember.

      1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

        Fantastic story, thank you! If I steal it for a piece of fiction someday, you know where to find me.

  10. volkemon says:

    WOW!! That was pretty cool- Thanks Sean!

    @Toaste- Thanks to you also for the play by play. Made the watching even better the second time.

    Wonder how many tries it took to throw that branch so it landed right :)

  11. Nick says:

    I was out hiking when this happened, it’s a an entire tree doing the same thing as the branch, but over a longer time period.

    If you get bored, jump to 4:10

  12. simplehoomin.myopenid.com says:

    I don’t see any trees visible on the video in the immediate area that are leafless and tall enough to drop a branch on those wires. IMO it was done deliberately (branch tossed up there by the video takers), and while I find the effects of the branch crossing the wires very spectacular and entertaining, cool to the Nth and all that; I gotta raise the BS flag and say that maybe it shouldn’t have happened in the first place, and who knows if folks lost power because of this stunt. Really, I mean what are the odds of a branch falling directly across the lines and someone having a video camera aimed directly at it just in time to catch the show?

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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