Calculations of the relative strengths of the electric fields above similarly exposed sharpand blunt rods show that although the fields, prior to any emissions, are much stronger at the tip of a sharp rod, they decrease more rapidly with distance. As a result, at a few centimeters above the tip of a 20-mm-diameter blunt rod, thestrength of the field isgreater than that over an otherwise similar, sharper rod at the same height. Since thefield strength at the tip of a sharpened rod tends to be limited by the easy formation of ions in the surrounding air, the field strengths over blunt rods can be much stronger thanthose at distances greater than 1 cm over sharper ones
.The results of this study suggest that moderately blunt metal rods (with tip height–to–tipradius of curvature ratios of about 680:1) are better lightning strike receptors than aresharper rods or very blunt ones.
Lightning rod dissipaters (known as Early Streamer Emission, Dissipation Array Systems, andCharge Transfer Systems) claim to make astructure
attractive to lightning. These generallyencompass systems and equipment for the preventative protection of objects located on thesurface of the earth from theeffects of atmospherics. Scientists claim that these devices arenothing more than expensive lightning rods and that they, unlike traditional methods, are notbased on "scientifically proven and indisputable technical arguments" or that the underlyingtheory is "scientific nonsense".This controversy dates back to the 1700's, when Franklin himself stated that his lightning rodsprotected buildings by dissipating electric charge. He later retracted the statement with adisclaimer stating that the exact mode of operation of the device was something of a mystery atthat point.Thus began a 250-year dispute between the dissipation theory and the diversion theory of lightning protection.The dissipation theory states that a lightning strike to a structure can be prevented by reducingthe electrical potential between the structure and the thundercloud by transferring electric chargefrom the nearby earth to the sky. This is done by erecting some sort of tower equipped with oneor more sharply-pointed rods upon the structure. While it is true that sharply-pointed objects willindeed transfer charge to the surrounding atmosphere, and it is also true that a considerableelectric current through the tower can be measured when thunderclouds are overhead, there isno proof that such an arrangement is at all effective. All DuPont Explosives manufacturing siteswere surrounding by pine trees. During the 1950's, DuPont was making nitroglycerin in somebuildings and moving it in 'Angel Buggies' to the packing building. Employees at those sites werevery sensitive to potential lightning strikes.
It should be noted, however, that there is also no proof that the dissipation theory is incorrect, andit is worth considering that these devices have been around for a long time. For example, thestatue of Freedom atop the United States Capitol building in Washington is equipped with multiple'lightning points' which are tipped with platinum, and that these were replaced as originallyconstructed when the statue was restored in the 1990's. The original aluminum cap of theWashington Monument was also equipped with multiple lightning points, and the rays that radiatefrom the crown of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor constitute a lightning-dissipationdevice as well.The diversion theory states that the lightning rod protects a building purely because it isgrounded, and thus a lightning stroke that happens to attach to the rod will be diverted around thestructure and down to earth through a ground cable. There is some uncertainty as to why a