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So, with the advent of weather on my friend's SMP server, two structures have already been burned to the ground by lightning strikes. Miraculously, the current tallest flammable structure on the server is unharmed. The observation deck of my lighthouse is made of red wool (I've converted the white wool base to iron). I've also made sure to put a firebreak (triple row of glass floor) between the wooden access-way and the wooden stairs inside the structure, so while a lightning strike wouldn't be completely disastrous, the top section is the most time consuming to build. So, for some reason, I got the idea that lightning only strikes vertically, which led me to build a glass shield at the ceiling of the map, in the shape of the widest parts of the lighthouse.

Lighthouse, and 'lightning shield'

You can see the shield towards the top of the image. It's placed directly above the structure, and provided lightning only travels vertically downward, protects the entire structure.


Will this work? Or does lightning strike on an angle?

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20  
You could use TNT instead of red wool, I don't think it "burns" –  Nick T Apr 23 '11 at 3:50
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@NickT > For some reason, that doesn't sound like a very good plan for saving a structure. –  DwarfSlice Apr 23 '11 at 3:55
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+1 for the awesome lighthouse –  Rapida Apr 23 '11 at 16:36
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@Rapida > I think it looks much better from the inside. –  DwarfSlice Apr 23 '11 at 16:41
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@GnomeSlice, you're right, the inside is very cool, as is the outside. –  Cyclops Apr 23 '11 at 17:00

4 Answers 4

Yes, but not all the time.

The thunderbolts do strike diagonally, but most of the time it strikes like the picture below.lightning

There are also times when it will strike diagonally. diagonal lightning

I recommend that you extend the glass shield to about 10x10 so that the lightning will not hit it at all (lightning should not be struck at an angle of more that 45 degrees)

Also, wooden stairs do not burn.

EDIT:

I tried manipulating the lightning again. I used zombe's modpack to manipulate the lightning by using the weather control (turned on thunderstorm with mayhem modifier which increases the frequency of lightning). However if you use single player command's "weather lightning" command single player commands "weather lightning" command in a cave , it will go through anything.

So I decided to do an actual test with wood and a glass canopy. wood and glass canopy

Then I turned on lightning with mayhem modifier. It didn't strike through the canopy. lightning unable to pass thru glass another one

As you can see it DID NOT pass through. In the end, my wood was in PERFECT condition. none of it was burned.wood not burned

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@bckbck Can you give me a hard value for the maximum strike angle? –  DwarfSlice May 1 '11 at 18:57
    
@gnomeslice i'll try to dig thru the source code and see what i can find. –  user8949 May 2 '11 at 0:31
    
@bckbck I'm going to award you the bounty in good faith that you'll deliver on the angles. –  DwarfSlice May 2 '11 at 3:27
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@gnomeslice im still digging through the code. no hard evidence of the angles so far, otherwise i'll use a protractor (i measured, it is 25º). also currently i have my exams till the end of next week, so it may be delayed –  user8949 May 4 '11 at 12:34
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What I'm still not sold on though, is whether or not this angled lightning is just DRAWN this way, or if it actually acts as though it were striking on an angle. –  DwarfSlice Aug 7 '11 at 16:11

This post seems to indicate that it does - linked is a YouTube video where you can see the lightning hitting the ground underneath trees.

Your building could possibly get hit, you may want to build some more protection..

EDIT 2:

Unfortunately, all the testing I did below was in vain - the mod I was using to induce the lightning seems to be causing it to pass through everything up to its target. Till I find proof that vanilla Minecraft lightning does this, I'm revoking the below answer :(

Thanks bckbck for spotting this

EDIT:

I've gone back and done some testing to see if lightning can hit stuff that is protected by shields at varying heights.

My precious wood pile ready to be sacrificed:

I built a shield (10x10), made of sandstone at level 50, and forced lightning to hit.

I found that the lightning would either go round the shield, or strangely, THROUGH it!

After repeated tests, it became obvious that my pitiful shield wasn't enough, the wood kept burning up - so I built another one at 100 blocks high, again 10x10 in size.

Even with this shield, the wood was still getting set on fire, so I expanded the shield on layer 100 to 25x25.

Again I found that the lightning would strike through the shield, so with a final attempt to make my poor wood pile safe, I put a layer of cobblestone on top:

No luck..

My conclusion is that it doesn't matter if lightning strikes on an angle, since it looks like lightning will strike through the shield anyway.

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I'm not sure this is enough to satisfy me. I need more proof. :) –  DwarfSlice Apr 26 '11 at 21:42
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Slo-mo video capture, go! –  Sadly Not Apr 27 '11 at 18:18
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Also, it looks like the visuals are on an angle and the lightning is cast straight downwards ... if you read the post later someone points out that the lightning did not strike under the tree at all. –  Sadly Not Apr 27 '11 at 18:23
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Excellent investigation, +1! –  fredley May 1 '11 at 22:30
    
Well, this is distressing... –  DwarfSlice May 1 '11 at 22:48

It looks like, or is rendered to strike on an angle, but actually it only happens at the vertically highest (up to 127) solid block at its horizontal location. In other words, the lightning travels vertically downward through non-solid transparent blocks with a few exceptions you won't care. This is a theory from code reading, and it seems bckbck has verified this.

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The only correct answer. Visuals mean nothing in games. –  nightcracker Jun 14 '13 at 13:50

According to this question, lightning comes straight down. Given that, it seems like your shield should work, but do let us know if/what happens as you continue to play!

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Maybe I'm missing something, but the only thing that question seems to clear up is that lightning comes from above the map. –  DwarfSlice Apr 23 '11 at 4:05

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