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Monday, November 10, 2008 


Is there such thing as an umbrella engineer? Or have there been studies done on how to make umbrellas in order to most effectively keep the user dry? How about a study on the best materials to use in making an umbrella?

I’m not a collector of umbrellas nor have I ever spent much time thinking about them or analyzing the way they are made. However, I will have to admit that my umbrella was on my mind this morning. It was pouring outside on my way to work today and my windshield wipers were moving at warp speed. When I pulled into the parking lot at work I gathered my things and grabbed my umbrella before getting out of the car. It was raining so hard that I knew I would get wet but I wanted to make an effort to keep my hair dry. As I stepped out of the car there was a huge boom of thunder and flash of lighting. I knew the lightning was close and the umbrella I was holding in my hand had a metal pole. So I had to quickly decide whether I wanted to be soaked by the time I got inside my office or risk getting struck by lightning. I risked it!! I managed to make it inside without being struck by lightning although I was still soaked…all except for my hair which made me happy. One of my coworkers was not as lucky as me. Her umbrella flipped inside out in the wind and she ended up getting wet…hair and all.

So I got to thinking…why do they make umbrellas out of metal? I mean, there’s a good chance that when it’s raining outside it’s also storming. Why not make the umbrella out of plastic or wood? When there’s lighting the last thing you want to have in your hand is something metal, right? Also, is there some material that would stand up to the wind better? Or at least something that wouldn’t be permanently bent or broken if the wind flipped it inside out? Perhaps someone else has already pondered all of this and come up with a solution. In that case, I am way behind the times and unnecessarily exposing myself to the risk of being struck by lightning by carrying around a metal umbrella.

Actually, the 2 things that attract lightning most is height and isolation. Standing on your rooftop or on a golf course would be more prone to getting struck by lightning than simply carrying an umbrella. In a normal environment, there are plenty of other metal objects around you that would similarly attract lightning, if it were just metal.

Many golf umbrellas use a fiberglass shaft and frame to combat the "isolation" factor.

So, unless you are play golf or on a mountaintop, I wouldn't worry about using your regular metal umbrella.

You should make a wooden umbrella. I'd buy one from you.

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