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U2: A potentially dangerous concert July 29, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in science.
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In my last post, I told you that I went down to Minneapolis this past weekend for a U2 concert.

Given I’ve wanted to see U2 since I was a pre-teen, I was pretty amped up for the concert.  However, I wasn’t real careful in checking the weather: it turns out that rain was in the forecast, and all I brought was a sweatshirt because it was so hot.

We got to the concert about 6 p.m., an hour before the opening band, Interpol, was about to start.

The show took place at University of Minnesota’s new football stadium, so the concert was outdoors.  The stage, as you can see, is quite impressive.  My understanding is that it cost around $25 million.  The screen you see in the center is made up of a bunch of interlocking hexagons.  Not only does it articulate, but it can be spread out, leaving gaps between the hexagons, so that it reaches down to the stage.  Before the show, they put a bunch of statistics on the screen, one of which was the number of LEDs the screen contained: it was over 400,000.

We had primo seats.  We were in the first row of the upper tier.  It turned out, we were also sitting directly over the entrance where the band members came from back stage.

The guy second from the bottom in black is Bono.  The person in front of him in black is The Edge.  The white-haired guy is Adam Clayton, and in front of him, in a white shirt, is Larry Mullen, Jr.

So the first third of the concert was great.  And then the rain started.  My camera was put away at that point, but I otherwise had a great time.  The rain was warm and the band kept going.  A couple of times, it got extremely heavy.

So why was the concert potentially dangerous?  Obviously all the electronics and the massive amount of power they were pumping into the stage was well protected.  What got scary was when the lightning started.  One clap of thunder was heard a mere two seconds after the lightning.

Take a look at the stage in the top picture and tell me what you see.  I personally saw a really awesome stage/lights/AV system turn into a giant lightning rod.  If you don’t believe me, look at the big orange toothpick looking thing and tell me if you’d want to be under that stage.

Before the show, they also hoisted up a dozen people, three under each arm, to run the spotlights.  Granted, they were isolated from ground and likely wouldn’t be in the path of any potential current…but I don’t imagine having 7000 amps running along next to you is the safest thing, either.  It can burn people.

 

Finally, I worried about what would happen to the crowd if lightning hit.  The ground was covered in water, almost 2 inches thick is some places, and this would make a better conductor than the underlying concrete.

Fortunately, nothing happened.  There was a lot of lightning, but other than a couple loud kabooms, it didn’t seem to get too close.  The rain finished about the time the concert finished, and I rode back to our hotel feeling more wet and squishy (but also happy) than I had in a long time.

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