Taking Inventory: Lightning Rod

You’ll want to build one A-ZAP!

Some people build their homes from cobblestone. Some people build their homes from bricks. Some weirdos build their homes from slime blocks. But there is a substantial group of players who very unwisely build their homes out of flammable materials, like wood.

Don’t get me wrong – wood is pretty. It lends a rustic, natural look to any build. But in a thunderstorm? Well, let’s just say that house won’t be standing long. The odds are good that you’ll return home from a trip to your mine and discover your precious home burnt to the ground.

That’s why, in the upcoming Caves & Cliffs update, we’re throwing wood-builders a lifeline with a new item – the Lightning Rod.

The lightning rod does one thing and it does it very well. It’ll entice any lightning strikes in a small area to hit the rod instead of its original target. The electrical energy contained within is converted to a redstone signal, and nothing catches fire.

That’s useful during a thunderstorm, but it’s also handy if you’re expecting an attack from someone carrying a trident with the Channeling enchantment. It’ll divert those lightning strikes too.

Want one? Great! Go digging. You’ll need to find a few blocks of copper ore, smelt down the resulting raw copper into at least three ingots, and then stack those ingots on top of each other in a crafting grid. Once crafted, stick it somewhere convenient (a rooftop is a good place) and you’ll be safe from electrical assault.

In fact, lightning that strikes a lightning rod can’t even summon skeleton horse traps. Here’s developer Nir "Ulraf" Vaknin to explain why:

"Originally, we wanted lightning hitting the lightning rod to be identical in any way to the normal lightning strikes – but that proved to have some unexpected consequences. I was working on lightning deoxidizing copper blocks so I built a nice little copper roof with a lightning rod on it and left my game running while I went out for lunch.

When I came back I found many skeleton horse traps waiting for me on my roof! We felt skeleton horse traps should be a rare and exciting occurrence and constantly finding them on your roof might take the mystery out of them. That's why we decided to make lightning striking lightning rods never summon a skeleton horse trap."

- Nir "Ulraf" Vaknin

Lightning rods are very much a thing in the real world, too. The danger of lightning strikes gets larger as buildings get taller, so it wasn’t a problem for much of human history but then European cities started building churches with towers that reached towards the heavens.

Their first defence against lightning strikes was prayer, but this wasn’t very effective, so a Czech priest named Prokop Diviš developed a “meteorological machine” that was designed to deprive the air of its superfluous electricity and very much resembled a lightning rod. Around the same time, in the United States, Benjamin Franklin was conducting electrical experiments and famously flew a kite in a thunderstorm – collecting electrical energy from the atmosphere. Soon decorative lightning rods adorned almost every tall building and many of the wooden sailing ships of the day. 

Today, lightning protection systems are an important part of most tall buildings – with a copper or aluminium rod that connects the highest points of a structure to the ground, so that electricity is carried along the wire instead of passing through the structure.

So next time you’re walking through an area with a lot of tall buildings, see if you can spot the strips of metal that protect the building's inhabitants from lightning. Oh, and make sure you put one on your home in Minecraft, too!

Duncan Geere
Written By
Duncan Geere