That insolent lightning mage Zyzzx has claimed that he'll be promoted before me because his lightning magic is superior to my heat magic. Preposterous, I know, but to show that smarmy bug-zapper who's who around here, I need to demonstrate to the university that heat magic can do anything lightning magic can1. How can I create electricity with heat magic?

You mere scientists may not be familiar with my awesome powers, so:

  • I can add as little or as much heat to something as I want, from less than a picojoule to a gigajoule and more
  • There are effectively no limits on how far away I can summon heat
  • I have excellent precision: I could selectively heat just the oxygen atoms in a bucket of water if I wanted.
  • I cannot, however, move or remove heat. So if I heat up a chunk of metal, the air around it will get warm and there's nothing I can do about it.

One of the ideas I had was to use heat to create massive updrafts, which would carry moisture upwards to form clouds and eventually lightning. This isn't a horrible fallback strategy, but here's what I think would really impress the Provost and Board of Trustees:

  • Fast. If the Board of Trustees has to wait several hours for the lightning to form, they may get bored, and that would count against me.
  • Control. I would love to be able to point to a single spot of ground and have it be zapped
  • Limited special circumstances or equipment. If I really need an atmosphere of pure argon or a massive coil of wire, that can be arranged, but it won't be nearly as impressive. Something like a steam-driven generator would hardly do.
  • Not needing large amounts of energy or precision. As a master mage, I have very few limits, but if a mere heat apprentice could create electricity, that'd really show Zyzzx what for. Still, this is less important than the others.

It's not a deal breaker if I can't achieve all of these, but the more I can do the better my odds of advancing up the academic ranks.

1 Lightning magic can be used to create a voltage difference between two arbitrary points. I don't expect to be able to do this perfectly, but the closer I can get the better.

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    $\begingroup$ First and last bullets of what you can do contradict each other. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Mar 4 '20 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ That insolent twerp Zyzxx can't be promoted after the flash-fever that cooks his brain tonight in his sleep and leaves him a drooling idiot tomorrow. Come to think of it, maybe you should hide your own sleeping place. Those jerks over in water-magic might have it in for you after that rancorous discussion in the cafeteria.. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Mar 4 '20 at 4:26
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica, how so? $\endgroup$ – Matthew Mar 4 '20 at 4:43
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    $\begingroup$ I see you have atomic precision. But the real question is: Do you have subatomic precision? $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Mar 4 '20 at 4:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed I'm not sure how meaningful the concept of heat is for subatomic particles, at least when they're still part of the atom (given quantum spookiness). But I'm far from an expert in this, so if you understand it and that lets you write a good answer, go for it $\endgroup$ – Kofthefens Mar 4 '20 at 5:17

Screw generating friction or creating a huge storm. You can create fake lightning which is even better.

The basic idea is to simply heat areas until they ionize and start to glow from all the heat energy. Apply this in a lightning pattern and you have fake lightning. However there are several advantages.

  • Your lightning is controllable. You can control the areas you heat and essentially the path the lightning takes.
  • Your lightning can make the target explode or roast or evaporate (because you heat them up extremely fast and the water or materials inside expand and shatter if you do it fast enough, or slower causing the water content to evaporate and materials to carbonize and eventually combine into a gas)
  • It can't be blocked using conductors to redirect the lightning into the ground (because you control the path)
  • You dont need a storm and can use this indoors
  • You wont make everyone deaf with the thunder that follows after
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    $\begingroup$ I think you would get thunder. Instantaneously adding a gigajoule of energy to the air will make a dramatic, and audible, pressure wave, regardless of whether the energy came from electricity or heat magic. (This does not invalidate the rest of the answer, which is great) $\endgroup$ – Robyn Mar 4 '20 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Robyn, same. In fact, I'm pretty sure thunder already comes from the superheating of air, and is not directly related to the presence of a massive electric current. That said, if this answer overlooks anything, it's that the OP is effectively a walking plasma weapon. I'll take that over lightning. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Mar 4 '20 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea but how can you apply this in a lightning pattern? Extreme heat can remove the electrons and create plasma/ionized gas. You might observe electric discharge in a magnetic field but I don't think you can create powerful electric discharge, yet alone controllable lightning pattern. If you apply extreme heat, your chances are observing a big light show (like glow discharge) or an explosion. $\endgroup$ – 0.. Mar 4 '20 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ @ermanen The idea is that the wizard starts by drawing a lightning shape in the air with his or her heat powers. It could just as well be in the shape of a smiley face or a rude word, except that this wizard wanted it to look like lightning. $\endgroup$ – Robyn Mar 4 '20 at 20:00

Given a voltage differential, you can guide electricity by turning a thread/needle/shaft of air into plasma.

The follow-on strike would exactly follow the plasma path you created, initially. It could expand depending on how much juice you pumped through it.

So where to get the voltage difference?

  • IIRC, there's always some imbalance of charge from altitude to ground, though the degree of difference can vary wildly with the weather.
  • A little underwhealming, but you could expend a battery (explosively) buy starting the thread physically inside the battery. Making [acid based or otherwise] batteries explode near you sounds like a terrible idea.
  • Someone mentioned a tesla coil? Visually impressive.

Eh, at the end of the day, if you want to fry a target, just fry the target. Lightening damage is primarily due to heat. You can skip the light show and get straight to the good part.

Water expands by 1600 times when it turns from liquid to gas. Vaporizing someone's heart inside there chest is going cause a messy explosion. Ditto for brain, eyes, blood... lots of room for creative and horrifying death.

Discard your envy and stand proud of who you are, of what you can do! And turn the nervous system of anyone who mocks you to ash. Making a heart explode might be satisfying, but that target might stay conscious long enough to retaliate before expiring. Never have to think "I should have gone for the head".


A thermoionic converter (low voltage, extremely high currents when heated enough) coupled with a Tesla coil?

An Explosively pumped flux compression generator except you use air plasma instead of explosive?

Or heating a bucket of water to 1e+7K so sudden you trigger a thermonuclear fusion reaction by inertial confinement? The latter would be cheating, the EMP will resemble a lighning-strike (and destroy the University in the process).


To create real lightning, you need to create thunderstorm clouds where cold and warm air meet. In basic terms, the ice crystals and cooling water droplets collide with each other and create electrical charges in the clouds. Positive and negative charges separate within the cloud; and below the negatively charged base, positive charge pools on the surface of the earth. Then lightning strikes. It can occur between clouds also.

I believe your best chance (and fastest way) is to heat up a lake quickly with enough energy for warm air/moisture to form and rise quickly. The lake should be rather smaller to create the warm air/moisture faster. In the upper parts of the atmosphere, it will meet the cold air. You might have a higher chance if there are mountains around the lake and there is cold air current.

In fact, the most electric place is on earth is Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. It can get thousands of lightning strikes every hour.

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Here is the explanation of the cloud formation in Lake Maracaibo region:

Above the wetlands of the south-western part of Lake Maracaibo there can be observed an unforgettable sight – powerful and nearly continuous thunderstorm with up to 20,000 flashes of lightning per night. This is the famous Catatumbo Lightning – the most persistent thunderstorm of the world.


High mountains surround Maracaibo plain from three sides. Specific wind (low-level jet) blows from the only side which is free of mountains – from the north-east. Hot tropical sun has heated the lake and swamps during the day – wind accumulates the produced heat and moistness.

To the south-west from the plains the wind meets high mountains. Electrically charged masses of moist and heated air here are forced to go upwards. Vapor condensates, clouds form and starts discharge of electricity – lightning.


Another option would be heating up an active volcano and making it erupt to create volcanic lightning. It will be grandiose but the chances are low and yeah, you might not survive.


Lightning is air superheated by an electric current. A light bulb is a filament heated by an electric current, etc. You cut out the middleman.

Or, you could create a Plasma channel to the clouds which would conduct electricity in the form of stimulated lightning - This can already be done to a limited extent with lasers.


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