MessageToEagle.com - Known since antiquity, ball lightning is a natural, long-lived plasma-like phenomenon
associated with thunderstorms and is not well understood due to its rarity and unpredictability
The phenomenon puzzled and perplexed the likes of Aristotle 2,300 years ago and Nikola Tesla a
A recently discovered laboratory phenomenon with striking similarity to ball lightning is observed when a
high-power spark is discharged from a cathode protruding from a grounded electrolyte solution.
Whereas several investigations of these long-lived plasmas have been reported over the past decade, the
underlying chemical and physical processes are still unknown.
One of the rare scientific reports on the rarest form of lightning — ball lightning — describes better ways of
producing this mysterious phenomenon under the modern laboratory conditions needed to explain it.
C. Michael Lindsay and colleagues explain that ball lightning consists of a floating, glowing ball that may drift
eerily through the sky and then explode violently, sometimes injuring people and damaging buildings.
The balls can range in size from a garden pea to globes several feet in diameter and glow for up to 10 seconds.
Since it occurs only once in every million lightning bolts, natural ball lightning cannot be studied with
Like Tesla in 1900, Lindsay and colleagues did their research by producing artificial
ball lightning in the laboratory.
They describe experiments that led to more effective ways of making ball lightning, essential for further
insights into the phenomenon, and techniques that made the fireball last longer so that observations could
Known since antiquity, ball lightning is a natural,
long-lived plasma-like phenomenon associated with thunderstorms and is not well understood due to its rarity and unpredictability.
Scientists have also developed a special video technique that reveals more information than ever before about the structure
of the lightning balls and how they move.
The authors acknowledge funding from the Small Grant Program of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
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