I wonder how long it will be before Al Gore tries to blame ball lightning on “dirty weather”? A neat video follows. From CSIRO:
Goodness, gracious, great balls of lightning
Sightings of balls of lightning have been made for centuries around the world – usually the size of a grapefruit and lasting up to twenty seconds – but no explanation of how it occurs has been universally accepted by science. Even more mysterious are sightings of balls of lightning forming on glass and appearing in homes and in aeroplanes.
CSIRO scientist John Lowke has been studying ball lightning since the sixties. He’s never seen it, but has spoken to eye witnesses and in a new scientific paper(paywalled at AGU, don’t bother) he gives the first mathematical solution explaining the birth of ball lightning – and how it can pass through glass.
Previous theories have cited microwave radiation from thunderclouds, oxidising aerosols, nuclear energy, dark matter, antimatter, and even black holes as possible causes. John disputes these theories.
He proposes ball lightning is caused when leftover ions (electric energy), which are very dense, are swept to the ground following a lightning strike. As for how they pass through glass, he says this is a result of a stream of ions accumulating on the outside of a glass window and the resulting electric field on the other side excites air molecules to form a ball discharge.
According to John ball lightning is rare, but it has been witnessed in Australia many times. People just don’t realise what it is when they see it.
NOTE: This video was provided by CSIRO in their press release. I don’t agree that all of the scenes in the video are relevant to the issue. Take it with a grain of salt. Anthony
For the record, here is what I sent to CSIRO:
I’m writing to complain about what I consider a sloppy job related to this press release as it appears on Eurekalert:
Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres
Australian scientists have unveiled a new theory which explains the mysterious phenomenon known as ball lightning.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Contact: Simon Hunter
1. The word Explanation is misspelled.
2. The title of the paper is not given, forcing anyone who wants to read it to have to figure out what it is by searching JGR.
3. The link to the paper immediately goes to a login page. Paywalls and press releases don’t work well together. At least provide the abstract if the paper is paywalled.
4. As I understand it, CSIRO is a publicly funded agency, so it would make more sense and be in the public interest to make a full copy of the paper available on the CSIRO website.
There has been a trend elsewhere for this sort of incompleteness in conveying science to the public, so I feel I must point it out.
Thank you for your consideration.