Monday, 27 January 2014

Ball lightning - towards an explanation?

Scientists in China have been lucky enough to obtain a spectrum from ball lightning. The results show that it contains elements from soil (see here). This is consistent with the theory that lightning strikes vaporize soil on impact producing silicon nanoparticles which react with oxygen in the air to produce a glowing ball. There are many ideas about what might cause ball lightning, some supported by laboratory experiments showing that they are plausible. But this new evidence suggests that the silicon theory is now the one to beat!     

Ball lightning is one of those phenomena so elusive that some scientists have, until comparatively recently, even doubted its existence. It is heartening for those of us who follow a scientific approach to anomalous phenomena to see that progress can be made with such mysterious phenomena.

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