The most mysterious natural phenomenon. Where does ball lightning come from and how is it dangerous?

What is Ball Lightning?

Ball lightning is a natural phenomenon that appears to glow and float in

airborne education. A unified physical theory of the occurrence and course of this phenomenon has not yet been presented; there are also scientific theories that reduce the phenomenon to hallucinations.

There are many hypotheses explainingphenomenon, but none of them has received absolute recognition in the academic environment. Under laboratory conditions, similar, but short-term phenomena were obtained in several different ways, so the question of the nature of ball lightning remains open.

It is widely believed that ball lightning- a phenomenon of electrical origin of natural nature, that is, it is a special type of lightning that exists for a long time and has the shape of a ball, capable of moving along an unpredictable, sometimes surprising trajectory for eyewitnesses.

According to eyewitness accounts, ball lightningusually appears in thunderstorm, stormy weather; often (but not necessarily) along with regular zippers. Most often, it seems to "exit" from the conductor or is generated by ordinary lightning, sometimes it descends from the clouds, in rare cases - it unexpectedly appears in the air or, as eyewitnesses say, can come out of any object (tree, pillar).

Ball lightning in a 19th century engraving

Doubts about the existence of ball lightning

Until 2010, the question of the existence of balllightning was fundamentally refutable. So, in the preface to the bulletin of the RAS Commission for the Fight against Pseudoscience "In Defense of Science", No. 5, 2009, the following formulations were used: of course, ball lightning still has a lot of unclear things: it does not want to fly into the laboratories of scientists equipped with appropriate devices.

The theory of the origin of ball lightning, correspondingPopper's criterion was developed in 2010 by Austrian scientists Joseph Peer and Alexander Kendl of the University of Innsbruck. They published in the scientific journal Physics Letters A the assumption that the evidence of ball lightning can be understood as a manifestation of phosphenes - visual sensations without the effect of light on the eye, that is, ball lightning are hallucinations.

Their calculations show that magnetic fieldsCertain lightning strikes with repetitive discharges induce electric fields in the neurons of the visual cortex, which appear to be ball lightning to humans. Phosphenes can appear in people up to 100 meters away from a lightning strike.

July 23, 2012 on the Tibetan plateau, a ballThe lightning hit the field of view of two slitless spectrometers, with the help of which Chinese scientists studied the spectra of ordinary lightning. As a result, 1.64 seconds of ball lightning glow and its detailed spectra were recorded.

Unlike the spectrum of ordinary lightning, in whichThere are mainly lines of ionized nitrogen, the spectrum of ball lightning is filled with lines of iron, silicon and calcium, which are the main constituents of the soil.

This instrumental observation probably means that the phosphene hypothesis is not exhaustive.

Ball lightning observation history

In the first half of the 19th century, a French physicist,astronomer and naturalist Francois Arago, perhaps the first in the history of civilization, collected and systematized all the evidence of the appearance of ball lightning known at that time. In his book, 30 cases of observation of ball lightning were described.

The statistics are small, and it is not surprising that manyphysicists of the XIX century, including Kelvin and Faraday, during their lifetime were inclined to believe that this is either an optical illusion, or a phenomenon of a completely different, non-electrical nature. However, the number of cases, the detail of the description of the phenomenon and the reliability of the evidence increased, which attracted the attention of scientists, including famous physicists.

Great contribution to the work of observation and descriptionball lightning was introduced by the Soviet scientist IP Stakhanov, who, together with S. L. Lopatnikov, published an article on ball lightning in the journal Znanie - Sila in the 1970s. At the end of this article, he attached a questionnaire and asked eyewitnesses to send him their detailed recollections of this phenomenon.

As a result, he accumulated extensive statistics - more than a thousand cases, which allowed him to generalize some of the properties of ball lightning and propose his own theoretical model of ball lightning.

Contemporary evidence

  • During World War II, pilots reportedstrange phenomena that can be interpreted as ball lightning. They saw small balls moving in an unusual trajectory. These phenomena became known as foo fighters or some kind of fighters.
  • Submariners have repeatedly and consistently reportedabout small fireballs occurring in the confined space of a submarine. They appeared when turning on, off, or incorrectly turning on the battery of the accumulator, or in the event of disconnection or incorrect connection of highly inductive electric motors. Attempts to reproduce the phenomenon using a spare submarine battery ended in failure and an explosion.
  • August 6, 1944 in the Swedish city of Uppsalathe ball lightning passed through the closed window, leaving a circular hole about 5 cm in diameter behind it. The phenomenon was not only observed by local residents, but also the lightning tracking system of Uppsala University, which is located in the department of electricity and lightning, was activated.
  • In 2008, in Kazan, ball lightning flew intotrolleybus window. The conductor - Lyalya Khaibullina, with the help of the validator, threw her to the end of the cabin, where there were no passengers, and a few seconds later an explosion occurred. There were 20 people in the cabin, no one was hurt. The trolleybus was out of order, the validator warmed up and turned white, but remained in working order.
  • July 10, 2011 in the Czech city of Liberecfireball appeared in the control building of the city emergency services. A ball with a two-meter tail jumped to the ceiling directly from the window, fell to the floor, jumped to the ceiling again, flew 2-3 meters, and then fell to the floor and disappeared. This frightened the employees, who smelled the burning wiring and thought that a fire had started. All computers were frozen (but not broken), communication equipment was out of order overnight until it was repaired. In addition, one monitor was destroyed.

Historical attempts to reproduce ball lightning artificially

Several claims have been made forball lightning in laboratories, but generally skepticism has developed towards these statements in the academic environment. The question remains: "Are the phenomena observed in laboratory conditions identical to the natural phenomenon of ball lightning?"

  • The first experiments and statements can be consideredTesla's works at the end of the 19th century. In his brief note, he reports that, under certain conditions, igniting a gas discharge, after turning off the voltage, he observed a spherical luminous discharge with a diameter of 2-6 cm. However, Tesla did not give details of his experience, so it is difficult to reproduce this setup. Eyewitnesses claimed that Tesla could make fireballs for several minutes, while he took them in his hands, put them in a box, covered them with a lid, and took them out again.
  • The first detailed studies of the luminousElectrodeless discharge was carried out only in 1942 by the Soviet electrical engineer Babat: he managed to obtain a spherical gas discharge inside a chamber with low pressure for a few seconds.
  • Kapitsa was able to obtain a spherical gas discharge at atmospheric pressure in a helium medium. The addition of various organic compounds changed the brightness and color of the glow.
  • The literature describes a setup scheme, on which the authors reproducibly obtained some plasmoids with a lifetime of up to 1 second, similar to a "natural" ball lightning.
  • Nauer in 1953 and 1956 reported the receipt of luminous objects, observed properties which completely coincide with the properties of light bubbles.

Modern reproduction of ball lightning

In mid-February, a team of Finnish and American specialists announced that they had created a quantum magnetic vortex in the laboratory, which had the same properties as ball lightning.

The team used two oppositedirected flow of electric current, as a result of which a synthetic electromagnetic spherical assembly was formed, which, in fact, fits the description of ball lightning.

Mikko Mettenen from Aalto University in Helsinkibelieves that ball lightning are not only electrical, but also quantum in nature. Their experiment became possible thanks to the study of skyrmions - quantum quasiparticles, the mathematical model of which reflects the real (and not schematic) behavior of protons and neutrons in an atom.

According to Mettenen, skyrmions they have unusual properties, since their "needles" are positively charged, and "trunk" - negatively.

Due to this, "quantum hedgehogs" are highly stable - perhaps they will be used as memory cells in computers of future generations.

Is Ball Lightning Dangerous?

Whatever the cause of the balllightning, it must be borne in mind that a collision with it is potentially dangerous. If the ball overflowing with electricity touches a living creature, it may well kill.

According to eyewitnesses, it is important not to make sudden movements and not to run: ball lightning is extremely sensitive to any turbulence in the air and may well follow.

You need to calmly turn off the path of the ball,trying to stay as far away from him as possible, but in no case turn his back. If the ball lightning is in the room, you need to slowly approach the window and open the window with slow movements: following the movement of air, the lightning will most likely fly out.

Also, absolutely nothing can be thrown into the plasma ball: this may well lead to an explosion.

Note that these recommendations are private, since at the moment there is no strict algorithm of actions when meeting with ball lightning. Here are some common and most popular tips.

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