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Ball Lightning Debunk, New Proposal

  1. Feb 17, 2009 #1


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    Ball lightning occurs after lightning strikes and also in the dry season in clear weather. It has been observed to pass through closed glass windows and to penetrate pressurized aluminum aircraft at altitude. (1.) There is no experimental evidence to examine because it has never been created in laboratory conditions. We have only anecdotal evidence from the reports of hundreds of witnesses to analyze. Among the many theories of ball lightning published, no satisfactory theory exists to explain this natural phenomenon. Scientists compare observations with their theories, and when evidence against a theory is found, the theory must be discarded or revised. This is an attempt to discard some published theories, contribute a new observation, and to propose a new theory to explain ball lightning which conforms to observations.
    Let us discard a few theories which do not conform to observations:
    1. Ball lightning is not a hot ionized gaseous plasma such as silicon dioxide or excited nitrogen gas. A hot sphere would be buoyant in the ambient air and gasses do not pass through glass or aluminum.
    2. Ball lightning is not an optical illusion or a hallucination associated with epileptic seizures; it is a real natural phenomenon.
    3. Ball lightning is probably not trapped microwave energy since there is no known mechanism which can account for it.
    4. Ball lightning is probably not a primordial black hole or an atmospheric maser since there is no evidence for either to exist.
    Ball lightning has been seen here in this region of North-central Brasil by many people. I have personally interviewed at least ten persons who have seen it. A trained biologist described seeing, in the dry season, a circular array of about 25 soccer-ball sized luminous spheres with the whole array hovering above a fruit orchard. The array gradually rotated while each sphere remained equidistant from the next. Each sphere was as bright as and the color of car headlights. He and some workers watched the display for a few hours! There is a large waterfall 50 meters from the location. Why does this region have more sightings than others? Is the magnetic field of the earth is different here? The magnetic variation from true North here is about 18 degrees West. Is our iron-rich soil is more conductive or permeable to the earth’s magnetic field? What we do have in this region is many turbulent streams and no less than eighty waterfalls.
    Here I propose that ball lightning is a spherical distribution of electrons and magnetic field in equilibrium. The electrons are constrained by a magnetic field generated by the magneteohydrodynamic dynamo mechanism. Here I show, using known physical laws, ball lightning formation, energy source, dynamic wave structure, motion, radiative processes, and demise.
    Two ingredients are necessary to form ball lightning: charged particles and induced motion. A space charge of electrons is common to all ball lightning occurrences, including lightning discharges, volcanic eruptions, turbulent streams, and waterfalls. Atmospheric electrostatics studies show that when a drop falls into water its splash causes charged particles to be ejected. Large space charges are observed downwind from waterfalls. (2.)
    The motion of a charged particle depends on the ambient geomagnetic and electrostatic fields. The fine-weather electrostatic field is around one hundred volts per meter. It may increase to around one kilovolt per meter in clear weather when low-lying layers of aerosols are present and to tens of kilovolts per meter in thunderstorms. Heavy ions are carried by the winds while the electrons move at right angles to the motion, generating a current and acting to separate unlike charges. (3.) The free electrons are accelerated by the ambient atmospheric electrostatic field resulting in motion across the geomagnetic field.
    Kinetic energy imparted to the electrons is converted to magnetic energy by the kinematic dynamo process. The motion of the electrons across the geomagnetic field induces an electric field which causes electric current to flow according to Ohm’s Law. According to Ampere’s Law, the moving electric charges produce a magnetic field. According to Faraday’s Law, the magnetic field generates an electrical field and also exerts a Lorentz force on the electron, directed perpendicular to the magnetic field, and perpendicular to the path around the closed loop magnetic field line. The Lorentz force acts to shorten the length of the closed magnetic field line, thus increasing the magnetic tension, acts to compress the flux lines, increasing the local magnetic pressure (flux density), and provides the positive feedback for the dynamo action to continue. (4.)
    A magnetic field line exhibits a tension and vibrates when perturbed, even infinitesimally, just as a violin string does when plucked. Several types of waves may propagate along a magnetic field line: transverse Alfvén waves, Langmuir waves, sausage-like waves, torsional waves in the magnetic tubes, and magneto-acoustic waves. (4.) Transverse Alfvén waves propagate one-dimensionally without resistance along magnetic field lines at the Alfven wave speed, and may attain high amplitudes. (5.) Free electrons from the ambient electron gas are captured by the Lorentz force and oscillate due to the natural restoring force of the Faraday magnetic tension. (6.) As the density of electrons increases, so does the frequency. (7.) The result is an equipartition of kinetic and magnetic energy.
    The electrons, bound to the magnetic field line by the Lorentz force spiral in helical orbits at the Larmor radius, creating closed vortex filament tubes. The magnetic field line vibrates at the plasma resonant frequency. The natural tendency to form coherent waves of local confinements of electrical energy results from a balance between non-linear and dispersive effects. These waves are called solitons and obey the non-linear sine-Gordon equation. (8.) A row of elastically coupled oscillating rigid pendulums illustrates the mechanism. A magnetic flux tube acts as a waveguide, and may oscillate with lateral kinks or torsionally. Soliton waves may counter-propagate on a magnetic field line and when they pass through one another they emerge from the collision unchanged, but with a phase lag. These are known as soliton kinks. (9.) Two counter-propagating Alfvén waves may also interact to form a dissipative acoustic wave. Electron density waves propagate along the closed magnetic field lines. They are analogous to Langmuir waves in the earth’s magnetosphere. (10.)
    Different non-linear wave vibration modes may interact, or couple, to exchange energy. This resonant wave mixing may draw more electrons from the background electron gas, increasing the total energy content. (10.) Resonant wave mixing may also result in a rapid decay of wave energy or explosive instabilities. This may account for the occasional explosive demise of ball lightning.
    Vortex filaments are magnetically induced to form closed loops of magnetic field. They are analogous to vortex rings in hydrodynamics. New rings form and the diameter of the sphere increases. Because concentric rings have like charges flowing in parallel there is a magnetic attraction between them. (11.) This attraction binds concentric rings into the spherical shape. Each successive loop encircling the sphere maintains equilibrium against the electrostatic repulsive force through an increase in magnetic tension.
    The electron plasma has a minimal interaction with its surrounding environment such as other atoms or heavy ions. A detailed treatment would include this interaction as a viscous friction term. (7.) The sphere exists in the dielectric medium of free space and may be considered collisionless plasma. (8.) Accordingly, ball lightning can pass unperturbed through glass or aluminum. If the plasma encounters resistive anomalies it may melt glass or metal, burn things, or boil water through ohmic heating.
    Several mechanisms enable ball lightning to store energy: the high electrostatic field gradients due to charge separation, the momentum of each electron, the attractive force between parallel moving like charges, and the tension in the magnetic field lines. As wave velocities approach the natural resonant frequency of the plasma the electrons approach relativistic velocities and therefore experience the Lorentz contraction in the direction of their motion. (11.) This increases their ponderable mass and therefore their momentum energy content.
    Electrons spiraling around a magnetic field line in a helical path emit electromagnetic radiation by synchrotron emission and by inverse Compton scattering. (12.) The emitted frequency depends on the energy of the emitting electron. As the electrons approach relativistic speeds, dispersion causes the number of harmonic frequencies to increase (8.) resulting in a broad spectral emission. Electrons in ball lightning emit radiation in the radio (accounting for reported radio static), microwave, infrared, through the visible spectrum, and probably into the X-ray region. Electrons in bunches, known as Langmuir density waves, radiate a continuum electromagnetic spectrum which may account for the various observed colors of ball lightning. Photons emitted near the center of the sphere may interact with electrons nearer the circumference via the Compton Effect, exchanging their momentum so that X-ray emission may result.
    Analytical relations between hydrodynamic waves and magneteohydrodynamic waves correspond exactly: A re-entrant vortex filament corresponds to an electric circuit, the strength of the vortex to current flow, sources and sinks to the polarity of the magnetic field, and fluid velocity to the magnetic force. In ball lightning concentric rings of magnetic vortex flux tubes form a spherical vortex, analogous to Hills fluid spherical vortex. (13.)
    The following items are of a speculative nature. The sausage-like waves may account for the formation of bead lightning. Ball lightning may correspond to the sum of six zonal harmonics in Maxwell’s spherical harmonic of fourth order. (14.) The confinement of energy in ball lightning is a three-dimensional spherical soliton and closely resembles an elementary particle. (9.) Three-dimensional solitons appear in quantum field theories as solutions of the Yang-Mills field equations and are called instantons. (15.) Finally, ball lightning may correspond to field theories such as Einstein’s. The Riemann curvature tensor is analogous to the spherical soliton and that is equivalent to the energy-tensor of matter, (16.) which is analogous to the stress-energy tensor of the ball lightning.
    1. Uman, M. A. Lightning (Dover Publishing, 1984)
    2. Pierce, E. T. & Whitson, A. L. Atmospheric Electricity and the waterfalls of Yosemite valley J. Atmospheric Science, 22, No. 3, 1965
    3. Hargreaves, J. K. The Solar-terrestrial Environment (Cambridge University Press, 1992)
    4. Priest, E. R. Solar Magnetohydrodamics (D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1982)
    5. Lighthill, J. Waves in Fluids (Cambridge University Press, 1978)
    6. Ikezi, H. Experiments on Solitons in Plasmas in Solitons in Action edited by Lonngren, K. & Scott, A. (Academic Press, 1978)
    7. Elmore, W. C. & Heald, M. A. Physics of Waves (Dover Publishing, 1985)
    8. Sagdeev, R. Z. & Kennel, C. F. Collisionless Shock Waves (Scientific American, April, 1991)
    9. Rebbi, C. Solitons (Scientific American, February, 1979)
    10. Dodd, R. K., Eilbeck, J. C., Gibbon, J. D., & Morris, H. C. Solitons and
    Nonlinear Wave Equations (Academic Press, 1984)
    11. Pierce, J. R. Almost All About Waves (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1981)
    12. Kembhavi, A. K. & Narlikar, J. V. Quasars and Active Galactic Nuclei (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
    13. Lamb, H. Hydrodynamics (Dover Publishing, 1945)
    14. Maxwell, J. C. A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (Dover Publishing, 1954)
    15. Drazin, P. G. Solitons (Cambridge University Press, 1984)
    16. Einstein, A. E. Do Gravitational Fields Play an Essential Part in the Structure of the Elementary Particles of Matter? In The Principle of Relativity (Dover Publishing, 1952)
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  3. Feb 17, 2009 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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