Ball Lightning Discussions/Anecdotes?

In summary: There are millions of surveillance cameras around. Their videos never capture a ball lightning.This is an argument against, but again, it's rare for cameras to be pointed at the sky when a ball lightning is seen. Being in the right place at the right time Being surprised at wat you see as you fumble to get you phone out and into camera mode and take a photo or 2 before the ball of light disappears.This argument is somewhat valid, but again, it's rare to capture a ball lightning on camera.
  • #1
Michelle Spalding
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New to the forums. Hoping to find a thread, forum, website dedicated to the discussion of/gathering of anecdotal reports of ball lightning.

My mother's best friend witnessed what we believe is ball lightning in her home yesterday. She didn't get photos or video, but took some photos of odd marks on the window where the object supposedly entered her home.

I'm looking to share her story and/or discuss ball lightning in general - any forums or websites. All I have been able to find elsewhere are skeptical/woo/metaphysical discussions, which I'm not interested in.

Any advice or a point in the right direction is very much appreciated. Thanks!
 
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  • #2
Welcome to the PF.

Using the PF Search feature (upper right of the display), I get these hits:

https://www.physicsforums.com/search/30573/?q=ball+lightning&o=relevance

Also, look at the bottom of this thread for Related Thread suggestions...

:smile:
 
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  • #3
Now that almost everyone has a camera phone, we know that the ball lightning does not exist as a physical phenomenon. If it did, we would get a flood of photos and videos of it.

The same holds for UFO's, ghosts, the bigfoot, and so on.
 
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  • #4
Heikki Tuuri said:
we know that the ball lightning does not exist

The same holds for UFO's, ghosts, the bigfoot, and so on.

Lack of photo evidence is not proof that something doesn't exist. But thank you for your opinion.
 
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  • #5
Michelle Spalding said:
Lack of photo evidence is not proof that something doesn't exist.

Heikki Tuuri said:
Now that almost everyone has a camera phone,
Elfs, Sprites, Green Flash...?
How many Green Flashes have been "captured?"
 
  • #6
https://Earth'sky.org/todays-image/photo-double-green-flash-san-diego
A net search reveals a large number of green flash photos.

A net search of ball lightning photos brings almost nothing. That is in a stark contrast to the fact that up to 1% of people in the 20th century claimed to have seen a ball lightning. If they really saw it, we would now have millions of photos and videos of ball lightnings.

There are millions of surveillance cameras around. Their videos never capture a ball lightning.

There are hardly any UFO observations any more. The obvious reason is that now almost everyone carries a high quality camera in his pocket. If you fabricate a UFO story, people will ask for photos - which you do not have.
 
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  • #7
A green flash can be reasonably predicted in both location and time. Someone wanting to capture a green flash on film need do no more than set up a camera and wait. Sprites and ball lightning, not so much.

But your assertion that something doesn't exist merely because there's no photographic evidence of it "online" is silly. I own a mass produced (albeit rare) item that you'd spend years searching in vain for photographic evidence of its existence anywhere online. Does that mean it doesn't exist?
 
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  • #8
IIRC, a modern, reliably witnessed case had a 'glowing ball' drift down the aisle of a passenger jet following a lightning strike. Much consternation ensued...

Also, IIRC, a Japanese team has succeeded in making plasma balls that last several seconds after initiation at STP. Note they do NOT claim this mechanism for the natural phenomenon which, like Sprites and Daves (!) may be multiple and complex.
YMMV.
 
  • #9
Never really looked into this, but it didn’t take long to track down a supposed high speed video, with analysis, published in a reputable peer reviewed journal. I was unable to find a non-paywalled version, which I hate.
https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.035001
[edit: there is a link to a non paywalled popular article that includes the video]
 
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  • #10
Some people researching LENR (low energy nuclear reactions) have linked it to ball lightning but LENR is a banned topic here so go Google the link yourself if interested.
 
  • #11
Heikki Tuuri said:
Now that almost everyone has a camera phone, we know that the ball lightning does not exist as a physical phenomenon. If it did, we would get a flood of photos and videos of it.

Pretty poor logic.
Heikki Tuuri said:
A net search of ball lightning photos brings almost nothing. That is in a stark contrast to the fact that up to 1% of people in the 20th century claimed to have seen a ball lightning. If they really saw it, we would now have millions of photos and videos of ball lightnings.

Again very bad logic. Last centaury, people rarely carried cameras with them only tourists, and professional photographers' and a few random other people. The chances of having a camera on you to capture something as fleeting as ball lightning would be extremely rare.

Cameras in phones have really only been the last 10 - 15 years or so and the same logic applies.
Being in the right place at the right time Being surprised at wat you see as you fumble to get you phone out and into camera mode and take a photo or 2 before the ball of light disappears.yeah, I really don't like your argument :frown:


Heikki Tuuri said:
A net search reveals a large number of green flash photos.

that isn't an argument against !

Green flashes occur almost daily for anyone on a beach facing west. 100's of people go down to the beach specifically to photo the flash. I did so in Hawai'i in 1999 along with many others. The beach at Waikiki was full of people wanting to do the same thing.
 
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  • #12
Michelle Spalding said:
Lack of photo evidence is not proof that something doesn't exist. But thank you for your opinion.
I would say that the lack of evidence to back up verbal reports is pretty conclusive, actually. The word 'proof' doesn't really apply in that double negative reasoning of yours, any more than negative results of regular Physics experiments actually prove anything. All scientific results come down to balance of probabilities and the balance has shifted pretty strongly against a lot of 'fringe / nonsense' claims that used to be made. In fact, the onus is on the authors of such claims to justify them with available evidence.

One has to be careful in trying to apply logic. The enormous increase in the number of videos of kids' birthday parties that we can see doesn't actually prove that there are, in fact more kids having parties (ignoring finite but small population variations). The really strange thing would be if we did not actually see many more kids party videos.

davenn said:
Being in the right place at the right time Being surprised at wat you see as you fumble to get you phone out and into camera mode and take a photo or 2 before the ball of light disappears.
You have challenged the validity of the argument that more phones would have resulted in more pictures. I challenge that challenge because many people have their phones in their hand almost 24/7. (unlike old gimmers like you and me - who use their fingers to enter characters on the screen keyboard). No "fumbling" is involved with the majority (at least a lot) of young people, who are always ready to catch the reg numbers of offending cars and faces of assailants etc.. Then there are the dash cams which are fitted, almost as standard, in many countries. They spot other aerial phenomena regularly so I reckon we should expect at least a reasonable number of justifiable claims about strange sightings. In fact, when people manage to have pictures of ufo's, those pictures very often contain evidence of a rational explanation.
 
  • #13
Heikki Tuuri said:
Now that almost everyone has a camera phone, we know that the ball lightning does not exist as a physical phenomenon. If it did, we would get a flood of photos and videos of it.

The same holds for UFO's, ghosts, the bigfoot, and so on.
Michelle Spalding said:
Lack of photo evidence is not proof that something doesn't exist.
Both of these are too strong (or the second is true but misleading), bu the first is much more accurate. Yes, it's true that you can't really prove a negative, but what the proliferation of cameras has done is to compress the error bars of proof-positive closer to zero.

The reason for this is that given a constant frequency of photo-worthy events, the odds of caputuring the event on camera are roughly proportional to the number of cameras. In 15 years the percentage of people carrying a camera at any given time has probably gone up by a factor of 100 in developed countries, which means we should be getting 100x as many photos of these odd events (many of the same event), but we aren't -- as said, if anything they are decreasing, not increasing (because of the cameras).

For example, car dashboard cameras are common in Russia because of insurance fraud, but not common in the USA. So when the big meteor exploded a few years ago, many Russians caught it on camera. If that happened in the USA, we'd still have many eyewitness accounts, but likely no photographic record.

So the fact that these phenomena have *not* been captured on camera vastly more frequently and at higher quality means the likelihood that they are real has vastly decreased. No, it can't be proven to be zero, but is that really what you're trying to win?
 
  • #14
davenn said:
Again very bad logic. Last centaury, people rarely carried cameras with them only tourists, and professional photographers' and a few random other people. The chances of having a camera on you to capture something as fleeting as ball lightning would be extremely rare.

Cameras in phones have really only been the last 10 - 15 years or so and the same logic applies.
We know cameras used to be rare. The point of the logic is that if these events are relatively frequent (more than one or two every 15 years) they should be frequently caught on camera *now*. For example:
Green flashes occur almost daily for anyone on a beach facing west. 100's of people go down to the beach specifically to photo the flash. I did so in Hawai'i in 1999 along with many others. The beach at Waikiki was full of people wanting to do the same thing.
That's excellent evidence in favor of those green flashes existing and the exact logic is why the likelihood of the other phenomena existing has dropped dramatically in the past 15 years. Real, but odd/rare phenomena have increasingly been caught on camera over the past 15 years. Ones that aren't real have not.
 
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Interesting paper. Of interest to this thread is the 1.64 second lifetime they observed. I would not expect a phenomenon that is unexpected and so short lived to have lots of photos, even with the proliferation of cameras. I have believed ball lightning probably exists because I know a (now emeritus) professor who claimed to have seen it. He did not have evidence so of course never even mentioned it in his publications, but since his research on atmospheric and ionospheric physics included lightning I thought he was credible.

Sprites and jets have of course been observed many times
https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1029/1999RG900006But there were decades where some folks thought all those pilots that reported seeing them must be lying or mistaken.

Jason
 
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One further aside is that you can, indeed, find both dashcam and cell phone videos of purported ball lighting on YouTube. These, of course, are unverified as to authenticity, but they at least partially make moot much of the argument for non existence.
 
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  • #19
In stories told by people, the ball lightning is a hovering ball of light which may survive for many seconds and may appear indoors. Up to 1% of population are telling these stories about what they saw. A late relative of mine saw a ball lightning hovering over a kitchen stove.

I have problems finding even a single photo or a video on the Internet which fits this description. If the stories were about a real physical phenomenon, we should have thousands of high quality photos and videos by now.

Some of the verbal stories can be explained as afterimages in the vision after seeing the bright flash of an ordinary lightning bolt.

A few of the videos on YouTube seem to contain an electric arc which lasts for a second and is the result of an ordinary lightning strike.
 
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  • #20
Heikki Tuuri said:
In stories told by people, the ball lightning is a hovering ball of light which may survive for many seconds and may appear indoors. Up to 1% of population are telling these stories about what they saw. A late relative of mine saw a ball lightning hovering over a kitchen stove.

I have problems finding even a single photo or a video on the Internet which fits this description. If the stories were about a real physical phenomenon, we should have thousands of high quality photos and videos by now.

Some of the verbal stories can be explained as afterimages in the vision after seeing the bright flash of an ordinary lightning bolt.

A few of the videos on YouTube seem to contain an electric arc which lasts for a second and is the result of an ordinary lightning strike.
You have two cameras plus a spectrograph measuring the phenomenon, all automated. The result published in a top peer reviewed journal. That not every story is plausible doen’t mean all are untrue.

Rogue waves were considered a myth until remote sensors verified them. There were never thousands of pictures of them - in fact there were none, only anecdotes, before the remote sensors verified the phenomenon.

This is completely different than big foot, where there remain no reliable measurements.
 
  • #21
PAllen,

https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.035001

Above is the link to the paper which the Chinese scientists published. The spectrum suggests that a lightning bolt vaporized some soil and created a glow which lasted for 1.3 seconds.

Where are the photos and the videos of the ball lightnings which up to millions of ordinary people tell they have seen? My relative saw a ball lightning hover over the kitchen stove indoors. The stories cannot be of a physical phenomenon.
 
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  • #22
Heikki Tuuri said:
PAllen,

https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.035001

Above is the link to the paper which the Chinese scientists published. The spectrum suggests that a lightning bolt vaporized some soil and created a glow which lasted for 1.3 seconds.

Where are the photos and the videos of the ball lightnings which up to millions of ordinary people tell they have seen? My relative saw a ball lightning hover over the kitchen stove indoors. The stories cannot be of a physical phenomenon.
I have answered this already. You are not responding to what I wrote, so no discussion is possible.

Note, I already posted that link plus a non paywalled link, plus a link to the video. You try to make it seem like you have added something I missed. This is disingenuous.
 
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  • #23
Heikki Tuuri said:
If the stories were about a real physical phenomenon, we should have thousands of high quality photos and videos by now.
As already stated
, not necessarily
 
  • #24
I've seen ball lightning at least once and maybe twice. The first time was also witnessed by my sister. After a thunderstorm we were walking along the shore of a lake in FL. A bright ball of yellowish white light that looked to be maybe 1' diameter appeared over the water about 30' up and moved at a slight angle to the shore as we began running to get away from it. It moved over our heads hitting a pin tree and exploding. The tree burst into flame and rained debris onto us. THis all took only maybe 10 seconds. Needless to say, it made a big impression on both of us.
The second time was witnessed only by myself as it was in the bathroom. This was during a thunderstorm. A small glowing ball jumped out of the faucet and drifted toward the sink drain but then rose and drifted toward the water tap where it exploded making a significant melted spot. I am less certain about this second time just because I am the only witness.
Since then, I have witnessed "normal" lightning doing odd things at very close range (less than 10') several times causing me to have a lot of fear of its power.
I later received an MS Physics where I specialized in applications of HV discharges so that early ball lightning experience shaped my life.
 
  • #25
While riding a bicycle after a T-storm, lightning hit the road right in front of me. I fell off the bike in surprise. There was a large circular dry spot but no fulgerites.
Sitting by my computer at home during a T-storm, a large spark jumped from the computer to the outlet on the wall but caused no damage. The computer continued to work.
While hiking at a park during a T-storm I went under a pavilion that was in the woods to avoid the rain. I felt uneasy so sat at a picnic table. Felt more uneasy so sat on the top of the table, felt more uneasy so pulled my legs up. Felt more uneasy so squatted on my feet close together. BAM, lightning hits the dry pavement 6' from me. There was no sign it had happened.
 
  • #26
Michelle Spalding said:
New to the forums. Hoping to find a thread, forum, website dedicated to the discussion of/gathering of anecdotal reports of ball lightning.
DBO said:
I've seen ball lightning at least once and maybe twice.

I have never seen a ball lightning, but I have heard about the phenomenon. And I have got a story about it which I will share, for what it's worth :wink:.

My father, who is a down to earth, no-nonsense guy, have told me that he has witnessed the phenomenon. I estimate it happened about 35 years ago.

Since I am very interested in science and physics, I have interrogated him about the observation :smile:, e.g. when and where it happened, what it looked like, how large it was, how it moved and if other observations were made. And here is the brief report:

When: About 35 years ago, during a period of thunderstorms. I don't remember the time of day, but he told me he observed it for several minutes.

Where: South Sweden.

Size: About 1 meter in diameter.

Appearance: Spherical, but not a perfectly smooth surface.

Color: Yellowish/Greenish (If I remember correctly).

Movement: It moved very slowly.

Other observations: He says there was a foul smell in the air too, a bit like sulphur.

Now, this is only an anecdote and not evidence of the physical existence of the phenomenon. With regards to ball lightning, I'm open-minded and don't rule it out, but I remain skeptical until there is firm evidence of the actual phenomenon, like at least a number of credible photos/videos and, preferably, if the phenomenon could be artificially replicated in experiments.

Edit: We have had thunderstorms here recently, so I will be keeping my camera close and my eyes open 😄 .
 
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  • #27
David Fryberger at SLAC is one of the few experts on ball lightning; look up his work. ( http://www.slac.stanford.edu/pubs/slacpubs/6250/slac-pub-6473.pdf) One of the
most interesting observations about ball lightning is that it apparently emits a small amount of annihilation
radiation, which are the 511 keV gammas that result from electron positron annihilation. How fairly low enegy
ball lightning could generate positrons is a great mystery. These gamma rays have been observed in association with ball lightning events in aircraft.
 
  • #28
Michelle Spalding said:
Summary: Where Can I Find Discussions On Ball Lightning?

New to the forums. Hoping to find a thread, forum, website dedicated to the discussion of/gathering of anecdotal reports of ball lightning.

My mother's best friend witnessed what we believe is ball lightning in her home yesterday. She didn't get photos or video, but took some photos of odd marks on the window where the object supposedly entered her home.

I'm looking to share her story and/or discuss ball lightning in general - any forums or websites. All I have been able to find elsewhere are skeptical/woo/metaphysical discussions, which I'm not interested in.

Any advice or a point in the right direction is very much appreciated. Thanks!
My uncle, many years ago, had ball lightning come down his S/w antenna wire, drop to the ground, fizzle under a door leaving slight scorch marks, squeezed out through a crack in a stone wall, down a path and disappeared into the ground at the base of a tree. He had followed it ! He had designed and built the first s/w radio link between Bombay and Cactutta amongst many other things.
 
  • #29
PAllen said:
I have answered this already. You are not responding to what I wrote, so no discussion is possible.

Note, I already posted that link plus a non paywalled link, plus a link to the video. You try to make it seem like you have added something I missed. This is disingenuous.
I was confused by the spectra, why on Earth would there by emission spectra from Ca, Fe, Si in the air?? Conclusion is the origin is soil!
The paper does say this may not be every origin of BL.
Interesting though, never heard of it till this thread. I'll read it in detail as best I can. Edit @Heikki Tuuri already noted this
 
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  • #30
DennisN said:
I have never seen a ball lightning, but I have heard about the phenomenon. And I have got a story about it which I will share, for what it's worth :wink:.

My father, who is a down to earth, no-nonsense guy, have told me that he has witnessed the phenomenon. I estimate it happened about 35 years ago.

Since I am very interested in science and physics, I have interrogated him about the observation :smile:, e.g. when and where it happened, what it looked like, how large it was, how it moved and if other observations were made. And here is the brief report:

When: About 35 years ago, during a period of thunderstorms. I don't remember the time of day, but he told me he observed it for several minutes.

Where: South Sweden.

Size: About 1 meter in diameter.

Appearance: Spherical, but not a perfectly smooth surface.

Color: Yellowish/Greenish (If I remember correctly).

Movement: It moved very slowly.

Other observations: He says there was a foul smell in the air too, a bit like sulphur.

Now, this is only an anecdote and not evidence of the physical existence of the phenomenon. With regards to ball lightning, I'm open-minded and don't rule it out, but I remain skeptical until there is firm evidence of the actual phenomenon, like at least a number of credible photos/videos and, preferably, if the phenomenon could be artificially replicated in experiments.

Edit: We have had thunderstorms here recently, so I will be keeping my camera close and my eyes open 😄 .
The smell will be related to whatever has been exited burned or vaporised. Soil according to the paper but it could be some something Sulphur rich. If this is an actual thing that is.
 
  • #31
Michelle Spalding said:
Summary: Where Can I Find Discussions On Ball Lightning?

In geocities. And also in sci.physics

Hey it was a traditional topic in the first age of internet.
 
  • #32
pinball1970 said:
The smell will be related to whatever has been exited burned or vaporised. Soil according to the paper but it could be some something Sulphur rich. If this is an actual thing that is.
I think the links posted by @PAllen were very interesting. The third reference in this article was to this paper which described one model:

John Abrahamson & James Dinniss,
Ball lightning caused by oxidation of nanoparticle networks from normal lightning strikes on soil
Nature volume 403, pages 519–521 (2000)
http://www.nature.com/articles/35000525

and the associated article Fluff balls of fire contained a photograph from 1978 claimed to be of a ball lightning.

Concerning the anecdote I posted, I also remembered that my father said nothing more dramatic happened, like any explosion or collision with other objects. If I remember correctly he said it just vanished after a while. But he told me that he got quite scared by the event, since he had not seen anything like it at all before.

As I said, I'm pretty open-minded with regards to ball lightning. There are other weird phenomena like St. Elmo's fire, and someone posted a link to a very cool video of it in this thread.

The thunderstorms are over for now here. I did not see any ball lightning. :cry:

EDIT: I read the abstract of the paper I posted a link to above, quote:
Abstract of paper said:
Observations of ball lightning have been reported for centuries, but the origin of this phenomenon remains an enigma. The ‘average’ ball lightning appears as a sphere with a diameter of 300 mm, a lifetime of about 10 s, and a luminosity similar to a 100-W lamp. It floats freely in the air, and ends either in an explosion, or by simply fading from view. It almost invariably occurs during stormy weather. Several energy sources have been proposed to explain the light, but none of these models has succeeded in explaining all of the observed characteristics.

...which made me remember that I also asked my father how bright it was, and he said it was bright, but not blindingly bright. Which at least to me seems to fit the description "luminosity similar to a 100-W lamp" in the abstract.
 
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Related to Ball Lightning Discussions/Anecdotes?

1. What is ball lightning?

Ball lightning is a rare and unexplained atmospheric phenomenon that appears as a glowing, spherical object that moves through the air. It is typically associated with thunderstorms and can range in size from a few centimeters to several meters.

2. How is ball lightning formed?

The exact formation mechanism of ball lightning is still unknown and is a topic of ongoing scientific research. Some theories suggest that it is a result of electrical discharges during thunderstorms, while others propose that it is a type of plasma or a self-contained electromagnetic vortex.

3. Is ball lightning dangerous?

There have been reports of ball lightning causing damage to objects and even injuring people, but these occurrences are rare. It is generally considered to be a harmless phenomenon, although it is still not fully understood and should be approached with caution.

4. Can ball lightning be reproduced in a laboratory setting?

There have been attempts to recreate ball lightning in a controlled laboratory environment, but so far, no successful and consistent results have been achieved. The complexity and unpredictability of this phenomenon make it difficult to replicate in a controlled setting.

5. Are there any documented cases of ball lightning?

Yes, there are numerous documented cases of ball lightning throughout history, with reports dating back to ancient times. However, due to its rare and unpredictable nature, it is still not fully understood and remains a topic of fascination and debate among scientists.

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