Ball Lightning


Ball Lightning

Ball Lightning

©Peter Thomson 1999/2002

Ball lightning is occasionally produced by thunderstorms, and photographic evidence shows that it is usually initiated in mid air as a side effect of a lightning discharge. Sometimes a single discharge will produce a string of glowing balls. Most of these glowing balls dissipate in the air after a few seconds to minutes duration, but occasionally such glowing balls will move towards the ground.

These balls reaching the ground vary from golf ball  size to football size or larger, produce varying amounts of energy, glowing very brightly, and may disappear instantly when they hit a well earthed conductor such as a telephone line or power socket. They may pass through a wall without doing much damage, or even producing a hole. Where a ball lightning has passedthrough a sheet of glass a tiny 5mm hole has been discovered.

We know from experiments with electrical discharge and plasma that you cannot hold electrical charge in a ball of air, and you cannot hold a plasma together unless you can confine it in some way. But the hypothesis of the charge sheath vortex can be applied to the observations of ball lightning.

If on occasion a lightning discharge creates a ball of charged plasma – which has been observed many times, what would happen next?

Electromagnetic and static forces within the charge cloud of theplasma from the electrical discharge that created it would flick it intoa rapid spin.

For exactly the same reasons that the rotating thunderstorm contracts andspins up into a tornado, if the spin of this region within the charged plasmacloud is greater than the critical velocity, the atomic nuclei will startto attract each other as they move in parallel and this part of the plasmacloud will contract and spin up into a charge sheath vortex with a strongmagnetic field. A few electrons may be repelled from this charge sheath, butwill remain attracted by the very strong positive static charge of the vortexsheath. Energetic electrons will spiral out along the magnetic field lines,ionising the air and making it glow strongly. As they lose their energythey will spiral back in towards the sheath core, strongly attracted by thepositive charge there. As they reach close proximity to the core they willagain be spun up until their electro-dynamic magnetic fields overcome thestatic attraction and again they are ejected.

These energetic electrons will trace a complex paths of filaments, but will largely be hidden in the bright glow of the air that they ionise.

The central charge sheath core may be less than 1 or 2 mm in diameter andthe energetic electrons provide a means of rapid transfer of energy away fromthis into the surrounding sphere of  glowing air, from a few cm upwardsto 30cm or more in diameter.

The ball lightning should only have the kinetic energy of rotation of afew grams of air molecules at the most, even if they are extremely hot. Withoutany further source of energy, the core should lose its energy within a veryfew seconds and fade. There is no storage mechanism that allows such a smallvolume of air to store large amounts of energy and discharge it many secondslater.

If the ball lightning cannot store energy and later release it to cause the recorded damage, then it must be generating the energy.

We don’t have to invoke free-energy or other magical solutions to the problem.The concept of the charge sheath points directly at the energy source.

Free electrons in this vortex are travelling at sufficient velocity forthe electromagnetic fields that they produce to create a force that holdsthe vortex together that as greater than the electrostaic potential thatwould mutually repel them at lower velocities. These free electrons couldproduce a linear vortex - rather like a tornado tube, or a stable torroidalvortex.

It is also possible that the protons could be pinched inside an electronvortex.

For a given charge density and velocity of rotation of the charge sheath there will be a distance between the particles where the electric force (inverse square) matches the magnetic force of the solenoid (charge density * velocity). It follows that there should be a velocity of rotation and chargedensity for the positively charged atomic nuclei where the force of attractionshould squeeze the atomic nuclei within the coulomb distance. This wouldbe the speed of light for two separate charge particles travelling in a straightline, but within a charge cloud, and for a group of particles forming a solenoid,this is acheived at a lower velocity.

If the right combinations of atomic nuclei are squeezed together in this way then nuclear fusion will take place and energy will be released.

If the discharge was in a straight line then a current of 1000000 amps is needed for a Z pinch to achieve a temperature equivalent of 10^8 degrees K (Foundations of Electromagnetic Theory)  this current would produce a magnetic field of 20 Tesla at 0.01m - but the straight line pinch is too unstable to achieve this.

Currents over 200000 amps have been recorded for lightning strikes to ground( This level of current forming a loop 0.01m radius would create a magnetic field of 12 Tesla in the middle of the loop.

If the same current were to create a charge sheath vortex, then the self stable structure of the vortex would allow the vortex pinch to achieve this temperature. A vortex equivalent to 10 rotations of the loop would produce a magnetic field of over 100 Tesla, well above the force needed to achieve fusion. If the vortex was as small as 0.001m diameter then the forces developed would be proportionately larger. Because the solenoid creates much stronger forces than the same current flowing in a straight line, much lower currents are needed to achieve fusion.

In ball lightning this fusion between atomic nuclei derived from air would appear to be self limiting, with a steady release of energy via the circulation of energetic electrons from the core to the glowing ball that surrounds it. Possibly each fusion event disrupts the core vortex sufficiently to separate the nuclei. As this burst of energy is released the core settles back down until the next fusion event happens.

The time for which such a ball can persist is also self limiting as no further atomic nuclei can be added to the charged sheath core once the core has formed, unless a similar core is produced and added to the original. Individual atomic nuclei which are not rotating with the same velocity as the rest of the sheath core will be ejected by powerful electrostatic forces. Once most of the fusable elements in the core have reacted, or if the period between fusion events becomes too long, the rotation of the core will drop below the velocity needed to sustain it and it will terminate abruptly.
Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (or TGFs) are short blasts of gamma-ray energy associated with thunderstorms. They only last a few milliseconds - about aslong as the sound from a snap of the fingers - and can only be detected bysatellites orbiting the Earth. NASA scientists inadvertently discovered TGFswhile they were monitoring bursts of gamma-ray energy coming from the depthsof space.
These gamma rays may be being produced by fusion events within ball lightning.

One test for fusion in ball lightning would be to test the point where ball lightning ended for C14 levels. This C14 may be enhanced by a few neutrons produced by the fusion being absorbed by nitrogen to produce C14.

One experiment demonstrates that the release of energy from fusion in balllightning can be much more violent. In WW2, many submarines ran with electricalpower from a bank of batteries, and if the connections were incorrectly switched,ball lightning would occasionally be produced.

Professor James Tuck had access to a submarine battery redundant from anotherexperiment at Los Alamos. After many attempts to create a ball lightning discharge–which failed- he enclosed the switchgear in a small cellophane box and addeda low concentration of methane to it. When the switch was turned it produceda sheet of flame, a thundering roar, and removed the roof from the building.The film of the event showed  a ball of light about 10cm in diameter.

Unfortunately that was the last experiment in the series as the building was due to be removed for new developments.

It takes a room sized air methane mixture of just the right concentration to produce a gas-air explosion. These were extremely experienced and competent scientists introducing a very small concentration of methane into a small container. Neither the container of methane, nor the electrical discharge from the battery was capable of releasing the energy that was observed and recorded.

The only known source of energy that could have created this energy release would be fusion between the atomic nuclei present in the methane and air within a fusion vortex inside the plasma ball. Exactly the same mechanism as I have proposed for ball lightning.

However, in discussing the observations of ball lightning in submarine switchgear with a submarine design engineer, it is clear that the discharge that produces the ball lightning is not primarily from the batteries, but from the huge inductance of the dc electric motors that drove the electric submarines. When the switch is turned off, this inductance will drive the voltage across the open switch up to whatever level is needed for a discharge to be produced – way above the voltage output from the battery. The momentary current in this discharge would also be very large.

There is also one natural event where an explosion on a much larger scale took place. Very significantly the C14 concentration in the surface soil beneath this event was tested and very, very high concentrations of C14 were found. This is a clear indication of fusion taking place with nitrogen atoms absorbing the neutrons.

The event took place in a known volcanic caldera during a period of extended seismic activity. Eyewitnesses reported extensive venting of gases from underground accompanied by violent electrical discharges. These vents were later observed and photographed. The eyewitnesses reported the development of numerous small black tornados in the escaping gas. Later a massive explosion took place within the cloud of gas discharge. This, coupled with the C14 levelssuggests that either ball lightning or the tornados themselves created acharge sheath entraining enough fuel to cause a large fusion explosion.

The event? Tunguska!

This information is copyright Peter Thomson 2001-2004