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"Gigantic Jets" Blast Electricity Into the Ionosphere

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the more-things-in-heaven-and-earth dept.

Earth 168

New Scientist has an update on the so-called "gigantic jets" first discovered in 2003 — these are lightning bolts that reach from cloud tops upward into the ionosphere, as high as 90 kilometers. (There's a video at the link.) What's new is that researchers from Duke University have managed to measure the electrical discharge from a gigantic jet and confirm that they carry as much energy skyward as ordinary lightning strikes carry to the ground. According to the article, "Gigantic jets are one of a host of new atmospheric phenomena discovered in recent years. Other examples are sprites and blue jets."

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First post to claim this is God's work (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29166945)

God dunnit!

Question (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167039)

I used to use linux, but my dad just got me a mac for college this fall. I found a weird system directory I am not familiar with called /gpn. Anyone know what it is for?

Re:Question (-1, Offtopic)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167195)

I don't know if that was a serious question, but it doesn't exist on my system. januszeal@173-137-98-124:~$ cd /gpn -bash: cd: /gpn: No such file or directory januszeal@173-137-98-124:~$ uname -a Darwin 173-137-98-124.pools.spcsdns.net 9.8.0 Darwin Kernel Version 9.8.0: Wed Jul 15 16:55:01 PDT 2009; root:xnu-1228.15.4~1/RELEASE_I386 i386 januszeal@173-137-98-124:~$

Re:Question (0, Offtopic)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167201)

Stupid slashdot removing my line breaks. :(

Re:Question (3, Informative)

armanox (826486) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167371)

Use html for formatting. <br /> gives you a line break.

Re:Question (2, Informative)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 4 years ago | (#29170181)

Only xhtml has the "/" in the <br> tag

Re:Question (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 4 years ago | (#29170107)

Use "Plain old text" posting mode in the options.
It's not really plain text (that's extrans), it still allows html tags for formatting, but it does automatically add <br> tags for line breaks.

Re:First post to claim this is God's work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167441)

Actually, I thought this was kinda funny.

Twice (1)

karvind (833059) | more than 4 years ago | (#29166983)

But can it the same place twice ?

/ducks

Re:Twice (5, Funny)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167055)

only if it accidentally the whole thing.

Re:Twice (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167525)

But can it the same place twice ?

/ducks

If your delete key can, it can too.

Re:Twice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29168275)

this isn't fark

Re:Twice (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168557)

No shiat.

Re:Twice (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169309)

But can it the same place twice ?

/ducks

Generally it can't the same place twice because after the first time the same place isn't anymore.

We should take action against Boeing. (2, Funny)

cpicon92 (1157705) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167045)

Not only does their production get delayed all the time but it turns out they have environmental impact!

Re:We should take action against Boeing. (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167549)

Not only does their production get delayed all the time but it turns out they have environmental impact!

Having that dream you walk into the wrong class naked?

Re:We should take action against Boeing. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29168923)

Having that dream you walk into the wrong class naked?

No, it was a dream where I see myself standing in sort of Sun God robes, on a pyramid, with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at me.

Re:We should take action against Boeing. (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169315)

I thought everyone had that dream?

So? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167051)

Don't stand high above Cumulonimbus clouds. Important safety information. Thank you.

Move along, nothing to see here... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167063)

Its just tubgirl letting one rip.

Re:Move along, nothing to see here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29168107)

-1 Ewwww!

Sprites (0, Flamebait)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167065)

Other examples are sprites and blue jets.

The funny thing about that is that the many eyewitness reports of sprites were routinely disregarded because we "knew that wasn't possible". Thus, for a long time they were regarded in a fashion not unlike the way people who experience paranormal phenomena are treated today, that is, relegated to the fringes because they were considered unworthy of serious formal investigation. I just wanted to mention that because the biggest obstacle to new discoveries seems to be the unwillingness to question those things that we "know" to be "impossible." If there's one lesson that institutional science should have learned from its history it's that one.

I am seeing more and more surprises like this that are not really surprising from alternative viewpoints, such as the Electric Universe (I said those two words, so I guess that makes me automatically Flamebait eh?). The same thing can be found by regarding the solar wind as an electrical current instead of viewing it in mechanical terms. The solar wind is the flow of charged particles from the Sun. "The flow of charged particles" is the very definition of an electric current but mainstream science doesn't regard the solar wind (or any other celestial phenomena) in those terms. At some point, the independent thinker realizes that "mainstream" does not represent the pinnacle of human knowledge about which we are most certain, though ideally this would be the case. Rather, it unfortunately tends to represent what is most easily demonstrated to the shallowest and least questioning of minds who are all too easily influenced by the authority or the credentials of the person who is speaking. Rather than shouting down or marginalizing the minority who disagree, we should be promoting their dissent so long as it's scientific in nature.

Re:Sprites (5, Insightful)

sukotto (122876) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167157)

Just like so many other scientific discoveries like say, the germ-theory of medicine. In many cases, getting the science right is less difficult than getting the science community and the general public to accept your discovery.

Einstein was right: "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."

Re:Sprites (1, Troll)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167541)

In many cases, getting the science right is less difficult than getting the science community and the general public to accept your discovery.

And that's a serious problem. Those two should be one and the same. Anytime it is otherwise, what you have is not science but a religion that uses scientific language.

I think the view of what "skepticism" means has a lot to do with this. At one point, skepticism meant something like "we really don't know either way, we should assume nothing, and we should ask questions and investigate before any conclusions are drawn." Now, it means something more like "we will deny this discovery no matter what, even if that means clutching at straws or using flimsy reasoning, until it becomes blatantly smack-you-in-the-face obvious and even then we will acknowledge it only reluctantly and preferably when a lot of other people do so first." This can only lead to stagnation.

Re:Sprites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29168601)

As a member of the Federation of Angry Scientists, I'd like to call you out as an utter dick.

Lack of understanding +5, Geek bitterdom +5.

Re:Sprites (5, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168723)

Einstein was right: "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds...."

That's great. Any idea how we can tell the great minds from the mediocre idiots? There are people telling us that they have been abducted by aliens, can predict the future from tea leaves and that drinking water can cure you (homeopathy) amongst other things. The reason that people do not get believed is not some great scientific conspiracy it is simply that their signal gets lost in the overwhelming noise of idiots making stuff up. Scientists have better things to do than going around checking out every nut job that comes up with something on the off chance that this might be genuine.

It is a shame, because things do get missed and sometimes the short-sightedness of the "establishment" can indeed be a factor (an excellent example is John Harrison [wikipedia.org] ). However if you have to blame someone for why people are not believed blame the crystal ball gazers who make it almost impossible to determine those who are genuine.

Re:Sprites (1)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 4 years ago | (#29170239)

Yes, actually. We can tell the great minds from the mediocre idiots by the degree of correspondence that their ideas have with empirically verified reality. People are *still* testing Einstein's ideas out through experiment, and they have largely held up, aside from his nonscientific statements like "God does not play dice with the Universe." If the great minds want to be recognized, they had either better provide very solid persuasive evidence, or recognize the fact that their ideas are untested at this time and encourage people to test them rigorously when it becomes possible. People who are afraid of empirical testing of their ideas are almost always frauds.

Re:Sprites (1)

aqk (844307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169943)

Einstein was right: "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."

This, of course, was thought out while he was being madly stung, back when he had that summer job as a bee-keeper...

Re:Sprites (4, Informative)

calidoscope (312571) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167205)

The first indications that I saw of cloud to ionosphere discharges was in QST in the 1980's - someone had shown a very good correlation between major T-storm activity and sporadic E skip above 50MHz. When I saw the first reports of sprites in the mid-1990's, my first thought was "this explains sporadic E-skip".

Re:Sprites (4, Interesting)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168339)

My father flew F-102's, the first supersonic aircraft commissioned for battle by the US Air Force. If you get the "official" Air Force post card of the F-102, my dad's flying it. He flew Delta jets later until he retired a few years ago. He told me about red-coloured lightning going up from clouds into the sky when I was a kid (1970's), and the other pilots also knew about them, too. Are these the same as the "sprites" mentioned here?

Re:Sprites (3, Interesting)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169015)

I don't think so. I'm not too familiar with it, but I know that there are "sprites", "elves", "blue jets", and "gigantic jets" related to lightning. The reddish ones are the sprites, while jets are typically blue. Sprites tend to be less focused than a jet; jets are more like lighting, in a line, whereas the sprites are more spread. The pictures I've seen show them as more of a mushroom cloud-shaped thing.

Re:Sprites (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167241)

Eyewitnesses are often wrong about what they see. There are lots of studies on it. Asking for actual evidence rather than anecdotal reports isn't really that much to ask before accepting something as true.

Science doesn't just accept something new as being true just because someone says it's so. That's a good thing.

Re:Sprites (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167581)

Eyewitnesses are often wrong about what they see. There are lots of studies on it. Asking for actual evidence rather than anecdotal reports isn't really that much to ask before accepting something as true.

Science doesn't just accept something new as being true just because someone says it's so. That's a good thing.

That sounds good and all but I believe you have missed my point. I was not talking about whether or not something should be accepted as true. I was talking about whether or not it is worthy of serious investigation. If many eyewitnesses report something, it's reasonable to say "we don't know, but we will look into it and get back to you about whether this is a previously-unknown phenomenon." That reasonable action is not what generally happens. Instead, what happens is more like "we KNOW that's not possible so we will ignore the many thousands of people who have seen it." When it's something like sprites that were eventually acknowledged anyway, this means that we had to wait longer for no good reason and have missed out on all the data that we could have been gathering during the entire time that it was ignored. That is what my complaint was about.

Re:Sprites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167699)

So, if enough people say it, we should take them seriously, despite the fact that they lack all evidence?

No, this is exactly how science should work. You will not be taken seriously unless you present a proper amount of evidence. If we went didn't "ignore the many thousands of people who have seen it" in favor of evidence, we'd be researching alien anal probings by now.

No evidence = no case in sience.

Re:Sprites (1)

wasted (94866) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168699)

... If we went didn't "ignore the many thousands of people who have seen it" in favor of evidence, we'd be researching alien anal probings by now....

...instead of letting the aliens do the research.

Re:Sprites (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169059)

Evidence of gravity was there, long before it was acknowledged that it was there. We had evidence of electricity for lots of time, before we acknowledged that it was there.

The point is, your attitude is one of dismissal, just as the GP was talking about. Your approach, like many people out there, is "Let's not investigate because I believe it can't happen or be true.". The more reasonable approach would be "There's a massive amount of space in the universe, and we haven't explored even the most minuscule fraction of it, and many of our calculations say there's bound to be something else out there. We should examine a random sample of these people to see if there's any evidence of them being in contact with aliens." This changee in attitude would lead to a massive amount of new findings, as people wouldn't dismiss things based on belief, which is exactly what you did to the possibility of aliens visiting us.

Re:Sprites (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167713)

So if you are a scientist, and you think the thing extremely unlikely to be real, even though there are (notoriously unreliable) eyewitnesses, exactly how much time and money do you think you are going to invest in it?

With unlimited budgets and resources, sure, I'd look at it. With the realistic amount of resources at my disposal? I think I'll investigate something else that I already believe is real and have a curiosity about.

Re:Sprites (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168537)

There is a big difference between "we need better evidence" or "we need more evidence" or even "we have no evidence for it" and "it's impossible because we don't know how it would work, so we don't believe it".

Re:Sprites (1, Offtopic)

caramelcarrot (778148) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167255)

What's your point? That science is a process of constant discovery? That science requires proper evidence for something to be accepted?

What element of solar winds isn't accurately modelled by current theory? The solar wind is a lot more complex a charge flow than charge flow in a wire - you get magnetohydrodynamic effects, the particle flows are also partially ballistic, all sorts. EU is an over simplistic model in itself and current models can accurately explain all the observations, while EU cannot.

Re:Sprites (1)

Heed00 (1473203) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167345)

What's your point?

C'mon, he even made sure his conclusion was the very last sentence of his post -- right where you'd expect it to be:

Rather than shouting down or marginalizing the minority who disagree, we should be promoting their dissent so long as it's scientific in nature.

Nietzsche made a similar point in the following aphorism:

Corruption. The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in high esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.

Re:Sprites (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167629)

What's your point? That science is a process of constant discovery? That science requires proper evidence for something to be accepted? What element of solar winds isn't accurately modelled by current theory? The solar wind is a lot more complex a charge flow than charge flow in a wire - you get magnetohydrodynamic effects, the particle flows are also partially ballistic, all sorts. EU is an over simplistic model in itself and current models can accurately explain all the observations, while EU cannot.

I believe you have missed my point the same way that the AC has done. Please see this post [slashdot.org] (in the same thread) for clarification. Nowhere did I talk about the criteria that must be met for something to be accepted as factually true. My view on skepticism (in this post [slashdot.org] )may also help you to understand my position.

I see this fairly often and I think it's just a brand of cynicism. That is, you read a post and find a very easy objection. At that point you must make one of two choices: either I'm stupid/careless/etc. and really did leave myself open to such an easy objection, or, you have not correctly understood what I was and (importantly) was not saying. For whatever reason most people automatically assume the former case and seem unwilling to consider the latter case. The point of telling you this was not to put you down or to feel like I am more "right" than you, whatever that would mean. I tell you that with the hope that you can recognize this tendency (that many folks here have shown) and become more aware of your own motivations and thought processes. If that happens, then I will have done my good deed for today.

Re:Sprites (1)

tyler.willard (944724) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167959)

That science requires proper evidence for something to be accepted?

Proper???

Please enlighten me as to what constitutes proper?

Frankly, it sounds like the same kind of tripe as "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof"; as if the standards of proof change for what some people consider "extraordinary".

The part that's most galling about this argument is that it usually comes from people who purport to be "scientific", when in fact subjectively shifting standars of proof are anything but.

Science is supposed to, nay, by definition is required to, reach a conclusion by what repeatable observations demonstrate. If said observations annoy people, don't jibe with current theory, or otherwise fail to conform to conventional understanding, it means precisely fuck-all.

Re:Sprites (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168937)

"Please enlighten me as to what constitutes proper [evidence]?"

Can be reproduced by others. Eye-wittness accounts are neither evidence nor extordinary.

"Frankly, it sounds like the same kind of tripe as "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof"; as if the standards of proof change for what some people consider "extraordinary"."

The correct quote is "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", and you have failed to comprehend it's meaning, science is not in the bussiness of proof.

Re:Sprites (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167297)

"The flow of charged particles" is the very definition of an electric current but mainstream science doesn't regard the solar wind (or any other celestial phenomena) in those terms.

You sure have drunk the Electric Universe kool-aid.

"Mainstream science" recognizes the flow of charged particles from the Sun as an electric current. It's the rest of the Electric Nonsense like the Sun being powered by electricity instead of fusion that it rejects.

But sure, tell us all about how physicists are so stupid they don't know what a current is. If they won't admit that the Sun is powered by electricity then they certainly can't admit that charged particles exist in the solar wind. Oh wait. They do, and this has been established by "mainstream scientists" long before EU "theory" was invented. I hate to break it to you, but they occupy their time by sitting around thinking up new ways to deny the Truth of EU Theory.

And while you're at it, follow it up with an extended rant about how all these idiot scientists are putting down all the brave genius Galileos. That never gets old. It's always good for a Slashdot up-mod, though.

Re:Sprites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167309)

That should be they don't occupy their time.

Re:Sprites (0, Troll)

ahankinson (1249646) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167401)

I think you more prove his point than refute it...

If someone wants to investigate a phenomenon by putting it in a different light, what is it to you? Yet you spit vitriol at anyone who attempts to frame an argument that goes against the "general wisdom."

The EU theory may very well be wrong. But it's an idea, and it's an idea that helps frame understanding the universe in a new light. That's the way of progress. If it's a bad idea, it will die on its own merits; but if it's a good idea, killing it prematurely by putting it down simply because it goes against conventional wisdom is doing nobody any good.

Re:Sprites (2, Insightful)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167467)

If it's a bad idea, it will die on its own merits; but if it's a good idea, killing it prematurely by putting it down simply because it goes against conventional wisdom is doing nobody any good.

He may have been overly harsh, but the Electric Universe idea has been disproven [dumbscientist.com] for many years. It's fair to say that it isn't science, but rather a conspiracy theory promoted by people who don't understand [bautforum.com] physics (or science) very well.

In addition to my critique, Tim Thompson has rebutted the electric sun idea in depth, and W.T. Bridgman has a lengthy critique of the same notion on his site "Dealing with Creationism in Astronomy." Unfortunately, my internet connection is screwed up so I can't provide direct links to these articles at the moment.

Re:Sprites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167523)

Yet you spit vitriol at anyone who attempts to frame an argument that goes against the "general wisdom."

Except that's exactly what he didn't do: frame an argument. He just wrote an unsupported rant about how The Man is keeping the noble EU proponents down. There was no science nor scientific evidence in the post, it was just high-sounding rhetoric. Then he coupled it with an idiotic claim that "mainstream scientists" refuse to admit that the solar wind carries an electric current, which shows far more about his biases than any scientists'.

Re:Sprites (2, Informative)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167927)

After rebooting the router, I can give you W.T. Bridgman's review [mac.com] of "The Electric Sky" and Tim Thompson's review of the electric sun [tim-thompson.com] idea, and a follow-up [tim-thompson.com] .

Re:Sprites (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167485)

The funny thing about that is that the many eyewitness reports of sprites were routinely disregarded because we "knew that wasn't possible". Thus, for a long time they were regarded in a fashion not unlike the way people who experience paranormal phenomena are treated today, that is, relegated to the fringes because they were considered unworthy of serious formal investigation.

There is a difference, which is that people have actually seriously looked into various paranormal stuff (mostly looking for military applications, I think) before dismissing it, rather than dismissing it without investigation.

I just wanted to mention that because the biggest obstacle to new discoveries seems to be the unwillingness to question those things that we "know" to be "impossible." If there's one lesson that institutional science should have learned from its history it's that one.

The absence of that obstacle would itself be an obstacle, when all the researchers got DDOSed with investigating people's perpetual motion machines and reactionless thrusters.

I am seeing more and more surprises like this that are not really surprising from alternative viewpoints,

It's amazing how much we see what we look for [wikipedia.org] , isn't it?

such as the Electric Universe (I said those two words, so I guess that makes me automatically Flamebait eh?).

The trouble with EU is that you can look at what it says about our local environment (the sun, weather on earth, etc), go make observations, and realize that reality doesn't match the theory.

The same thing can be found by regarding the solar wind as an electrical current instead of viewing it in mechanical terms. The solar wind is the flow of charged particles from the Sun. "The flow of charged particles" is the very definition of an electric current but mainstream science doesn't regard the solar wind (or any other celestial phenomena) in those terms.

Salt water flowing through a tube is also a flow of charged particles (lots of Na and Cl ions). What makes this not an electric current is that for every so many + charges moving past a given point, there are the same number of - charges moving past in the same direction.

At some point, the independent thinker realizes that "mainstream" does not represent the pinnacle of human knowledge about which we are most certain, though ideally this would be the case.

Instead, it represents a combination of a lot of the pinnacle of what we were certain of a few years ago, and a little of whatever's politically fashionable at the moment.

Rather, it unfortunately tends to represent what is most easily demonstrated to the shallowest and least questioning of minds who are all too easily influenced by the authority or the credentials of the person who is speaking.

That's not "mainstream" science, it's "popular" science. Things like books you find at amazon, rather than papers you find in journals.

Rather than shouting down or marginalizing the minority who disagree, we should be promoting their dissent so long as it's scientific in nature.

How do you propose to determine whether it's "scientific"? How do you propose to convince people that it's worth their time to review yet another "everything everyone knows is wrong" theory instead of working with what's already "known" to push the limits of what we're able to do?

Re:Sprites (4, Informative)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167507)

I am seeing more and more surprises like this that are not really surprising from alternative viewpoints, such as the Electric Universe (I said those two words, so I guess that makes me automatically Flamebait eh?). The same thing can be found by regarding the solar wind as an electrical current instead of viewing it in mechanical terms. The solar wind is the flow of charged particles from the Sun. "The flow of charged particles" is the very definition of an electric current but mainstream science doesn't regard the solar wind (or any other celestial phenomena) in those terms.

As I mention here [dumbscientist.com] , the solar wind is electrically neutral. The Sun isn't "electric." It's a giant ball of fusing hydrogen and helium, and the solar wind is primarily thermally-driven (with exceptions due to solar flares, etc.)

You're not flamebait, just confused or seriously lacking in graduate physics education. The Electric Universe idea has been disproven for many years. It's fair to say that it isn't science, but rather a conspiracy theory promoted by people who don't understand [bautforum.com] physics (or science) very well.

In addition to my critique, Tim Thompson has rebutted the electric sun idea in depth, and W.T. Bridgman examines the idea in detail on his site "Dealing with Creationism in Astronomy." Unfortunately, my internet connection is screwed up so I can't provide direct links to these articles at the moment.

Re:Sprites (4, Informative)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167887)

After rebooting the router, I can give you W.T. Bridgman's review [mac.com] of "The Electric Sky" and Tim Thompson's review of the electric sun [tim-thompson.com] idea, and a follow-up [tim-thompson.com] .

Re:Sprites (1, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167667)

I just wanted to mention that because the biggest obstacle to new discoveries seems to be the unwillingness to question those things that we "know" to be "impossible."

Hallelujah. Some time during the 20th century (or maybe the late 19th century) we decided that we knew mostly anything about everything, and we "froze" our conception of what is possible or impossible. A great parallel and maybe one reason for that attitude is that we live in closed world that we have entirely mapped. No more "HERE BE DRAGONS" on maps, we've seen it all, there's no mystery, no Atlantis, no big cave leading to the centre of the Earth, no lost 7th continent, and so on... And I think that it's something that anyone can confirm. Deep down, you know we know mostly everything about anything. You know there's no such things as ghosts, witches, mysterious dragons, angels, giant sea serpents, mole people, space aliens roaming our atmosphere, reincarnation, because what you really think is, if any such thing really existed, we would surely know by now.

So that's a problem we now have, we tend to think that we've reached the end of things to discover, at least when it comes to what goes on on our closed world that is our planet, and therefore our conception of reality is frozen. And the real problem is, when something challenges that frozen conception of reality, we'll reject it, blindly. Airplane pilots who've seen impossible flying objects must have been confused, people who say they were abducted by aliens must be mad, children who talk about previous lives must be confabulating, people who communicate with the dead are all charlatans, and people who say they saw a mythical monster like Big Foot or the Loch Ness monster should perhaps lay off the sauce. It doesn't matter how compelling the evidence is, it doesn't matter if 1,000 people report the same thing, because we're reasonable people, and as such we all know what's possible from what's impossible, and that what's impossible is impossible, and it will never change.

Re:Sprites (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169215)

"Hallelujah. Some time during the 20th century (or maybe the late 19th century) we decided that we knew mostly anything about everything, and we "froze" our conception of what is possible or impossible."

What a load of crap, compare the military technology used in WW1, WW2 and Iraq. During WW1 it was thought the sun was made from coal and that people would not be able to breath in an open top vehicle that exceeded 60mph.

"It doesn't matter how compelling the evidence is, it doesn't matter if 1,000 people report the same thing, because we're reasonable people, and as such we all know what's possible from what's impossible, and that what's impossible is impossible, and it will never change."

Some things ARE impossible in this universe, for example A cannot be not-A. However, regardless of wether something is or isn't possible, 1000 personal anecdotes is NOT EVIDENCE.

Your entire post and that of the OP is a strawman built around conflating the terms "impossible" and "unsupported by evidence", I rarely if ever hear a scientist say something is impossible. "Bigfoot" is certainly not impossible but like most of the phenomena you list in your post, the reported sightings have been investigated to death and have alaways found to be "unsupported by evidence".

In fact most of the phenomena on your list would qualify for JREF's million dollar prize if anyone was able to produce said evidence. Offering a $1,000,000 for evidence contray to the "mainstream" sure doesn't sound like science has stopped investigating strange reports with an open mind.

Re:Sprites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29169749)

A can be not-A, it's called a paradox and the universe is full of them.

Re:Sprites (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#29170371)

Yes, that would be a type of paradox called an existential paradox. No, the universe is not "full of" existential paradoxes. Dead or alive Schrodinger's cat is still Schrodinger's cat.

Re:Sprites (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167689)

Which is the way science works. A theory is developed that explains all relevant known observations, and is considered the prevailing theory until it no longer adequately predicts new observations. Very often, at least initially, new observations that are not predicted by the theory are dismissed. There are many reasons for this, the primary of which is normal human suspicion of new things, which grows stronger as one grows older.

In any case, when an counter example observation is validated, the theory is adjusted, or the domain is restricted, or sometimes it is thrown away. In any case, the primary enemy of science is not the counter example, or the people who don't believe it, but impatience. If an observation is real, it will eventually be put into the theories. if the observations are false, then impatience will only cause bad science.

A classic example of this is quasars. The popular press got a hold of these objects as 'proof' that relativity was wrong and object in the universe could move faster than light. We could think that is the case and throw out the theory of relativity, which frankly causes us some head ache. Or we could simply explain the apparent faster than light measurement as an artifact of the method of our observation. I don't think anyone knows for sure which is the right decision. Given that relativity is doing rather well, the majority seems to be in favor of keeping it, although that may change is other things, like gravity waves, fail to materialize.

In any case, if reletivity did fall, it would only be because a better theory, which will be the long awaited GUT, comes along. We saw this with QM. Just because we knew that black box radiation did not in fact develop infinities, did not mean that we left classical mechanics, at least not until we had a developed theory of quantum mechanics. Likewise, if we do not understand why the upper atmosphere is deficient of electrons, then the mere presence of such lightening is only half the work.

Re:Sprites (1)

skornenicholas (1360763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167771)

Exactly, it reminds me of the "green flash" phenomenon. For the longest time it was regarded as your standard drunk sailor tale, akin to mermaids and vanishing islands. Hell, even Columbus reported seeing it on multiple occasions, and no I am not a fan but the guy did write everything down which is good, and it wasn't until the 1980s that it was taken into serious consideration. You really can't place a monetary value on the nature of discovery and that is the problem with the majority of people not of the inquiring persuasion. Discovery in and of itself is a beautiful thing, we should always look into reports simply to further our understanding of the nature of the world. Besides, if everyone was busy trying to figure out the answers to the many questions in science we would have little idle time which would take care of an entire host of other problems. Use your brains people! Otherwise a Voodoo priest might send a zombie slave to eat it, and frankly it would serve your right for not paying attention.

Re:Sprites (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168799)

"The funny thing about that is that the many eyewitness reports of sprites were routinely disregarded because we "knew that wasn't possible"...[snip]...I just wanted to mention that because the biggest obstacle to new discoveries seems to be the unwillingness to question those things that we "know" to be "impossible." If there's one lesson that institutional science should have learned from its history it's that one. "

Poppycock, "extrodinary claims require extrodinary evidence". Eye-witness reports are NOT extrodinary evidence, if they were then "institutional science" would be spending way too much time investigating pink elephants.

"Rather than shouting down or marginalizing the minority who disagree, we should be promoting their dissent so long as it's scientific in nature."

Again, if someone makes a claim that is unsupported by the evidence then it is the claimant that should STFU not those who are pointing out the lack of evidence.

"Institutional science" is exactly how it should be, skeptical.

"I am seeing more and more surprises like this that are not really surprising from alternative viewpoints, such as the Electric Universe (I said those two words, so I guess that makes me automatically Flamebait eh?)."

No, just scientifically illiterate.

Re:Sprites (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#29170131)

"The flow of charged particles" is the very definition of an electric current but mainstream science doesn't regard the solar wind (or any other celestial phenomena) in those terms.

But if I throw a lit flashlight from here to the next planet, I wouldn't call that interplanetary flow of electric current. Certainly an electric charge is moving. That doesn't mean it makes sense to talk about electricity.

The "video at the link" (2, Insightful)

thenextstevejobs (1586847) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167139)

That was the most underwhelming video of a 90 km lightning bolt I could have possibly imagined.

Re:The "video at the link" (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167973)

Worry not, I am hard at work on an animation that will be even more disappointing.

I for one ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167155)

... overlords etc.

I wonder... (1, Interesting)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167243)

Might this be the "equal and opposite reaction" to a lightning strike?

Error? (1)

jmcharry (608079) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167267)

There must be a mistake in the article. The amount of charge isn't very big. Maybe they meant kilo Couldombs?

Re:Error? (1, Informative)

LSD-OBS (183415) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167349)

A Coulomb is a heck of a lot of current, and a bolt of a lightning happens in a heck of a short time. The number's about right for a *large* bolt.

Re:Error? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167621)

1 Coulomb is a charge, not a current. Not a terribly big charge either. A "gold cap" 1F capacitor charged to 1V holds 1C. Discharging 1C at an extreme voltage in a very short time, now that's impressive.

Re:Error? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167645)

A Coulomb is a heck of a lot of charge, and a bolt of a lightning happens in a heck of a short time. The number's about right for a *large* bolt.

FTFY.

Re:Error? (1)

jmcharry (608079) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167669)

A Coulomb is an ampere-second. Granted, the leading edge of a strike is microsecond, and I think there is flow both ways, but a lightning strike at least appears to persist for some time, and can do a lot of work. Maybe my intuition is misleading me, but do you have a reference?

Re:Error? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167733)

P=U*I. Note the voltage in that equation.

Re:Error? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29170223)

It appears to persist because of afterglow on the retina + multiple repeat strikes along the same path in rapid succession, I think.

Re:Error? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167867)

A Coulomb is a heck of a lot of current

Your typical Diehard stores about a quarter million of them.

And it's charge, not current.

rj

Oh, sure. 'Charge up the "gigantic jets."' (2, Insightful)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167301)

If you want your atmospheric phenomena to be taken seriously, don't give them names that belong in an Austin Powers movie.

Re:Oh, sure. 'Charge up the "gigantic jets."' (2, Insightful)

dominious (1077089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167639)

huh? you mean science is taken seriously only by name? please, I could be talking about a "ghost" in statistics because a distribution looks like a ghost...so what? it makes it intuitive...

Who's Ready for some FOOTBALL?!?!? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167319)

Oh wait, my bad! Not the Giants vs. the Jets blasting ratings into the Ionosphere... I thought that the ionosphere remark would be a bit too intellectual for the football fans. They've just become familiar with what stratosphere is or means, metaphorically, wouldn't want to confuse them... Carry on.

Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (4, Interesting)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167365)

We've discovered, documented, and explained a major new form of lightning that, previous poster notwithstanding, hadn't even really been rumored until recently. So where are the videos and large-scale studies and quantitative models for ball lightning, which has been "generally accepted as real" for well over a hundred years?

Seriously, come on. We've got millions of hours of footage of lightning, tornadoes, meteors, and even rarer and more transient phenomena. But, as far as I know, there isn't one single unambiguous high-quality video of ball lightning "in the wild". So why are we still giving it the benefit of the doubt? How many years will it have to evade our ubiquitous cameras before we just stop believing in it?

Re:Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (1)

DShard (159067) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167521)

Given that they have actually produced them in the lab, I am going to have to say a while. Given that there isn't a shred of any kind of scientific evidence for alien visitations, bigfoot, loch ness monster, santa clause or the tooth faerie, their should be no one who actually thinks they exist. Yet there are those of us amongst the rest of us who believe in the existence of those things.

Re:Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167961)

Given that they have actually produced them in the lab, I am going to have to say a while.

Really? A glowing ball of something, persisting for many seconds without any visible energy source, variously gliding along a conductor without affecting it or blowing a metal object to bits?

I hear a lot about shorting out rooms full of submarine batteries, and about candle flames in microwave ovens, but there's still no video of a golf-ball or tennis-ball or basketball-sized globe going for a nice, leisurely stroll around the grounds. One would think by now there would be.

Re:Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (1)

DShard (159067) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168549)

to quote wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

Laboratory experiments have produced effects that are visually similar to reports of ball lightning, but it is presently unknown whether these are actually related to any naturally occurring phenomenon.

Now, other than what is most likely something I saw on "In Search of" I have nothing that tells me that it exists. Your barking up the wrong tree. I don't imagine that a plasma could retain it's shape for any meaningful duration in our atmosphere.
I am simply pointing out that irrational beliefs are persistent because those who believe them are as well.

Re:Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169171)

Seemingly rational beliefs are persistent because people think for themselves less and less when the explanation gets more rational, regardless as to how true it is.

Re:Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (1)

takev (214836) | more than 4 years ago | (#29170017)

Here is one of the videos from the lab experiment.

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/401413/ball_lightning_created_in_a_laboratory_very_cool_stuff [metacafe.com]

This one seems to be inside a domestic oven.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgMnsdqHwew&feature=related [youtube.com]

Both of these could be fake of course.

Re:Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169149)

There's a difference between everything in your entire list, and the aliens. They're a rather special case, as everything else there has a limited domain; they reside in a lake, a mountain range, or earth, all places where we can actually go. The aliens have a much greater place where they can be: space. They logically would have technology that lets them get here and back to their planet in a lifetime, or have probes that can move at a decent speed. We even came up with this idea for a show called "Star Trek" about interfering with planets that can't travel the way we can. OTOH, santa claus and the tooth fairy are things that people are known to have made up as kids' stories, as every kid finds out at one point. Santa is also said to have reindeer pull a flying sleigh full of toys, be a fat guy who comes down a chimney, and has elves working for him at the north pole. You really can't put alien visitation in the same category as those things given the likelihood of each actually happening, now can you?

Re:Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167815)

I've witnessed "ball lightning" on about three occasions now. The likely reason we have people pursuing the concept but no documentation is probably the same as the reason I never documented it; by the time you yell "Holy crap -- that's ball lightning" it is gone.

Now I've heard some theory that it's supposed to be related to plasma created by tectonic stresses. But my wife and I witnessed it when just passing under a bridge in Florida, and the ball kind of floated along a power line until it hit a transformer and blew it up -- right over the heads of rush hour traffic.

The first time I saw it, my house had been hit by lightning, and the power went out. About a minute later, my video tape ejected from a smoking VCR, with a kind of, deep, sick-cat "meow" and instead of a tape ejecting, a 1.5" sphere of glowing plasma bounced out, and kind of slid/skipped across the rug. Needless to say, that VCR never worked again.

>> The lack of evidence for something, doesn't mean that witnesses are all hallucinating.

Re:Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168059)

I've witnessed "ball lightning" on about three occasions now. The likely reason we have people pursuing the concept but no documentation is probably the same as the reason I never documented it; by the time you yell "Holy crap -- that's ball lightning" it is gone.

And yet, again, there's plenty of footage of meteors, car crashes, lightning strikes... these are transient phenomena, giving you little or no time to catch any single event, but there are lots of cameras out there.

Now I've heard some theory that it's supposed to be related to plasma created by tectonic stresses. But my wife and I witnessed it when just passing under a bridge in Florida, and the ball kind of floated along a power line until it hit a transformer and blew it up -- right over the heads of rush hour traffic.

There are a lot of things that can make a power line or a transformer light up, and there are a lot of things that can make your eyes (and brain) think they've seen a wandering ball. For transient, high-brightness, high-emotional-impact events, your brain can't even reliably order what it sees -- you could easily see a ball of glowing debris ejected from a transformer, and interpret it as a glowing ball that hit the transformer and blew it up. I'm not saying that's what happened in the incident you describe, but I am saying that without video evidence, any observer's ability to accurately recall and describe the event is limited.

The first time I saw it, my house had been hit by lightning, and the power went out. About a minute later, my video tape ejected from a smoking VCR, with a kind of, deep, sick-cat "meow" and instead of a tape ejecting, a 1.5" sphere of glowing plasma bounced out, and kind of slid/skipped across the rug. Needless to say, that VCR never worked again.

I work with electronics as a hobby off and on, and I tend to be absent-minded and clumsy, so I've seen a lot of glowing electrical things ejected from equipment. It's often quite impressive, and it sometimes does match some descriptions of ball lightning, but it's not going to (for example) coast smoothly along a wire, or hang motionless in midair, or boil an entire tub of water.

>> The lack of evidence for something, doesn't mean that witnesses are all hallucinating.

Of course not. But with increased prevalence of video recording, some phenomena are showing up, and some are not. If ball lightning is common enough that observer reports are widespread (see, for example, the parent post), why isn't it showing up on camera?

Probably written off as UFO sightings (2, Insightful)

KitFox (712780) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168553)

The best I can figure is that if a ball lightning object is caught on film, people end up calling them UFO scare attempts, then saying "There is no such thing as a UFO, so it must be a hoax".

Consider though: All of the above-mentioned items are visible unambiguously from miles away. They are all large-scale items. Ball lightning is considered to be small and doesn't act like meteors (falling fireball that you can photograph dozens of on the right night). I would expect that in close proximity, ball lightning would be too bright for the camera (or human eyes) to deal with properly, just ending up washing out the light detection device. At a distance, nobody can really determine whether it's ball lightning or just a proliferation of very short-distance lightning strikes within the cloud, or even just a plane [youtube.com] .

Re:Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169401)

I thought that ball lightning had been documented many times: as a source of false UFO sightings.

Inbred Jed: Here's mah photo of tha' UFO! Now you kin pay me tha fifty dollars ya promised on the teevee!
Educated professor: No, Jed, that's ball lightning.
Jed: Sheeee-oot! Does that mean I don't get tha fitty dollas?
Professor: No. Plus, you lose at life. Move to New York City and start a new life if you ever want to be anything but a hick.
Jed: Sheee-oot!

Re:Okay, so where's the ball lightning? (1)

Councilor Hart (673770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169661)

G.S. Pavia, A.C. Pavao et al, Phys. Rev. Lett. 98, 048501 (2007)

HAARP (0, Flamebait)

Sanat (702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167473)

HAARP High frequency Active Auroral Research Program - This messes with the Earth's natural energy fields as well as the ozone layer. This project has some strange side effects such as lightning from a cloudless sky, large fragments of ice simply falling from thin air, and other odd disturbances.

This project is located in Alaska away from the prying eyes of citizens in the USA.

There is a lot of stuff on the web about it... some very hysterical and some fairly factual.

Most of humanity has not heard of this project.

 

Re:HAARP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29167827)

That is so true because I watched it on Discovery! Wait, what??

Re:HAARP (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29168045)

Okay, that was an interesting description. You might note that any US auroral research is best performed in Alaska more for reasons of auroral proximity than prying eyes -- and there are a number of US citizens in Alaska, anyway.

But, while I find myself unable to share your paranoia (the ability for humans to perceive false correlation with such things is legendary -- ask the 1000s of hams whose neighbors suddenly "start" suffering TV interference when they see a new tower put up), that is a very interesting facility -- 3.6MW of RF is nothing to sneeze at, and pumping the ionosphere with HF to transmit ELF is damn cool. Thanks for the info, and here's a link [alaska.edu] for others who may be interested.

73 de ab9ul

Re:HAARP (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168603)

Most of Humanity has not heard of the word "Cheeseburger" either.

Re:HAARP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29168679)

Yet another insane post on this story.

signed,

The Federation of Angry Scientists.

We'd quite like to kick some sense into you.

I can recall (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167563)

pilots in the 60 who spoke quietly about these. Of course, scientists said that no such thing exists and as such, most pilots kept real quiet about it. Only at wild 60's parties would I hear some of these guys talking about it.

Re:I can recall (2, Interesting)

kiwijapan (1293632) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167905)

pilots in the 60 who spoke quietly about these. Of course, scientists said that no such thing exists and as such, most pilots kept real quiet about it. Only at wild 60's parties would I hear some of these guys talking about it.

Maybe an even larger, as yet undiscovered type of these ""gigantic jets" can be used to explain the images taken from the shuttle, Mir space station etc. orbiting earth that clearly show something (an object) leaving the earth's atmosphere, and which have for a long time - at least in particular circles - been used to 'prove' the existence of UFOs on earth. If the jets in the article can reach 80km, could it not be possible that some as yet undiscovered phenomena could reach even higher, with enough power to break through the ionosphere into outer space?

Re:I can recall (1, Informative)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168415)

Most videos of "something moving/leaving" in relation to the earth taken by astronauts/NASA are due to random crap (speck of dust sized crap) floating by the window only a couple of inches away from the window. Optically it looks much further away due to the parallax effect not working properly because your eyes/brain aren't used to being able to see 60+ miles without there being a tree/cloud in the way and also due to the curvature of the earth. There are tons of stories of astronauts tapping on the glass of the spaceshuttle to get the dust floating an inch or two away from the glass and then calling over a fellow astronaut and claiming a huge fleet of asteroids is about to hit the earth, or alien invaders surrounding the planet, etc. It's just an optical illusion involving space dust.

awesome (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167769)

go Blue Devils!

Not news. Tesla did this a hundred years ago. (0, Offtopic)

koelpien (639319) | more than 4 years ago | (#29167853)

Not news. Tesla built a wireless electrical transformer a hundred years ago. http://www.teslascience.org/ [teslascience.org]

Re:Not news. Tesla did this a hundred years ago. (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29168105)

"For $35 you will receive the watermarked print of your choice" of the 750 photos in their possession.
 

Sky lightning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29168767)

Skyghtning!

Twice (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 4 years ago | (#29169337)

But can it the same place twice ? /ducks
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