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Ball Lightning Caused By Magnetic Hallucinations

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the on-the-ball dept.

Science 269

KentuckyFC writes "Transcranial magnetic stimulation involves placing a human in a rapidly changing magnetic field powerful enough to induce eddy currents in the brain. Focus the field in the visual cortex, for example, and the induced eddys cause the subject to 'see' lights that appear as discs and lines. Move the field within the cortex and the subject sees the lights move too. Physicists have calculated that the fields associated with certain kinds of multiple lightning strikes are powerful enough to induce the same kind of visual hallucinations in anybody unlucky enough to be within 200 meters or so. These fields ought to induce hallucinations that would take the form of luminous lines and balls that float in front of the subject's eyes, an effect that would explain observations otherwise classed as ball lightning, say the scientists."

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Doesn't explain... (4, Interesting)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175042)

Doesn't explain people having captured ball lightning on video from in some cases miles away.

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

Zobeid (314469) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175102)

What's your source on that? I've never heard of any such videos.

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

c++0xFF (1758032) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175178)

Let me go find the video I took. I think it's on the same tape as my UFO abduction and ghost sightings ...

Re:Doesn't explain... (3, Informative)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175208)

I looked on youtube [youtube.com] . The second hit seems to be missing for me, my browser is reporting the swf as not found. The third one in Saudi Arabia appears to be the lightning moving along the power lines. I suspect that these guys in TFA could be right, but that the term ball lightning is ambiguous, referring to several different phenomena.

Re:Doesn't explain... (3, Informative)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175726)

I think the third video in that list you are talking about showing "BL" in Saudi Arabia is very important for everyone to see [youtube.com] . How many times have we heard of people having BL sightings around power lines or "following power lines"? Frequently! And what does that video show? NOT BL! It's just arcing between two of the power lines that's traveling down the line Jacob's-ladder-like, probably due to wind. Was it initiated by lightning? Maybe, but it is not BL at all. People trust their senses and their assumptions way too much.

Re:Doesn't explain... (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175224)

There's lots of claimed videos, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ioN-3UWYrY [youtube.com]

Are there any scientifically verified videos? Elefino.

Re:Doesn't explain... (5, Interesting)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175230)

there are photos in encyclopedias and on web.

I've seen ball lightening from distance of half a mile, and it's been created in lab

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/01/070122-ball-lightning.html [nationalgeographic.com]

Re:Doesn't explain... (2, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175648)

Is there any reason not to consider the option that this artificial phenomenon might have little to do with alleged observations of ball lightning?

Re:Doesn't explain... (3, Funny)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175246)

Oh wow, I feel so proud, my first ever [citation needed]

Do I get a Slashdot "Achievement" for that?

I didn't expect anyone to take my comment seriously. Every video ever seen showing "ball lightning" appears to be either edited heavily or easily explained away as something else.

Carry on about your day, good sir.

Re:Doesn't explain... (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175552)

Oh wow, I feel so proud, my first ever [citation needed]

Do I get a Slashdot "Achievement" for that?

You would if you could:
* Provide the requested citation
* Post a link to a goatse domain showing a guy with his balls on fire (this is for all intents and purposes considered 'ball lightning')
* Find a way to blame another /. poster
* Combine any or all of the above into a super-mega-post

I didn't expect anyone to take my comment seriously.

Well, that happens around here so often that they really need a moderation tag for "Whoosh!"

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175250)

What's your source on that? I've never heard of any such videos.

Surely you have heard of Google and YouTube... search for "ball lightning video" and you will find bunches. I suspect with some digging, you will find some that were shown on various science/weather shows on TV as well. The article authors seem to have overlooked the video evidence - unless they can come up with another (erroneous) theory claiming that videotaping such an electrical effect and watching the video later causes the same effect as experiencing it.

Re:Doesn't explain... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175862)

unless they can come up with another (erroneous) theory claiming that videotaping such an electrical effect and watching the video later causes the same effect as experiencing it.

What the fuck. How can you expect to be taken seriously about science at all when calling a theory "erroneous" that DOESN'T EXIST YET.

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175900)

unless they can come up with another (erroneous) theory claiming that videotaping such an electrical effect and watching the video later causes the same effect as experiencing it.

What the fuck. How can you expect to be taken seriously about science at all when calling a theory "erroneous" that DOESN'T EXIST YET.

I just came up with the theory a little earlier (to save them the work) so they can use it to explain their previous erroneous theory. ;-)

Re:Doesn't explain... (2, Interesting)

Terminal Saint (668751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175108)

Indeed. Heck, my great grandmother used to tell the story of the time ball lightning broke the living room window, did a circle around the room and went back out, leaving scorch marks on the ceiling. But then, it's a story from the great grandmother, so take it for what it's worth.

Can't be hallucinations (2, Funny)

buback (144189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175196)

A whole branch of my family was fathered by ball lightning! Happened back in the Great Storm of 1806. Granted, they always were the black sheep at the family reunions, but they were certainly real!

Now tell me that's a hallucination. I dare you!

Re:Can't be hallucinations (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175470)

A whole branch of my family was fathered by ball lightning!

I've never heard of that before, but I gotta admit that "ball lightning" is a much more exciting euphemism than "baby batter". I'm going to have to start using that.

I'm pretty sure it's your whole family that was fathered by it, though.

Re:Can't be hallucinations (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175540)

A whole branch of my family was fathered by ball lightning!

It's the same in my family too. When a kid is born, they always blame it on the balls.

Re:Doesn't explain... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32176316)

well me and a bunch of other people in an open air cinema, a clear summer night, saw a ball travelling over us at high speed in a (seemingly) horizontal trajectory. For years I thought I saw a meteorite, but then I witnessed a real meteorite coming down and it was completely different (the tail of the lightning was almost non existent).

That can't be explained by the "all in your brain" theory: too many witnesses, no storm, the lightning localized in the sky (a small part of the FOV for all of the involved parties who were watching the screen and the hallucination would not know the right moment to disappear, beneath the screen).

So, feel free not to believe me, but IMO magnetism has nothing to do with some of these lights.

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175288)

do you have examples?

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175328)

Or being able to create it in a microwave. [google.com] -- If ball lightning is just a stable plasmoid, that is.

Re:Doesn't explain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175364)

Maybe these magnetic hallucinations affect video equipment [google.com] as well.
Or maybe the hallucinations get transferred through the video. </sarcasm>

(linked video is garage-style experiment, but others in lab settings [wikipedia.org] achieve similar results)

Re:Doesn't explain... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175380)

Doesn't explain people having captured ball lightning on video from in some cases miles away.

Wow. While we're misreading things and jumping to false conclusions not implied by the article, let me also point out that LSD doesn't explain real spiders.

Re:Doesn't explain... (5, Insightful)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175488)

Absurd, you'd might as well also claim the Fox Alien Autopsy video and all the various close encounters of the blurred kind on Youtube aren't explained by the fact that we now understand things like kanashibari. The videos of so called ball lightning out there are far away, shaky, defocused and about as convincing as Chupacabra photos in the Weekly World News.

Look, I'm sorry to piss on everybody's parade, but its time to relegate ball lightning to its rightful place in history alongside phrenology and N-rays [wikipedia.org] . The invention of the CCD and the associated UNBELIEVABLE proliferation of personal digital imaging devices over the past decade means that virtually everyone has a camera in their pocket at all times now. If the phenomenon of ball lightning existed at all, we should be seeing like one multiply reported HIGHLY CONVINCING video a week uploaded to the internet showing this. In fact, the number of ball lightning sightings and recordings over the past who knows how many years has pretty much stayed constant. If ball lightning exists at all, it's in the heads of observers, either as a result of a terrified mi-d thunderstorm hallucination or a result of some magnetic field induced phosphene as reported in this new paper.

If ball lightning were an actual physical phenomenon, the number of video observations of it should have skyrocketed over the past 10 years along with the availability of personal digital imaging devices in the same way that once Red Sprites and Blue Jets were first reliably observed with very high speed video in 1994, observational replication around the world was practically IMMEDIATE [youtube.com] and widespread.

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175958)

Sadly, I have concluded the same thing about Will-o-the-wisps. The only image of one online that looks convincing is an "artist's rendering".

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

taniwha (70410) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175752)

nor does it explain why two people can see the same thing

Re:Doesn't explain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32176002)

Doesn't explain people having captured ball lightning on video from in some cases miles away.

Or the rectal probing....

Pretty much (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175048)

I got your zerg right here, hyuk huk.

FDA Response (4, Funny)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175062)

Feds will ban Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation on the assumption that it can be used recreationally.

Re:FDA Response (4, Funny)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175244)

Magnified transcrotal what?

Re:FDA Response (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175906)

Magnified transcrotal ovulation. Can't you read?

What the article fails to address (3, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175070)

Is how effective Tin foil might be at stopping the hallucinations. They haven't stopped since I started wearing my hat, I'm beginning to doubt they are hallucinations like my doctor tells me.

Re:What the article fails to address (1, Informative)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175278)

    You need to have your hat adjusted. I do tinfoil hat adjustments for only $499.95. Bring cash.

Re:What the article fails to address (1, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175304)

Summary: Physicists have calculated that the fields associated with certain kinds of multiple lightning strikes are powerful enough to induce the same kind of visual hallucinations in anybody unlucky enough to be within 200 meters or so.

Question: Is how effective Tin foil might be at stopping the hallucinations. They haven't stopped since I started wearing my hat, I'm beginning to doubt they are hallucinations like my doctor tells me.

I'm not a doctor, but I predict undesirable side-effects from the interaction between your Tinfoil hat and multiple lightning strikes...

Re:What the article fails to address (1)

Iron Condor (964856) | more than 4 years ago | (#32176370)

Is how effective Tin foil might be at stopping the hallucinations. They haven't stopped since I started wearing my hat, I'm beginning to doubt they are hallucinations like my doctor tells me.

"They" claim that tinfoil helmets don't really work: http://people.csail.mit.edu/rahimi/helmet/ [mit.edu]

Oh No! (2, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175076)

Now that they know how to create this phenomenon, this fad could catch on and lure our children into magnetic hallucination parties! Won't somebody think of the children!

Re:Oh No! (0, Troll)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175300)

Its easy as 1 - Set up superconductor based magnetic field 2 - party 3 - profit

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175088)

There are four lights!

That would be awesome man...... (1)

Technoodle (1384623) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175090)

Unless you actually got hit by the lightning.

What it Does Explain (0, Offtopic)

MrTripps (1306469) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175094)

What it does explain is the convoluted plot of Lost. That's not a smoke monster, Freckles. Just electromagnetic hallucinations.

Same Lights Common in Migraineurs, too (4, Informative)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175098)

For those that suffer from migraines, these lights and balls should be familiar as "aura", or scintilating scotoma. For migraineurs, these lights last longer because they are caused by changing bloodflow to the occipital lobe over a longer period of time. It most assuredly activates the same neurons that this magnetic stimulation of neurons produces. I would not be surprised of reports of concomitant parosmia, or olfactory hallucinations, with the display of ball-lightning caused by magnetic fields.

Re:Same Lights Common in Migraineurs, too (1)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175236)

Also, the higher altitude regions, such as mountains, have higher electromagnetic energy due to being closer to the turbulent atmosphere. It's possible that this could result in hallucinations of all sorts, and explain the many mystic experiences of such regions.

Re:Same Lights Common in Migraineurs, too (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175432)

If these are equivalent to migraine auras, I'm very skeptical that they can explain ball lightning. I've periodically experienced migraines and what doctors assure me is an aura preceding it. I don't know about others' subjective experience with auras, but while it's an annoying visual artifact covering some or all of my visual field, at no point did I ever perceive it as some localized 'ball' with anything like a defined position, distance relative to me, etc. as ball lightning is often described. It was always something I perceived as an internal static that makes my vision mostly useless, not some external object.

Again, there could just be subjective difference, but I've never heard a fellow migraine sufferer describe an aura as some ball of light.

For those that suffer from migraines, these lights and balls should be familiar as "aura", or scintilating scotoma. For migraineurs, these lights last longer because they are caused by changing bloodflow to the occipital lobe over a longer period of time. It most assuredly activates the same neurons that this magnetic stimulation of neurons produces.

I would not be surprised of reports of concomitant parosmia, or olfactory hallucinations, with the display of ball-lightning caused by magnetic fields.

Re:Same Lights Common in Migraineurs, too (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175984)

Having full-blown migraines with aura and other visual artifacts, and having seen ball lightning up-close (less than a meter), I can vouch that they are NOT even remotely close to the same thing.

My sister saw it to, so that kind of blows the migraine theory out the window.

Re:Same Lights Common in Migraineurs, too (2, Insightful)

nasch (598556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175988)

It most assuredly activates the same neurons that this magnetic stimulation of neurons produces.

Most assuredly, interesting. How do you know this?

idea != fact (5, Insightful)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175116)

Typical of Slashdot. From TFA: "That's an interesting idea: that a large class of well-reported phenomenon may be the result of hallucinations induced by transcranial magnetic stimulation."

From the Summary:
Ball Lightening Caused by Magnetic Hallucinations

From 'interesting idea' to stated fact in record time!

Re:idea != fact (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175286)

Ball Lightening Caused by Magnetic Hallucinations

It's clearly a bogus theory. In my experience, ball lightening is usually caused by filling it up with helium.

Re:idea != fact (1)

vbraga (228124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175424)

Filling it with hydrogen will generate more "bright" lights, though.

Re:idea != fact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175728)

To be fair, sometimes magnetic hallucinations do cause ball lightening. But then you have to pay some poor tech to clean out the inside of the MRI.

Re:idea != fact (1)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175974)

Well..., at least TMS from an LCD nearby causes the phenomenon of slashdotters jumping From 'interesting idea' to stated fact in record time!, I conclude.

Re:idea != fact (2, Funny)

largesnike (762544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32176030)

From 'interesting idea' to stated fact in record time!

almost, Saddam's WMDs are still in front by a fair margin

Re:idea != fact (2, Interesting)

thogard (43403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32176256)

I would buy into the "may"... in some cases. I also expect there may be more than one phenomenon that is called ball lightning.

I used to live in a house that had plastic dome light shade in the room lights. After the light was turned off and they cooled down they would pop. That pop would create a Piezo generated electric field that would cause me to see a bright flash of light that wasn't there. It may have caused others to see ghosts. There have been reports of large amounts of geo-piezo activity in areas where ghosts, angels and aliens are often seen.

Ministory (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175138)

My dad saw ball lightning at the warehouse he managed a few years ago. A ball went from the warehouse floor in to the office area (I believe it went through a wall to do this) and stopped above an employee's head, where it dissipated suddenly.

I just can't see this entirely being a hallucination if it can be tracked with your eyes.

Re:Ministory (4, Informative)

IorDMUX (870522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175332)

A ball went from the warehouse floor in to the office area (I believe it went through a wall to do this) and stopped above an employee's head, where it dissipated suddenly. I just can't see this entirely being a hallucination if it can be tracked with your eyes.

Actually, this ability to be "tracked" is common in color/light optical hallucinations that are produced in the "front end" of your brain's visual processing, as opposed to more life-like and realistic (i.e. a deceased relative) visual hallucinations that occur father down the image-processing pipeline.

You can demonstrate this on your own: Look just to the side of a small, bright light source for a few seconds, then look away, ideally towards a blank wall or other plain surface. (Don't stare into the sun or a laser or anything... I don't want people responding with "OMG now I'm blind!") If you did not focus directly on the light source to begin with, the "echo" of the light should appear slightly off center. As you move your eyes and/or head to try and focus on the echo, it will move away as the spot is fixed with respect to your retina, giving you the illusion of being able to "track" this visual phenomenon across a room or other space.

Re:Ministory (1)

takev (214836) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175362)

unless the ball is tracking your eyes.
See, if it is a hallucinations in your visual cortex it would move with your eyes.

Same thing as with floaters which you can sometimes see when the light is right, it is like it is moving around the room and you somehow try to follow it with your eyes, while it is actually following your eye movement instead. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floater

Re:Ministory (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175860)

    You haven't looked at a bright light before, have you? The dot will move to anywhere you are looking, and slowly disappear.

    If he saw a flash, and then looked over at his coworker, and kept his focus there, it would appear to be exactly that. The question then is, what was the flash? It could have been anything. A reflection of the sun, a spark of some sort. Did they do any sort of welding in the warehouse? There's a good reason you're suppose to wear a welding mask, and it isn't to keep the sparks off your face.

Scissors (4, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175140)

Perhaps this explains the appearance of a giant pair of scissors in the sky when performing the iron pyramid experiment.

Why are we trying to prove it doesn't exist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175146)

While this is interesting research, what this has to do with the real phenomenon of ball lightning, I have no idea.

As a famous scientist once said: "My visual hallucination effectively knocked over a tree in its path".

That answers that, for me at least (2, Interesting)

alop (67204) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175168)

I've often wondered why I "see" spinning disks (as the article described) when on road trips or on hot days. It's very odd to explain, the best analogy I could come up with was a "Video game style targeting system"... But seeing it explained as a hallucination makes sense.

Re:That answers that, for me at least (1)

Matrix14 (135171) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175270)

Have you tried shooting lasers when it happens?

Re:That answers that, for me at least (1)

alop (67204) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175306)

No, but I did throw a rock and it went right where the convergence point was... it was cool.

Re:That answers that, for me at least (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175342)

Have you ever considered that you might be a battle cyborg of some kind that has simply lost its memory?

Re:That answers that, for me at least (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175646)

Yeah, thanks for that. Skynet sends the Terminator back in time, it loses its memory due to all the lightning you see when he timetravels, and here you are telling him he's a bloody cyborg. ;-)

Re:That answers that, for me at least (2, Funny)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175668)

He'll certainly have a lot to answer for if it turns out those spinning disks are really just the uplifting, smiling faces of pure-hearted children!

Re:That answers that, for me at least (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175970)

Nah, in such case he would have surely mentioned seeing 6502 disassembly right next to the targeting graphics.

Re:That answers that, for me at least (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32176078)

  1) Heat or stress induced hallucination

  2) An artifact from seeing a bright light (or reflection)

  3) A floater [wikipedia.org] in your eye.

  4) Your telepathic ability to force an electrical discharge to not only not dissipate, but to stay in your view.

  5) An alien spacecraft with the specific goal of staying exactly where you're looking.

  Pick one. Nah, go ahead and pick 2. I'd go with #5 and #4 myself.

Explains a lot for me (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175188)

There has been a story in my family of ball lightning going through the old family house. And everyone thought it was really weird because even thought they saw it, they thought it would be impossible for such a thing to occur. That something would catch on fire, or the ball would be attracted to the wiring in the home instead of just floating away down the hall. Multiple people saw it, so they felt it could not be people "just imagining things". But if it was a hallucination created by eddy currents in the whole family (they were all in the kitchen together) that explains everything quite nicely.

Way to go science, 50 year old family mystery is solved.

Re:Explains a lot for me (2, Insightful)

Terminal Saint (668751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175330)

Possibly, but it seems odd that they would all see the same thing in the same position acting in the same way.

Proximity is not causality (3, Insightful)

Xaedalus (1192463) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175214)

Taken from a comment on the TFA's commentary, and it proves a point. I've always wondered why we tend to take scientific recreations in a lab and automatically apply them to phenomena to the world outside the lab as "absolutely the truth". Are we that desperate for a logical-sounding answer that we'll immediately say "these phenomena were reproduced in this lab using these specific resources and therefore this must automatically happen every time similar phenomena happens under uncontrolled circumstances"

Re:Proximity is not causality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175776)

I've always wondered why we tend to take scientific recreations in a lab and automatically apply them to phenomena to the world outside the lab as "absolutely the truth".

These fields ought to induce hallucinations that would take the form of luminous lines and balls that float in front of the subject's eyes, an effect that would explain observations otherwise classed as ball lightning, say the scientists.

Since when was saying "an effect that would explain" the same as "absolutely the truth"? Even reading the posts, almost no one takes this as proof that ball lightning is an hallucination. So who is this, "we" you mentioned.

Re:Proximity is not causality (4, Informative)

John Meacham (1112) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175910)

We don't at all. The strongest statement the original paper makes is

"Lightning electromagnetic pulse induced transcranial magnetic stimulation of phosphenes in the visual cortex is concluded to be a plausible interpretation of a large class of reports on luminous perceptions during thunderstorms."

just plausible. It's the editors that decided to publish it as if it were accepted fact.

Cameras (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175234)

Re:Cameras (1)

IorDMUX (870522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175396)

Re:Cameras (2, Informative)

IorDMUX (870522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175520)

[Sorry for the double post... I just came up with this after a bit more searching.]

I noticed that the majority of actual images of ball lightning that Google turns up fall into one of three categories: Illustrations, pictures of scientific experiments, or variations [google.com] on [google.com] this [google.com] picture [google.com] .

Though I do think that this description of ball lightning [bbc.co.uk] sounds as viable as the TMS theory. (Summary: A lightning strike heats fractal silicon "fluff balls" on the Earth's surface which can burn violently and hold themselves aloft like ashes from a fire.) Perhaps we are looking at two entirely different phenomenon: TMS causing the "cool" ball lightning which can mysteriously appear indoors or in airplane cockpits and then disappears without doing damage, and the burning silicon vapor explaining the "hot" ball lightning which has been reported to cause damage and leave scorch marks wherever it goes.

Thanks For The Clarification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175248)

I did NOT ingest LSD.

Yours In Houston,
K. Trout

This is your brain. (4, Funny)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175324)

This is your brain on lightning. Get the picture?

2008 News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175334)

There's references from 2008 on the WikiPedia article for ball lightning: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ball_lightning

I see what you did there (0, Troll)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175350)

The only paranormal phenomenon here is the granting of funds for this research.

Re:I see what you did there (4, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175914)

Just because it has been modded up, I'd like to respond to the troll: on what basis exactly would you exclude funding for this research? Obviousness? Clearly not, because no one had any idea what a modulating magnetic field would do to the inner workings of the brain. Uselessness? Can't see how you arrived at that conclusion, considering that it indicates a way to manipulate how the brain processes inputs, which has a ton of potential application.

No, the only reason that this is research unworthy of funding is that it doesn't immediately yield a product, which is the lamest, most short-sighted reason for which to deny a grant request.

I'll call bullshit on this one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175440)

I saw ball lightning years ago and my ex-wife who was setting next to me saw it as well. I saw a rare form that was around a foot in diameter but it only lasted for around a second. Other accounts I've read had multiple witnesses and several involved physical contact, in one a woman actually hit it with a tennis racket and it fell to the ground before it popped out of existence. There are reports of it burning holes in objects including a sleeping bag, I've seen pictures of the damage. Also it's often described as having a popping sound when it disappears. There's even historic accounts of people killed by it. Add to this multiple photos I've seen of ball lightning. Sorry but a poor explanation of all the evidence.

How long... (1)

timboc007 (664810) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175454)

... until the conspiracy theorists start wearing tin-foil hats in lightning storms? Double or nothing anyone?

Explanation of "UFO" sightings? (1)

ryan.onsrc (1321531) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175468)

Perhaps this explains the "UFO" sightings by aviation crew and some astronauts? I would suspect that as one increases their altitude, they increase their odds of experiencing such an occurrence: with a statistical spike as one approaches/escapes the earth's atmosphere. As such this could even cause a "mass hallucination".

That being said, I find it rather troubling that now "mass hallucinations" could be highly probable in environments with high magnetic activity. Perhaps astronauts should start carrying magnetic field detection gear (assuming they aren't already).

Rapidly changing magnetic fields? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175522)

I don't care how fast you do it, there's only two albums.

hat time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175526)

Not so silly now am I.

Regards,
Tin Foil Hat Man

Why the fascination with ball lightning? (1)

Xoltri (1052470) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175560)

Can anyone explain why people are so interested in this? I never really understood it.

Re:Why the fascination with ball lightning? (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175890)

Scientists are naturally curious people that want to understand how things work. From all accounts, ball lightning sounds like a plausible natural phenomenon, unlike other mysterious popularly reported things like ghosts, bigfoot, or aliens. Furthermore, if some reports are true, ball lightning has some very interesting properties, and understanding the physics behind it could have big implications.

Re:Why the fascination with ball lightning? (2, Informative)

Bitmanhome (254112) | more than 4 years ago | (#32176026)

"Ball" lightning is essentially impossible. Electricity cannot behave that way, as far as we know. And yet, many people claim to have seen it. So either it exists, and we'd like to learn how, or it doesn't, in which case we'd like to learn what those people are actually seeing.

More than one person? (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175574)

What about cases where multiple people see the same phenomenon, behaving the same way?

So (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175662)

Either the hallucinations can be transmitted via video too, or a piece of this airplane [youtube.com] caught fire and fell off.... Looks like "ball lightning" anyway - whether it is or not I leave to the physicists.

Re:So (1)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175802)

They're called sparks Einstein, nothing "fell off" the plane.

So the field emulates binocular depth? Bullcrap. (1)

derinax (93566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175666)

I'm not a neurologist, so school me. But look, we all know when we are having ocular hallucinations. Press on your closed eyes for a while and open them. There's no perception of depth to it; no sense of "oh, that hallucination looks like it's hovering over that hill 30 meters away." Now, these are allegedly affecting the visual cortex directly, but still...

How would a magnetic field hallucination within the visual cortex create a sense of binocular depth, and consistently track to a static location in space, within each input to the cortex? It's _obvious_, isn't it, when we hallucinate? Just flick your eyes a bit and move your focus, and watch the hallucination follow.

Re:So the field emulates binocular depth? Bullcrap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175724)

Oh squiggly line in my eye fluid.
I see you lurking there on the periphery of my vision.
But when I try to look at you, you scurry away.
Are you shy, squiggly line?
Why only when I ignore you, do you return to the center of my eye?
Oh, squiggly line,
it's alright, you are forgiven.

Re:So the field emulates binocular depth? Bullcrap (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32176268)

Eh, I dunno. Some types of hallucinations are somewhat less obvious. Mushrooms and LSD come to mind. Also, auditory hallucinations (the type often caused by severe sleep deprivation) definitely have volume and distance. It makes sense that it would be possible to manipulate the visual cortex in some way as to cause hallucinations that also contain depth perception. High powered EM fields directed at specific parts of your brain are somewhat more exotic than "pressing on your eyeballs" after all.

My grandfather had on passing thou the house (0, Redundant)

Khenke (710763) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175702)

My grandfather told me about when a ball lightning came in thou the door in the basement, made a 90 degree turn in front of him and passed thou the door to the boiler room. And then went in the boiler.
It was roughly 20 cm big. And left a burn mark on both doors. And there was the smell of ozone. So even if what he saw could be explained be a hallucination, it still would not explain the burn marks after the ball.

That explains it (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175748)

This effect can be easily prevented by the judicious use of tinfoil headgear; hence it's popularity in areas subject to lightning strikes.

There's a simple test for this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175858)

Just turn your head. If you still see it, maybe it's not really there. Was it really necessary to mess with people's brains using expensive equipment to come up with this theory?

I've seen ball lightning from less than one meter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32175896)

My sister witnessed the incident.

Hallucination? Can a hallucination start a perfectly round fire where it entered the house, then melt the telephone ringer coils that it disappeared into with a loud bang?

What we saw was a bright orb about a foot across bouncing slowly around the house for a few seconds. It did no damage except where it entered and exited the house

I did some "ball lightening" this morning (0)

Monolith1 (1481423) | more than 4 years ago | (#32175924)

This actually sounds plausible, I did some "ball lightening" earlier today, and I was sort of hallucinating at one point.

Could it be? (1)

Ozlanthos (1172125) | more than 4 years ago | (#32176174)

Yesterday I watched Jesse Ventura's conspiracy show on Youtube. The subject matter was HAARP. The scientist that Ventura's people interviewed described the exact same events as being effects that can be induced by use of the HAARP array. Got to wonder now how much of what else was said of it could possibly be true!

-Oz
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