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Ball lightning is a natural phenomenon that has also been produced and controlled in the laboratory by Kiril Chukanov. See Chukanov's explanation of the creation of ball lightning in a reproducible, laboratory setting.
The natural phenomenon is associated with thunderstorms and takes the form of a long-lived, glowing, floating object, as opposed to the short-lived arcing between two points seen in common lightning. An early attempt to explain ball lightning was recorded by Nikola Tesla on March 5, 1904 (Electrical World and Engineer). 
According to the first international conference on ball lightning, held in 1989 at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, "Ball lightning is a new and unfamiliar form of stable plasma or ionized gas." (Science and Technology, Bulgaria)
The following description is adapted from a listing a listing for ball lightning at Wikipedia.
Ball Lightning in the Laboratory
- Quantum Technologies (PDF) - 55-page document supplement to his presentation on Ball Lightning at the 2004 ExtraOrdinary Technologies Conference.
- ChukanovEnergy.com - Kiril Chukanov's official cite, featuring laboratory creation of ball lightning.
- Kiril Chukanov Speaks on Quantum Technologies: Ball Lightning - Addressed the ExtraOrdinary Technology conference in Salt Lake City on July 30, 2004. Reviewed the theory behind his laboratory creation of controlled ball lightning, an effect he has mastered. Groups of attendees came to his home nearby to view his two prototypes.
- Physicists generate ball-lightning in the lab - Scientists in the joint study group of Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik and Berlin's Humboldt University have generated ball-lightning-like plasma clouds, which have lifetimes of almost half a second and diameters of 10 to 20 cm. (PhysOrg; June 6)
- Mysterious Ball Lightning Created in the Lab - Researchers from the University of Tel Aviv in Israel created a laboratory version of ball lightning using a "microwave drill." The device consists of a 600-watt magnetron taken from a domestic microwave oven and uses a powerful microwave beam to bore through solid objects. (LiveScience / YahooNews; Feb. 23)
Reports of Ball Lightning in Nature
Ball lightning discharges are an extremely rare occurrence and details of witness accounts can vary widely. Many of the properties observed in ball lightning accounts conflict with each other, and it is very possible that several different phenomena are being incorrectly grouped together. The discharges tend to float (or hover) in the air and take on a ball-like appearance. The shape can be spherical, ovoid, teardrop, or rod-like with no dimension being much larger than the others. The longest dimension observed is between fifteen and forty centimeters. Many are red to yellow in color.
Sometimes the discharge appears to be attracted to a certain object, and sometimes to move randomly. After several seconds the discharge leaves, disperses, is absorbed into something, or, rarely, vanishes with an explosion.
Ball lightning usually appears in a thunderstorm, and has been seen in places as diverse as "escorting" World War II bombers, flying along side their wingtips to over a kitchen stove to wandering down the aisle of an airliner.
One of the earliest recorded, and most destructive, occurrences is thought to have taken place during the Great Thunderstorm at Widecombe, Devon, in the United Kingdom, on October 21 1638. Four people died and around 60 were injured when what appears to have been ball lightning struck a church.
For a long time the phenomenon was treated as myth. Although the exact nature of the phenomenon is still the subject of speculation, there is now agreement that it is neither mythical nor purely psychological. Surveys have been taken of eyewitness accounts by at least 3000 people, and it has been photographed several times. There is as yet no widely accepted explanation for ball lightning.
Some difficult features to explain are the longevity of existence and the near neutral buoyancy in air. It may be that the energy is feeding the glow by a stored chemical form and slowly released. There have been many attempts to create ball lighting in the laboratory, and some have resulted in superficially similar phenomena, but there have been no convincing demonstrations that the natural phenomenon has been reproduced.
A popular hypothesis is that ball lightning is a highly ionized plasma contained by self-generated magnetic fields. Upon closer examination, this hypothesis does not appear to be tenable. If the gas is to any reasonable degree ionized and if it is anywhere near thermal equilibrium, then it must be very hot. Since it must be in pressure equilibrium with the surrounding air, it would be much lighter than air and hence float up rapidly. Adding magnetic fields can help solve the problem of the coherence of the plasma blob, but will make it even lighter. (The proof of this is the virial theorem as applied to plasmas and fields.) In addition, a hot plasma, even if combined with magnetic fields, would not last nearly as long as ball lightning is reported to, both because of recombination and heat conduction.
There may, however, be special forms of plasma for which the above arguments do not fully apply. In particular, a plasma may be composed of negative and positive ions, rather than electrons and positive ions. In that case, the recombination may be rather slow even at ambient temperature. One such theory involves positively charged hydrogen and negatively charged nitrites (NO2) and nitrates (NO3). In that theory, the role of the ions as seeds for the condensation of water droplets plays an important role.
The natural phenomenon of ball lighting has been reportedly the source of some reports of supernatural phenomena, ranging from will o' the wisps to UFOs. Some people believe the ball lightning phenomenon are ghosts or spirits. References can be seen in the will o' the wisp and other spirits that take the guise of orbs of light. Some UFO skeptics have suggested that many apparent close encounters are actually observations of ball lightning. UFO enthusiasts report seeing ball lightning often at crop circle sites and believe them to be some kind of intelligence or come from some kind of intelligence while not denying that it is indeed ball lightning.
- Chukanov, Kiril Borissov. "Final Quantum Revelation." General Energy International, Salt Lake City, Utah. 1994.
- Barry, James Dale. Ball Lightning and Bead Lightning. New York: Plenum Press. 1980.
- Cade, Cecil Maxwell and Delphine Davis. The Taming of the Thunderbolts. New York: Abelard-Schuman Limited. 1969.
- Golde, R. H. Lightning. Bristol: John Wright and Sons Limited. 1977.
- Singer, Stanley. The Nature of Ball Lightning. New York: Plenum Press. 1971.
- Viemeister, Peter E. The Lightning Book. Cambridge: MIT Press. 1972.
In the News
Compilation commenced Nov. 2010
- Featured / Best Exotics: Plasm > Ball Lightning > Chukanov >
Chukanov quantum free energy 600 kW heater for sale - Launching the "plasma in a microwave" concept 25 years ago, Kiril Chukanov says he is now ready to build a patented product for end users that harnesses quantum energy in the form of "ball lightning" to create excess heat. (PESN; Nov. 16, 2010)
- Electron Power Systems™ (EPS) - Toroid plasma technology that remains stable without magnetic confinement, by using background gas pressure for confinement instead, could provide clean, non-polluting energy technology at one-tenth the cost of present energy generation.
| Sites on Ball Lightning |
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- Bergström, Arne, "Electrodynamic confinement - - a new field of science and technology ? (the secret of ball lightning and a new field of science and technology)". Scientor Research & Development. Stockholm, Sweden.
- Corum, Kenneth L., and James F.Corum, "Tesla's production of electric fireballs". Corum & Associates, Inc., Windsor, Ohio
- Talbot, Michel T., "Ball Lightning : Rare Atmospheric Phenomena (RAP)"
- Bill Beaty's Ball Lightning Page (Alternative URL)
- Various articles, experiments, and information on Ball lightning
- Hochwald, Hans, "Microwave Experiments" Alternative "toaster".
- 'Ball Lightning' produced using a high voltage arc and carbon
- Darling, David, "Ball lightning". The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight.
- Shelto, J. D., "Eddy Current Model of Ball Lightning". Fruita, Colorado. January 13, 2004.
- Straight Dope: Does ball lightning really exist?
- Ball lightning properties
- Google directory: Ball Lightning
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