Ball lightning is weird. Not just in the capricious way it appears unexpectedly, and thus largely remains a mysterious phenomenon, but also in other strange aspects of its behaviour. For example:
- It can move independently of the atmosphere, such as gliding externally to an airplane traveling at many hundreds of kilometres an hour without being affected by the high level of air movement.
- It can move through windows and walls unimpeded.
- It sometimes causes no damage, and other times great damage.
- There appears to be little or no correlation between its appearance (size, colour, luminosity) and the energy it emits.
Most of the current theories about ball lightning struggle to explain at least some of the points above. So now Peter Sturrock, emeritus professor of applied physics at Stanford University, has suggested what seems to be a fairly off-the-wall idea: that ball lightning is just a portal to another ‘space’, through which the energy flows – like the power point in your house is not the source of energy, but just a port for energy from elsewhere.
(a) Since there is no known way for the required energy to be stored in the ball lightning, there must be a reservoir of energy remote from the ball lightning (presumably related to the electrical energy responsible for lightning).
(b) Since the reservoir is remote from the ball lightning, there must be some way to transfer energy from the reservoir to the ball lightning. We therefore conceive of a duct that connects the reservoir to the ball lightning.
(c) A ball lightning may now be regarded as a port through which energy in the duct can be released into the atmosphere.
These points, Sturrock says, “suggest the following hypothesis: A ball lightning is a port connecting our overt space to a covert space with with similar but not identical properties.”
Seems a fairly out there idea – but even if you don’t agree with it, it’s still a worthwhile read simply for some of the weird ball lightning accounts it discusses.
You might also like: