A recently published paper lays out a new mathematical theory for the formation of ball lightning, an incredible and mysterious weather phenomenon.

Ball lightning is an elusive and mysterious phenomenon; a softball sized orb of electricity which has yet to be fully understood since it is so difficult to empirically study. It can appear anywhere from the sky, or even in your own home. However, scientists from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and Australia National University have recently published a paper which details a mathematical model that may help explain the origins of ball lightning.

Ball lightning encounter in the 19th century

Previously, every thing from microwave radiation, antimatter and burning remnants of previous lightning strikes have been proposed as explanations, but the new paper instead turns towards ion streams. Ions, electrically charged atoms, which appear as remnants of lightning strikes, could gather on surfaces, such as a plane of glass, and accumulate over time. These ions might then excite the molecules in the air around it, leading to a discharge.

The new theory is entirely mathematical, relying on generally accepted theories and formulas, which means it should be possible to test the theory, and perhaps even recreate the lightning.


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