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No. 132: NOV-DEC 2000

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Luminous Toroid Dangled Sparkling "Candies"

Ball lightning (BL) may assume many weird forms, which is one reason some scientists claim it is more likely an illusion than physical reality. Those physicists who admit that BL exists think that some electromagnetic mechanism might account for any nicely spherical, luminous globes with lifetimes of just a few seconds, but their equations cannot handle the phenomenon that took place at Gmuend, Austria, in 1996.

A.G. Keul and O. Stummer personally investigated this case. The salient facts are as follows. A. Reisinger was working in her garden about 10 meters from an apple tree when she observed a phenomenon that seems to have been an elaborate and hard-to-explain form of ball lightning.

When the BL appeared suddenly from behind the tree, it caught the attention of the witness who said that it looked like it "sat down on to the tree." It had the dimensions of "a small truck tyre, not as large as a tractor one," and it had a definite torus shape. What made the dark object an even stranger sight was a considerable number of "Xmas candies", all hanging down from its underside 15 to 20 centimetres long and "sparkling", which means changing brightness with an emission of sparks at the same time. A humming and sizzling sound was associated with the optical effect, but there was no static electricity. The strange light was not blinding, but irritated the eyes of the witness who looked at it only intermittently. Mrs. Reisinger continued her work in the shed, not moving closer to the object and getting more nervous over the 10 minutes that the phenomenon lasted. Her eyes started to water towards the end of the observation. Another phenomenon that she remembers was the irregular extinction of the "candies" which went out piece by piece.

(Keul, Alexander G.; "More on a Torus Ball-Lightning Case," Journal of Meterology, U.K., 25:49, 2000. The initial report was presented in the same journal, 24:178, 1999.)

Comment. The buzzing sound remarked upon above leads us to the even weirder phenomenon recorded below.

From Science Frontiers #132, NOV-DEC 2000. � 2000 William R. Corliss

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