ball lightning

I can’t believe it, but I’ve been unable to find this in any of the archives of either Cecil’s columns or of the Message Board:

What is ball lightning? Does it really exist? What does it consist of? Where or when can it occur? What does it do?

Tell me anything you know. My mother-in-law swears she saw one in her kitchen yesterday!

According to the prof. of the severe weather course I took, there is no concrete proof that ball lightning exists. By that I mean physical evidence. There is anecdotal evidence out the wazoo. While serving aboard a submarine I heard a lot of stories about plasma balls shooting out of large breakers and skipping around the deck; but, I’ve never personally witnessed it. I suspect that if they exist they are somehow related.

What is ball lightning? Is it lightning in the shape of a ball? How does it get in that shape?..theoretically, of course.

I don’t know who first said “everyone’s a critic,” but I think it’s a really stupid saying.

You might like to visit Science Frontiers on Line at
The back issues are on line there and lots of accounts of ball lightning, St. Elmos fire, etc., often from ship’s logs. Look under the Geophysics section in each issue.


The reason you can’t find much information on ball lightning is that no one knows exactly what it is. Ball lightning phenonmenon has been successfully created in a laboratory environment, but is nearly impossible to objectively examine in nature.

Well, ok, Cecil knows - but he likes to let some poor scientist have the joy of “discovery”. Then Cecil will “confirm” the matter to the TM. He’s quite shy and retiring that way.

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

I really hate to give Contestant #3 any ammunition but UFO believers can make a good arguement about scientific hypocracy, here. There is no more evidence for ball lightning than there is for alien visitors.

In other words, the scientific community chooses to see the evidence for flying saucers as being a glass half empty and that for ball lightning as a glass half full.

Contestant #3

I saw what I’d describe as ball-lightning in 1993 in Brunswick, GA, ricocheting like a pinball amongst the light poles in a mall parking lot. Sure looked like a ball o’ lightning to me and the chap with me. No, no drinking involved.

Perhaps a better definition is in order ? What does this have to do with UFO’s ? Granted, true lightning starts ground up, I realize, but aren’t we talking about an aberrant electrical effect, not some crypto-conspiracy ? What did I miss ?

“Proverbs for Paranoids, 1: You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.”

  • T.Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.

I think what PapaBear was getting at, Jorge, is that scientists are quite willing to study ball lightning even though there is no “hard evidence” like videos of it. They dismiss UFO’s out-of-hand, which one could argue is somewhat hypocritical, because we have about the same level of evidence for each. I don’t believe in UFO’s, but I agree with this assesment, because I’ve seen this attitude in scientists.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island