David Kirkpatrick

May 11, 2010

Is ball lightning all in your mind?

It just might be due to extremely strong magnetic fields created by certain lightning strikes. Things to ponder here in the midst of big storm season.

From the link, the science:

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an extraordinary technique pioneered by neuroscientists to explore the workings of the brain. The idea is to place a human in a rapidly changing magnetic field that is powerful enough to induce currents in neurons in the brain. Then sit back and see what happens.

Since TMS was invented in the 1980s, it has become a powerful way of investigating how the brain works. Because the fields can be tightly focused, it is possible to generate currents in very specific areas of the brain to see what they do.

Focus the field in the visual cortex, for example, and the induced eddys cause the subject to ‘see’ lights that appear as discs and lines. Move the the field within the cortex and the subject sees the lights move too.

All that much is repeatable in the lab using giant superconducting magnets capable of creating fields of as much as 0.5 Tesla inside the brain.

Also from the link, out in the field:

But if this happens in the lab, then why not in the real world too, say Joseph Peer and Alexander Kendl at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. They calculate that the rapidly changing fields associated with repeated lightning strikes are powerful enough to cause a similar phenomenon in humans within 200 metres.

To be sure, this is a rare event. The strike has to be of a particular type in which there are multiple return strokes at the same point over a period of a few seconds, a phenomenon that occurs in about 1-5 per cent of strikes, say Peer and Kendl.

And the observer has to be capable of properly experiencing the phenomenon; in other words uninjured. “As a conservative estimate, roughly 1% of (otherwise unharmed) close lightning experiencers are likely to perceive transcranially induced above-threshold cortical stimuli,” say Peer and Kendl. They add that these observers need not be outside but could be otherwise safely inside buildings or even sitting in aircraft.

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: