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Earth Power Science

"Gigantic Jets" Blast Electricity Into the Ionosphere 168

Posted by kdawson
from the more-things-in-heaven-and-earth dept.
New Scientist has an update on the so-called "gigantic jets" first discovered in 2003 — these are lightning bolts that reach from cloud tops upward into the ionosphere, as high as 90 kilometers. (There's a video at the link.) What's new is that researchers from Duke University have managed to measure the electrical discharge from a gigantic jet and confirm that they carry as much energy skyward as ordinary lightning strikes carry to the ground. According to the article, "Gigantic jets are one of a host of new atmospheric phenomena discovered in recent years. Other examples are sprites and blue jets."
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"Gigantic Jets" Blast Electricity Into the Ionosphere

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  • by karvind (833059)
    But can it the same place twice ?

    /ducks

  • Not only does their production get delayed all the time but it turns out they have environmental impact!
    • by Fluffeh (1273756)

      Not only does their production get delayed all the time but it turns out they have environmental impact!

      Having that dream you walk into the wrong class naked?

  • So? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @05:40PM (#29167051)

    Don't stand high above Cumulonimbus clouds. Important safety information. Thank you.

  • That was the most underwhelming video of a 90 km lightning bolt I could have possibly imagined.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by maxume (22995)

      Worry not, I am hard at work on an animation that will be even more disappointing.

  • I wonder... (Score:2, Interesting)

    Might this be the "equal and opposite reaction" to a lightning strike?
  • There must be a mistake in the article. The amount of charge isn't very big. Maybe they meant kilo Couldombs?

  • If you want your atmospheric phenomena to be taken seriously, don't give them names that belong in an Austin Powers movie.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dominious (1077089)
      huh? you mean science is taken seriously only by name? please, I could be talking about a "ghost" in statistics because a distribution looks like a ghost...so what? it makes it intuitive...
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      If you want your atmospheric phenomena to be taken seriously, don't give them names that belong in an Austin Powers movie.

      Yeah, no kidding! That's why I refuse to believe in fundamental physics and their stupid "quarks". Charm? Bottom? Strange? Really? Please... with names like that, it must be bullshit.

      • How much respect does theoretical physics get from the public? How much tax money do you think they are willing to vote for research into something called a charmed, strange, or bottom quark?

        When it was electrons and mesons and baryons, physics kicked ass and we got nukes 'n' stuff. Now that it sounds like a line of toys for toddlers from Playskool, or worse, Teletubbies, physics has lost all respect. This is why the LHC was built in Europe, of course.

        • by Abcd1234 (188840)

          How much tax money do you think they are willing to vote for research into something called a charmed, strange, or bottom quark?

          Very little, just as they don't value funding research into *any* fundamental scientific field, because America has developed a hostility toward all things scientific, and that includes fundamental research and the scientists that work on it. This would be why the US is falling behind in a whole range of fields, no matter how subjectively silly or not silly the naming conventions

  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:28PM (#29167365)

    We've discovered, documented, and explained a major new form of lightning that, previous poster notwithstanding, hadn't even really been rumored until recently. So where are the videos and large-scale studies and quantitative models for ball lightning, which has been "generally accepted as real" for well over a hundred years?

    Seriously, come on. We've got millions of hours of footage of lightning, tornadoes, meteors, and even rarer and more transient phenomena. But, as far as I know, there isn't one single unambiguous high-quality video of ball lightning "in the wild". So why are we still giving it the benefit of the doubt? How many years will it have to evade our ubiquitous cameras before we just stop believing in it?

    • by DShard (159067)

      Given that they have actually produced them in the lab, I am going to have to say a while. Given that there isn't a shred of any kind of scientific evidence for alien visitations, bigfoot, loch ness monster, santa clause or the tooth faerie, their should be no one who actually thinks they exist. Yet there are those of us amongst the rest of us who believe in the existence of those things.

      • Given that they have actually produced them in the lab, I am going to have to say a while.

        Really? A glowing ball of something, persisting for many seconds without any visible energy source, variously gliding along a conductor without affecting it or blowing a metal object to bits?

        I hear a lot about shorting out rooms full of submarine batteries, and about candle flames in microwave ovens, but there's still no video of a golf-ball or tennis-ball or basketball-sized globe going for a nice, leisurely stroll around the grounds. One would think by now there would be.

      • There's a difference between everything in your entire list, and the aliens. They're a rather special case, as everything else there has a limited domain; they reside in a lake, a mountain range, or earth, all places where we can actually go. The aliens have a much greater place where they can be: space. They logically would have technology that lets them get here and back to their planet in a lifetime, or have probes that can move at a decent speed. We even came up with this idea for a show called "Star Tr
    • I've witnessed "ball lightning" on about three occasions now. The likely reason we have people pursuing the concept but no documentation is probably the same as the reason I never documented it; by the time you yell "Holy crap -- that's ball lightning" it is gone.

      Now I've heard some theory that it's supposed to be related to plasma created by tectonic stresses. But my wife and I witnessed it when just passing under a bridge in Florida, and the ball kind of floated along a power line until it hit a transform

      • I've witnessed "ball lightning" on about three occasions now. The likely reason we have people pursuing the concept but no documentation is probably the same as the reason I never documented it; by the time you yell "Holy crap -- that's ball lightning" it is gone.

        And yet, again, there's plenty of footage of meteors, car crashes, lightning strikes... these are transient phenomena, giving you little or no time to catch any single event, but there are lots of cameras out there.

        Now I've heard some theory that it's supposed to be related to plasma created by tectonic stresses. But my wife and I witnessed it when just passing under a bridge in Florida, and the ball kind of floated along a power line until it hit a transformer and blew it up -- right over the heads of rush hour traffic.

        There are a lot of things that can make a power line or a transformer light up, and there are a lot of things that can make your eyes (and brain) think they've seen a wandering ball. For transient, high-brightness, high-emotional-impact events, your brain can't even reliably order what it sees -

    • The best I can figure is that if a ball lightning object is caught on film, people end up calling them UFO scare attempts, then saying "There is no such thing as a UFO, so it must be a hoax".

      Consider though: All of the above-mentioned items are visible unambiguously from miles away. They are all large-scale items. Ball lightning is considered to be small and doesn't act like meteors (falling fireball that you can photograph dozens of on the right night). I would expect that in close proximity, ball l
    • I thought that ball lightning had been documented many times: as a source of false UFO sightings.

      Inbred Jed: Here's mah photo of tha' UFO! Now you kin pay me tha fifty dollars ya promised on the teevee!
      Educated professor: No, Jed, that's ball lightning.
      Jed: Sheeee-oot! Does that mean I don't get tha fitty dollas?
      Professor: No. Plus, you lose at life. Move to New York City and start a new life if you ever want to be anything but a hick.
      Jed: Sheee-oot!

      • Professor: No. Plus, you lose at life. Move to New York City and start a new life if you ever want to be anything but a hick.
        Jed: Sheee-oot!

        I thought he had to move to Beverly. Hills, that is. Swimmin' pools. Movie stars.

    • G.S. Pavia, A.C. Pavao et al, Phys. Rev. Lett. 98, 048501 (2007)
      • Interesting. They mention the burning-droplet hypothesis, but seem to settle on what amounts to a "fire tornado". I've seen footage of these, and they're very impressive, but I think it's a loooooong reach to propose this as an explanation for persistent and non-ballistic ball lightning.

        Then again, as I said earlier, people are bad at making accurate observations of unusual events. Between burning droplets, burning vortexes, sparks, arcs, visual afterimages, and inaccurate perception and interpretation,

        • Yeah well, I have seen ball lighting being produced in a demonstration at my university. The problem is that I can't remember the name of the student who did it (it was a master project, if you can believe it), nor do I know if the results are already published. Besides this article, I didn't find anything else. If you want to know more, contact the professor (Kroesen) of this group: http://www.phys.tue.nl/EPG/ [phys.tue.nl] He will know for certain. I am not working for this group, although I know the people there.
    • by forand (530402)
      Have you spent any time trying to look up anything? It isn't my field but I have been seeing research results about ball lightning for a while now. If memory serves there was a Youtube video where it was created in a lab. The only thing as yet unknown (as far as I understand things) is how it behaves. Some reports make it sound like it floats around chasing people like something out of a horror movie; such behavior has not been explained nor observed.
    • If you watch general TV, you will see `UFO` stuff caught on camera. They are generally ball lightning.

      There are also theories that it is related to xenon gas etc. and all relating to earthquake activity. So, I get alerted when some guy on TV says `UFO caught on tape` near my area.

      Before the Marmara/Golcuk earthquake which was wrongly called Istanbul quake, there were some TV news mentioning UFO caught on tape, just a week ago before the 7.4 Quake, in same zone...

  • I can recall (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @07:02PM (#29167563) Journal
    pilots in the 60 who spoke quietly about these. Of course, scientists said that no such thing exists and as such, most pilots kept real quiet about it. Only at wild 60's parties would I hear some of these guys talking about it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kiwijapan (1293632)

      pilots in the 60 who spoke quietly about these. Of course, scientists said that no such thing exists and as such, most pilots kept real quiet about it. Only at wild 60's parties would I hear some of these guys talking about it.

      Maybe an even larger, as yet undiscovered type of these ""gigantic jets" can be used to explain the images taken from the shuttle, Mir space station etc. orbiting earth that clearly show something (an object) leaving the earth's atmosphere, and which have for a long time - at least in particular circles - been used to 'prove' the existence of UFOs on earth. If the jets in the article can reach 80km, could it not be possible that some as yet undiscovered phenomena could reach even higher, with enough power t

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Hadlock (143607)

        Most videos of "something moving/leaving" in relation to the earth taken by astronauts/NASA are due to random crap (speck of dust sized crap) floating by the window only a couple of inches away from the window. Optically it looks much further away due to the parallax effect not working properly because your eyes/brain aren't used to being able to see 60+ miles without there being a tree/cloud in the way and also due to the curvature of the earth. There are tons of stories of astronauts tapping on the glass

  • go Blue Devils!
  • I wonder: ozone is known to be created by electric discharges through the air, and a lot of these "new" atmospheric phenomena appear to be related to such discharges. Might this be some sort of failsafe mechanism that could repair a damaged ozone layer, somehow suppressed by a healthier ozone layer but re-emerging when damage occurs?

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Nah, ozone in the upper atmosphere is created when UV radiation from the sun strikes oxygen molecules, producing lone oxygen atoms which combine with O2 to form O3.

  • Could we harness this energy to help us send more planes/shuttles into space, or even be able to use those to power the space stations, how far up the sky does this go up into?

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