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News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

Quantum ball lightning forged in the lab for the first time

•, Michael Irving

Now, scientists at Amherst College and Aalto University have created quantum ball lightning by knotting together the magnetic spins of atoms, creating a quasiparticle that could help unlock the secrets of the strange phenomenon, or even make for more stable fusion reactors.

Like its better understood, forking counterpart, ball lightning glows brightly and fleetingly. As its name suggests, the main difference is its spherical shape, but it also behaves very differently. It's been known to hover above the ground, move around and in some cases remain visible for more than a minute. It usually accompanies regular lightning but has also surprised people by floating through houses and even airplanes.

Unfortunately, physical evidence is rare. Perhaps the most enlightening case occurred in 2012, when Chinese scientists were able to capture the phenomenon on video during a storm and subsequently analyze the optical spectrum of the ball lightning.

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