Report on the 7th International Symposium on Ball Lightning (ISBL01)

St. Louis, Missouri, USA, July 26-29, 2001, organized by Peter H. Handel

In the new millennium and two years after the meeting in Antwerp as usual, world-wide ball lightning researchers met again in mid-western USA at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Convenient fast rail transport carried arriving guests quickly from the airport main terminal to a sun-bathed UMSL campus in the hot and humid Missouri summer. Participants found comfortable rooms and plentiful board in the Honors College, with a stately lecture hall touched by French "Saint Louis" royalty in the lily decoration on its walls. Upon registration a friendly and hospitable reception desk staff handed us copies of the lecture program and the collected abstracts, and attended to our questions and needs. This time participants numbered 27 from 10 countries, with 7 coming from the USA, 6 from Japan, 4 from Russia, 2 from the UK and from Holland, and 1 each from Austria, Australia, Belgium, Costa Rica and Germany. New was the need for a fourth day to cover the hefty Lecture Program of 42 topical talks selected from 57 submitted abstracts. On behalf of all participants, spouses and partners, thank you Alma Chung, Susan Fitzsimmons and Connie Jeffries for making us feel welcome and at ease throughout the symposium week. On Thursday morning at 9 a.m. symposium chairman Peter Handel opened the meeting, acknowledging support from The University of Missouri, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research, Jean-François Leitner and Michael Grace as sponsors of ISBL01. The bottom line of his message to the audience considered the ball lightning problem as resolved. The ICBL Board congratulates Prof. Handel with securing these commendable signs of official recognition and growth opportunities for our research discipline. As also apparent in subsequent welcoming words in the Greeting speech delivered by University Dean Nasser Arshadi. Session I continued with the first lecture, once again delivered by ICBL President Stanley Singer. Reviewing recent directions in BL research, his talk noted contradictions between duplication experiments and reported claims of BL analogues in the laboratory. Most recently with Wieder's recent combustion fireballs after Barry, but likewise in Golka's high-voltage resonator after Tesla, and with Tuck's submarine batteries, Powel and Finkelstein's microwave power, down to electrostatic generators after Van Marum around 1800. Dr. Singer does not consider our present data base too diverse for just one explanation of BL and its laboratory analogues. Speaking next as the other attending author of a monograph on BL, Mark Stenhoff gave credit to France for Arago's pioneering BL investigations. Stenhoff's continuing hands-on expe-rience with data collection in the UK leads him to doubt reported energy storage in BL above classical virial theorem limits. And like Singer he proposes several mechanisms for explaining all BL manifestations. After coffee break Stanley Singer took the chair for session II, which opened with David Turner reading the paper written by I. G. Stakhanova. Her vector space analysis of the famous BL data bank collected by the late I. P. Stakhanov shows extreme rarity of large (>1 m) BL observed at close range (<10 m). As second speaker our symposium chairman Peter Handel reviewed his BL study track comprising a thesis on spherical field solutions, solitons from non-linear Korteweg-de Vries, Sacharov and Schrödinger equations, and population inversion by Stark effect. His maser-soliton model meets virial constraints by external power from maser action of atmospheric water molecules replacing Kapitsa's radiowave hypothesis. Asserting that his model explains each and every property of BL observation, Handel regrets to find it without references in the submitted papers. He does not consider collisional de-excitation of inverted population states too rapid for atmospheric maser action. To avoid prohibitive loss of photons his maser action demands a large (>1 km3) critical volume analogous to the critical mass from loss of neutrons in a uranium bomb. After lunch break Session III followed with G.C. Dijkhuis as chair. As the announced second paper by I.G. Stakhanova was not received, Peter Handel continued his morning talk by reviewing the experimental evidence for his maser-soliton theory of BL. His model connects input of maser power and plasma temperature by an implicit relation shown in graphs for planar, cylindrical and spherical symmetry in the temperature range 3200-4000 K. In ensuing discussions with the floor, Handel was clear on R.C. Jennison's question "Does your BL model radiate heat?" (Yes), and M. Rabinowitz' question "Can your BL model penetrate metal?" (No). On either property the evidence remains controversial, with Jennison's close-range BL observation in an airliner weighing in against the first, and for the second. After the afternoon coffee break Heinrich Hora took over as chair for Session IV. Standing in for O. Ilyenko and three Ukrainian colleagues, Peter Handel read their paper treating BL as the centre of an electro-soliton existing in free space as inhomogeneous standing wave. Next Peter Handel also read the paper by A.G. Keul and O. Stummer, with new data collection and analysis from Austria showing BL population statistics to be time-constant and space-invariant throughout Central Europe. And in the closing talk of the day George Miley from the neighbouring state Illinois reported his demonstration of steady-state D-D fusion in a space-charge device after the early Farnsworth and Hirsch fusion reactor patents on vacuum tube technology. These high-energy aspects from Miley's plasma laboratory certainly raise the stakes for our research discipline. Fittingly, the evening program moved participants and partners to the President Casino for pleasant dining and gambling on board of a paddle wheel steamer moored on the Mississippi River bank in down-town St. Louis. On Friday morning meetings resumed with Session V chaired by Masashi Kamogawa. Its sole speaker Vladimir Bychkov held three talks treating BL data, modelling and laboratory testing successively. Noting that the old discussion "Does BL exists?" now has become "Does high-energy BL exist" Bychkov first argued for high energy in 17 BL reports gathered from the Russian data bank, with A. Amirov and A. Bychkov Jr as co-authors. Then he reconciled high energies with his polymer model of BL by scaling relations between lifetime, diameter and dielectric energy storage, as a fractal nano-structure in Boris Smirnov's vein and as recently re-invented by Abrahamson. And thirdly Bychkov discussed short-lived (~200 ms) BL analogues obtained in V. Timofeev's laboratory from erosive plasma discharge through waxed capillaries, shining the laser beam of his pointer on a piece of padding as illustration. After morning coffee Session VI opened with Mark Stenhoff in the chair. Its first speaker Roger Jennison proposed BL formation from an upward leader frustrated by an errant return stroke, locking its vector potential into a field loop that can exist unseen, and pass through thin walls or window pane without making damage. Next Mario Rabinowitz found his Einsteinian candidate for missing mass in the universe to cover BL power levels (~10 W) and incidence rates on Earth (~10-10 km-2sec-1) as tidal forces draw directional radiation from little black holes and thunderstorm fields enhance their visibility. After lunch break Roger Jennison took over the chair for Session VII. Standing in for A. Paschina, V. Nikolaevna and L. Poskacheyeva, Geert Dijkhuis read their approach to plasmoid formation as 4D quantum wave packet equivalent to coherent electron states in Bose-Einstein condensates. Next Taka-aki Matsumoto supported his concept of micro BL from electro-nuclear collapse with photographs of traces in nuclear emulsions and on copper plate placed in recent earthquake and volcanic eruption zones on two Japanese islands. As third speaker for L. Urutskoev and two other co-authors, Vladimir Bychkov showed us blind-ing and short-lived (~100 µs) spherical discharges from electric explosion (~50 kJ) of thin titanium foils (10mm´40mm´50µm) submerged in water, leaving evidence for nuclear trans-mutation of foil material. After coffee break Hiroshi Kikuchi chaired the remaining Session VIII of the day. As author on creative electrical experiments Richard Ford showed video tapes documenting modest fireballs (<1 cm, <0.8 sec) from hybrid circuitry combining AC currents with electrostatic discharge over a spark gap contaminated by hydrocarbons. Next Kazuo Tanaka presented numerical simulation of 3D Anderson localization on a low-cost work station calculating incident field amplification up 60´ by 160 wavelength-size dielectric cubes at random positions. And Alexander Vlasov's talk closed the second symposium day by presenting his design of a BL test facility for generating a vortex ring from combustible material. On Saturday morning Robert Golka took the chair for Session IX. As first speaker our only woman participant Marina Pancova discussed the hydro-carbonic plasmoid generated by erosive capillary discharge, with adaptation to rainy atmosphere parameters. Next Hiroshi Kikuchi's talk treated airplane-associated BL formation in a quadrupolar electric cusp trap-ping dust and chemicals heated by field reconnection at a critical ionisation velocity. And Peter Handel referred us to E. Protasevich's abstract reporting long-lived luminescence (<8 sec) in humid air by laser radiation on rotating plasma. After the morning coffee break George Miley took the chair for Session X. Focussing on electrochemistry and thermodynamics of condensable vapours systems David Turner listed 23 observed BL properties including self-support and surface tension as in Stakhanov's hydrated ion model. In the remaining time Vladimir Bychkov amended the Lecture Program by presenting A. Kukushkin and V. Rantsev-Kartinov's treatment of BL as extrapolation of self-similar carbon nano-tube assemblies left by various high-current laboratory discharges. After lunch George Miley continued in the chair for Session XI. Speaking first Robert Golka called for the reversal of FAA regulations telling pilots to remain silent on BL events in or near their plane. With a candle placed in a microwave oven Golka also demonstrated free-floating combustion as added salt made the flame grow and detach from the wick. Next Taka-aki Matsumoto added details on traces and rings left in nuclear emulsions and copper plates left by electronuclear collapse in earthquake zones as presented the day before. And Anatoli Nikitin's talk calculated high energy density (3 cm, <10 MJ) in BL model with positive charge excess in a tenuous core balanced by dielectric forces and atmospheric pressure on a dense envelope. After coffee break John Lowke took over as chair for Session XII. First Geert Dijkhuis treated the surface of a bosonic BL as a vortex lattice obeying Hamiltonian dynamics with potential flow in a quasi-periodic tiling of Penrose rhombs. Next Vladimir Bychkov found fractal structure in long-lived (<1 s) and sizeable (1-10 cm) laboratory analogues of BL from capillary discharge in metal + polymer. And standing tall despite his crippling disease, Geoffrey Endean expanded on Astrophysics, BL and Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion as the ABC of our discipline linking air-borne rotating dipoles over here with pulsars out there. Before boarding the bus to the Banquet Dinner the ICBL Board convened with President Stanley Singer as chair, Y.-H. Ohtsuki as vice-president, G. C. Dijkhuis as secretary, P.H. Handel as member, and V.L. Bychkov and M. Kamogawa as observers. Once more Prof. Ohtsuki enabled the continuity of our bi-annual symposium series by offering to organize ISBL'05 in Taiwan at National Central University in Taipeh at 15 minutes from Chang Kai-shek National Airport. For details on this top-notch and scenic institution please consult its attractive website at ICBL thanks Prof. Ohtsuki for his timely pro-mise, and for proving once again as good as his word. As this was Banquet Night we moved by bus or (limousine) car to the posh "Glen-Echo" University Country Club for cocktails, lavish dining and an (allowed) 50-minute pre-premiere showing of "Great Balls of Fire", scheduled for worldwide TV broadcasting on Discovery Channel. For this documentary film on BL a camera crew of Beyond Productions in Australia had travelled the globe late in 1999 for on-site interviews with English, Dutch, American and Russian colleagues, combined with file material from Japan. Apart from one lapse into UFO territory, ICBL appreciates this even-handed TV documentary on our unceasing efforts for BL science to prevail. And its ongoing monthly screening in several European countries also marks appreciation by the general public. New to the ICBL Symposium series was a fourth day, starting on Sunday at 9 a.m. As chair for Session XIII Peter Handel stood in for V.I. Bychkov. Replacing S. Kishore, Peter Handel told us that V. Kadomtsev as director of the Kurchatov Institute wanted to use thermonuclear funds for BL research, such as photon avalanches known as "spiking" and carefully avoided in lasers. Next Hideho Ofuruton reported on microwave power causing fire of cotton yarn in a factory in Osaka seen as a possible BL event. And former Westinghouse researcher John Lowke used his plasma expertise to compute the "bang" of BL from underground charge motion after lightning impact. During coffee break ICBL President Stanley Singer expressed our thanks to the organizers with a gift from California for Peter Handel and Alma Chung. And on behalf of Prof. Ohtsuki, he formally announced the next meeting ISBL'03 at National Central University in Taipeh on Taiwan. Geert Dijkhuis followed up with a shrunk and yellow-turned-(Delft-)blue version of his usual "Kugelcheese" gift from Holland for the St. Louis team. After coffee Yoshi-Hiko Ohtsuki took the chair for Session XIV. First Peter Handel's talk with Michael Grace as co-author reviewed his maser-caviton BL model and its bearing on non-coherent radar experiments. Next Gert Arnhoff embarked on lengthy calculations for his source-free radiation cavity solution for BL from the Helmholtz equation. After lunch Mario Rabinowitz took the chair for Session XV. Its threefold speaker Masashi Kamogawa gave us the only laptop presentation at this symposium. His first talk with Y.-H. Ohtsuki and H. Ofuruton as co-authors focussed on co-seismic lights reported by many witnesses as BL just before severe recent earthquakes in Japan and Taiwan. In his next talk with J. Matsumoto and K. Yasui added as co-authors, Kamogawa considered sonolumi-nescence in cavitation bubbles as explanation for this new BL type. And his third talk, now with H. Tanaka and M. Tagami added as co-authors, calculated strong fields from Anderson localization as seen with 2.45 GHz microwave radiation passing dielectric bars in Cantor or Fibonacci sequence. After coffee break Hideho Ofuruton took the chair for the remaining Session XVI. In the first talk Taka-aki Matsumoto proposed his micro-ball lightning as earthquake precursor leaving electric signals as much as one month before the seismic event. Replacing E. Lewis' contri-bution Peter Handel proposed three BL synthesis tests for his maser-caviton model: by measuring attenuation of radar waves during thunderstorms, by high-power microwaves discharges from a klystron, by electric pulse experiments for RF emission in a wind tunnel, or by sending balloon-borne field mills into a thundercloud. In his closing remarks Peter Handel thanked Leitner, Grace, Air Force and Navy as sponsors, Singer, Ohtsuki and Dijkhuis as symposium committee members, and Alma Chung and Susan Fitzsimmons as assistants. He announced publication of the Proceedings as a Springer book, and invited participants and their partners for an evening party at his home. So after dinner we got together in the suburban Handel residence, celebrating the completion of another successful BL symposium with Wein, Weib und Gesang supported by Golka and Kamogawa on the piano, and much pleased with our prospect of Auf Wiedersehen in Taiwan!

19 February 2003
Geert C. Dijkhuis
ISCL Secretary