Ball lightning 'just a hallucination caused by regular lightning'

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Washington, May 15 (ANI): Hallucinations caused by overstimulated brains could be the reason behind the mysterious floating blobs of light known as ball lightning, a new study suggests.

Although many eyewitnesses have reported brief encounters with the golf ball- to tennis ball-size orbs of electricity, scientists have been unable to agree on how and why ball lightning forms, since the phenomenon is rare and very short-lived.

Ball lightning is often reported during thunderstorms, and it's known that multiple consecutive lightning strikes can create strong magnetic fields, reports Discovery News.

In their study, Joseph Peer and Alexander Kendl at the University of Innsbruck in Austria argue that magnetic fields made by lightning could have the same effect as TMS machines on nearby humans.

In previous tests, boffins had exposed humans to strong, rapidly changing magnetic fields using a medical machine called a transcranial magnetic stimulator, or TMS. The machine's magnetic fields are powerful enough to induce electric currents in human brain cells without being harmful.

Focusing magnetic fields on the visual cortex of the brain caused the subjects to see luminous discs and lines. When the focus was moved around within the visual cortex, the subjects reported seeing the lights move.

Peer and Kendl's paper appeared online May 7 on the physics research website arXiv.org.

According to the pair, about half of all ball lightning reports are actually tricks of the mind induced by magnetism. (ANI)

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