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Dino Bite Leaves a Tooth
An Ancient Feathered Biplane
A Really Big (but Extinct) Rodent
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2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
Earth
Science loses out when ice caps melt
Shrinking Glaciers
Vitamin D-licious Mushrooms
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Inspired by Nature
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Finding the Past
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Ancient Cave Behavior
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The Color of Health
Recipe for Health
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GSAT English Rules
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Order of Adjectives
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
March 21-22, 2013: Over 43,000 students will take the GSAT Exam
The Annual GSAT Scholarships
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2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
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Math of the World
It's a Math World for Animals
Monkeys Count
Human Body
Workouts: Does Stretching Help?
A Better Flu Shot
Hey batter, wake up!
Invertebrates
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African Jackal
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Expert report highlights the importance to parents of reading to children!
Children and Media
How children learn
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Dreams of Floating in Space
The Pressure of Scuba Diving
Strange Universe: The Stuff of Darkness
Plants
Stalking Plants by Scent
City Trees Beat Country Trees
Hungry bug seeks hot meal
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Space and Astronomy
A Puffy Planetary Puzzle
A Very Distant Planet Says "Cheese"
Chaos Among the Planets
Technology and Engineering
Shape Shifting
Slip Sliming Away
Switchable Lenses Improve Vision
The Parts of Speech
What is a Verb?
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Where rivers run uphill
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Science loses out when ice caps melt
Watering the Air
Recipe for a Hurricane
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Powering Ball Lightning

Ball lightning is one of the strangest objects you might never see. The rare, basketball-sized fireballs occasionally form in nature after lightning strikes soil. They can float or bounce and last for several minutes before disappearing. In recent years, scientists have learned something about the science behind ball lightning. But questions remain. A new study helps illuminate the picture. Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel began the study after making ball lightning by mistake in their lab. Vladimir Dikhtyar and Eli Jerby had just invented a new type of drill that was made partly from pieces of microwave ovens. The tip of the drill concentrates microwave radiation into a spot that measures just 2 millimeters wide. Such concentrated radiation allows the drill to pierce many materials. About 10 years ago, Dikhtyar and Jerby were testing their new device when a glowing blob suddenly blew out of the material they were drilling. The blob eventually reentered the drill, causing a lot of damage. Hoping to find out what had ruined their fancy tool, the engineers experimented until they could reliably make fireballs on purpose. The trick, they found, was to drill into glass. They found a way to cage the glowing blobs for up to several minutes. To make the trap, they used a tissue-box-sized container with glass walls. They kept the glowing orbs alive by zapping them with extra microwaves. The lab-made blobs were different from ball lightning that occurs in nature. For one thing, the artificial balls were much smaller—just a few centimeters across, instead of basketball-sized or bigger. They formed in a different way too. And if left alone, the manmade blobs vanished within 30 milliseconds. (There are 1,000 milliseconds in 1 second). Still, the scientists thought their blobs were realistic enough to help test one of the leading theories about what causes ball lightning in nature. In 2000, researchers from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, proposed that ball lightning forms when lightning strikes soil. Under the right conditions, the strike creates a charged gas that glows and contains dust that is full of microscopic particles. Chemical reactions within the dust then create energy that keeps the gas glowing, the scientists suspected. Using an intense X-ray beam, Dikhtyar and Jerby found evidence to support that theory. Their tests showed tiny particles within the artificial blobs. These particles were similar in size to the particles that may exist in natural ball lightning.—Emily Sohn

Powering Ball Lightning
Powering Ball Lightning








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