Some People Just Won’t Believe It: The Skeptic’s View

  • Herbert Boerner


Many scientists have always been skeptical concerning BL. The reported properties simply didn’t fit into any known theoretical framework. This was not so obvious when physics itself was less advanced, but since the 1950s, when the structure of matter had been unraveled and plasma physics had been developed, BL simply had no place in the context of known and understood phenomena. Currently, only very few scientists are actively working on this subject, and most regard BL as a pseudo-phenomenon or chimera (Campbell, 2008). Historically, misidentification of BL with other natural phenomena has been proposed by all skeptics. As Brand’s analysis and Stenhoff’s analysis show, BL reports must be scrutinized and checked carefully for the credibility of evidence, but there remain a considerable number of reports that are very detailed and from sources that cannot be easily dismissed as unreliable. Therefore, alternative explanations centering around misperceptions or illusions have been developed, the earliest being afterimages created by the exposure of the retina to strong light, for example from a lightning channel. Afterimages are usually observed when one unintentionally looks at the Sun: a spot—either bright or dark—is observed for several seconds because the retina is not responding normally at the spot where the image of the Sun was focused. The afterimage fades away within a few seconds, but eye movement may create the illusion that an object is moving in the field of view. For lightning to produce an afterimage in the form of a round spot, the channel has to be seen end-on, otherwise one would perceive a jagged line as an afterimage and no glowing globe. Since it is very rare to see a lightning channel end-on, the conditions for such an illusion are rarely fulfilled. In addition, many observers of BL objects could never have seen the initial linear lightning, so in these cases such an explanation is not possible. All the BL observations in Neuruppin (appendix case 1) fall in that category. More recently, several different, but related phenomena have been proposed as the source of BL illusions: stimulation of the brain or retina by magnetic or electric fields due to a nearby lightning stroke. Before discussing these stimulation hypotheses in more detail, we will have a look at the arguments and strategies of three well-known BL skeptics.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herbert Boerner
    • 1
  1. 1.MainzGermany

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