Palestine is booming

This is not what you normally hear about, but with Israeli assistance and without interference from the US, turns out that Palestine is in the middle of an economic boom.

Go here for an interesting article:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/dec/07/obama-interference-independent-palestine

The Best That Never Was: The Chrysler ME Four Twelve

Rewind a few years. We are in the middle of two wars fought on foreign soil with somewhat ill defined objectives. Terrorism is the main news story. Americans are the fattest people on the planet. The country is lead by a man that half of the country hates with a burning passion. And the American car company is owned by Europeans.

Ahhh... but there is a difference. It was owned by Germans, not Italians. And one thing Germans dont like? Anyone, especially Americans, being better building cars than they are.

And they rarely are. But every once in a while, something amazing comes out of the "big 3." The Ford GT40 which beat Ferrari at its own game, the Chevy Corvette which is the greatest performance bargain on the planet, and in 2004 the Chrysler ME four twelve. Almost.

Chrysler ME-412 supercar photo by allpar

0-100 in 6.2 seconds, 0-60 in 2.9, Quarter mile of 10.6 @ 136 mph

The stats are staggering. That would, today, be one of the fastest cars in the world even with the horsepower wars of the last few years. And the thing is, it looked damn good too, especially for its time (a little too busy not curvy enough for today, but still, pretty damn sexy car).

The idea was to build a halo-car for Chrysler. Something with a lot more halo and a lot less crap tsunami than the Plymouth/Chrysler Prowler.
http://www.edmunds.com/pictures/VEHICLE/2001/Plymouth/100001639/2001.plymouth.prowler.8948-396x249.jpg
See this for details: Norm's 10 Worst Cars of All Time

The plan was to build about 300 of them a year. They would be built under contract in the US (like Ford did with the modern GT and Saleen) by Metalcrafters. Most of the parts came out of the Chrysler parts bin (which was looking a lot less dated six years ago... because it is still the same..)

Chrysler ME4-12 concept car

In 2004, prototypes were being tested; top speed appeared to be 240 mph with quarter mile times of 10.6 seconds at 136 mph. It had a patented automatic double clutch transmission with paddle shifters, basically the most advanced tech which is available today on a Ferrari.

ME4-12 carbon fiber body

The engine was one distinctly not Chrysler part. It came from their overlords as Mercedes, or more particularly the insane and horsepower obsessed tuning arm AMG. It was an absolute beast, with 850 bhp @ 5750 rpm, with 850 lb-ft. (1150 N-m) of torque between 2500 and 4500 rpm. This compares to 483 hp at 8500 rpm and 343 lb·ft of torque at 5250 rpm for the Ferrari F430 which was rolled out in 2004. The "twelve" the car's name is for this v12 beast, the "ME" for mid-engined, making this car a true exotic.

The kicker? The whole thing weighed 2880 pounds, which is nothing. A veyron weighs over 4,000. The only comparable car is the McLaren F1 of the 90's, which cost a million dollars and defined "supercar" until the Veyron was released.

The biggest problem with the car? It was far far better, faster, and cheaper to build than the expensive and behind schedule Mercedes McLaren SLR. A car which I have never even desired to own (though I did consider keying one in a parking lot when its owner didn't tip me after I delivered skis to the jackass - I didn't purely out of respect for a supercar, even a crappy and overpriced one which shows you are an idiot).

http://www.allsportauto.com/photoautre/mercedes/slr/mclaren_amg_2003/2003_mercedes_slr_mclaren_amg_06_m.jpg

This thing above actually cost $500,000 - $750,000... yeah...

Supposedly there were screaming matches inside Daimler over all of this, and possibly one reason why Wolfgang Bernhard was "de-selected" from the Mercedes-head job and Dieter Zetsche (of the infamous "Dr. Z" commercials) was pulled in.

So there you have it. Chrysler built and could have made one of the greatest cars of all time. But they didn't, because it would have been better than the Germans.

When you are next working on your car, pour a bottle of engine oil for the Chrysler ME Four Twelve.

Bubble Box 2

This game is fantastic. It is a physics based drawing game where you draw blocks, balls, ramps etc and connect them with pegs or pivot points to build contraptions (often involving leverage - particularly the kind of building a seesaw and then dropping a large rock on one end).

It is an incredibly fun game that will waste your time keep you educationally entertained for hours.

It is possible to cheat a little and build upwards under the ball by drawing lines under it, but dont do that... the objective is to win with as few pieces as possible...

The Rhodesian Pookie

An interesting military vehicle this one, built out of VW Beetle parts and F1 racing tires in order to find Soviet landmines... necessity is the mother of invention.

Pulled from Jalopnik:

The term "Rhodesian Pookie" sounds like it would refer to a designer dog fit only for riding in puppy purses, but no, it's a very cool VW Beetle-based, armored landmine detector created during the Rhodesian Bush Wars. Used F1-tires anyone?


Ask most people where Rhodesia is and you're likely to get a blank stare. It was a former British colony in the south of Africa and has gone on to become Zimbabwe, but following its declaration of independence there was a brutal civil war dubbed The Rhodesian Bush Wars. One of the terrifying aspects of the conflict was the extensive and calculated use of landmines along huge stretches of road with the effect of paralyzing supply and trade routes. Hunting for the mines one-by-one was too dangerous and required a huge amount of manpower, so a solution had to be developed and the result was the Pookie.


The Pookie is a lean, mean, mine detecting machine. The design was simple: keep the vehicle as light as possible so it can roll over and detect mines. Starting with the bones of dissected VW Beetles, five of these machines were built using the front suspension and steering and rear engine, the driver was up high in a V-hulled blast-resistant armored cabin, and to spread the weight out as much as possible, giant F1 tires left over from the South African Gran Prix were fitted. With minimal pressure on the ground, the land mines under the road would not be tripped, allowing the mine detector underneath to do its thing with high speed and excellent accuracy. When a mine was detected, the vehicle stopped and the mine was removed and neutralized.

The Pookies were a huge success in detecting the Soviet land mines (oh, right, the Commies got mixed up in the whole thing) but when they learned of the Pookies they switched to plastic land mines which were much more difficult to detect. A version of sonar was then fitted to the vehicles to detect the less dense dirt in the road surface where the hole for the mine had been dug, not as effective, but better than nothing.

Iraq "Embassy"

The US did not invade Iraq for oil. The oil is now in the hands of the Iraqis, and they are auctioning off production rights at very tight margins which only the national oil companies and some of the little guys are interested in. In other words, US companies will not be that heavily involved in oil production in Iraq. It is looking like China will get much more of the benefit of a stable Iraq that we will.

Which is fine. I always thought the primary and best justification for going into Iraq was to remove a dictator who had killed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens. Speaking of which, why is it always liberals who are against invasions to remove horrendous dictators? I just don't get that one. If you actually believed in helping people, we would already have troops on the ground in the Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Moving on..

If you then assume that we were there to fix the country up, and then pull back when things were stable (pretty much what are objective has been), why are we building this thing?
http://www.spiegel.de/img/0,1020,993885,00.jpg

The monstrosity before you is the Baghdad embassy—the largest of any nation on planet earth and ten times bigger than any other US embassy. The structure cost more than $700 million and is the size of 80 football fields. It is bigger than the Vatican, six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York and is about two thirds the size of the National Mall in Washington. It is freaking enormous.

It is also fraught with scandal as it turns out that we got screwed over by a bunch of middle eastern contractors, but so it goes with such things.

What I am more impressed by is the damn size of the "embassy." I mean, embassies are meant to be nice stone buildings lined up along a quaint old street in the heart of the capital. Diplomats meet for tea, spies run their operations and brochures are handed out.

Except for in this one, which is basically the deathstar, minus the giant laser beam (maybe....). It is the largest, most heavily fortified embassy in the world. It boasts 21 buildings, a commissary, cinema, retail and shopping areas, restaurants, schools, a fire station, power and water treatment plants, as well as telecommunications and wastewater treatment facilities. It also has space for 1,000 residents in six apartment blocks.




http://www.cynical-c.com/archives/bloggraphics/bdyembassy2.jpg

One would not be wrong in thinking this kind of investment does not signal a desire to um... leave. It honestly makes me worried. After we pull out of Iraq, which we will and should... why do we need this? I really don't think I am being naive: I know cynics would say we are building it so was can continue to occupy the country and take their oil. But those cynics are a) idiots, and b) wrong (the two go hand in hand a lot). We are not taking their oil, we have given them full control over it, and they have contracted with almost all non-US companies for production sharing agreements.

So what the hell is this for? Granted, we needed it now, for a couple more years, but is it really worth building this thing in the middle of Baghdad and keeping it occupied in 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? Its costing $700 million dollars to put it there, we should probably get some value out of it. Maybe we can sell most of it off as luxury condos with great sniper cover fire.

Some statements I agree with:
"Traditionally, at least, embassies were designed to further interaction with the community in which they were built," “Although the U.S. Government regularly proclaims confidence in Iraq’s democratic future, the U.S. has designed an embassy that conveys no confidence in Iraqis and little hope for their future. Instead, the U.S. has built a fortress capable of sustaining a massive, long-term presence in the face of continued violence.”

This thing is built in the green zone, along with the Iraqi government. What this building sends is a message to the Iraqi people that the US is really the ones in charge, and that though we support your "freedom" we really indent to run your country as a puppet state. It a tactic as old as the Romans, to build a vast and imposingly superior building or city to show off who is really in charge.

The thing is, I think this was done out of stupidity. I don't think anyone really thought through the psychological or political impact of parking the modern equivalent of the Tower of London right in the middle of Baghdad. I think someone in the military looked at the numbers and said "we needed a safer more cost effective way to house US personnel and stop them from getting blown up." They looked at the options, and this is what they came up with. In my opinion this is not a story of malice or domineering, it is a story of sheer, colossal, stupidity.

Burj Dubai copied from Frank Lloyd Wright?

Back in the 1950's, visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright (and Norm's favorite architect of all time), decided to change his perspective somewhat. He was known, and still is known, for his houses, and often for relatively flat structures designed to fit in well with their surroundings.

But in the city, the surroundings are other skyscrapers, and what Lloyd Wright envisioned would fit amongst them, but would also tower over them. The Illinois.
http://mysite.verizon.net/rfh2/writings/theIllinois.jpg


It was planned to be a mile tall. Wright believed that even with the construction materials and techniques available to him at that time, that it would have been possible to build the tower. However, major issues would have been the elevators required to service all of the floors. Even with multi-story elevators which open on more than one floor at once (Wright imagined five floors at once, Taipai 101 opens on 2) and the use of sky lobbies to switch into a different elevator (as the World Trade Center towers used) it was still required to put the elevators on the outside of the building (presumably on the side of the sketch not shown).

It seems though that many years later his design is being put to use. The Burk Khalifa, known during its construction as the Burj Dubai, is now by far the world's tallest skyscraper. It is an amazing building, and and a world wonder. It is also very very similar in design to the Illinois.

http://www.burjdubaiskyscraper.com/2006/theillinois/The-Illinois-and-Burj-Dubai.jpg

Other than the wider base, which is a) more practical and b) more stable, the design is a near perfect rip on Lloyd Wright's. This does not really upset me though, as it can bee seen as more of a tribute of sorts. The Illinois was never and will likely never be built. The Burj is the tallest building in the world, and will remain so for some time, and it uses the brilliant design of Lloyd Wright.

Mima Mounds

Across the planet, and especially the US, there are row upon row of perfectly made seemingly natural but completely inexplicable mounds. They are called the Mima Mounds. And no one really has a good grasp on how they were created.




The majority of them are found in the US, especially in Washington State and the northwest.


All of the mounds, across the US and all around the world, share very similar features. They are about 3-6ft tall an laid out in very evenly spaced diagonal rows. However excavation of the mounds have shown that a) they can have very different soil structures, and b) there are no aliens or burial sites in the mounds. At least not that anyone has been able to find a trace of.

this is the best of the explanations wikipedia has to offer:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mima_mounds

Pocket Gophers

One major theory concerning the origin of Mima mounds argues that they were created by pocket gophers—small, burrowing rodents with fur-lined "pockets," or pouches, in their cheeks. The theory is that gophers tunneling into loose soil run into a gravel layer below. Unable to burrow any farther, the gophers start building upward and outward. The theory's author, George Cox, a retired zoologist at San Diego State University, says that a gopher family often can move up to 5 tons of earth a year.[citation needed] That's one-twentieth of the soil in an average Mima mound.[citation needed] Cox also asserts, most North American mounds are in gopher territory, and many gophers actually live in mounds. However, the only pocket gophers ever spotted on Mima Prairie built their burrows between the mounds, not in them. It is unclear whether gophers created the mounds or migrated to them because the mounds provided handy home sites.

[edit] Alien Origin

Another major theory concerning the origin of mima and prairie mounds argues that they are either made by martians or plutonians. In this way, they would have been formed by the accumulation of wind-blown sediments due to backwash from interstellar flying saucers. For example, based on grain-size data of and optically stimulated luminescence ages obtained from pimple mounds in the south-central United States, Seifert and others[10] concluded that these mounds consisted of wind blown sediments that accumulated during exposure to ionic thrusters optimized for use in earths atmosphere and gravity. They suggest that although they superficially resemble the mima mounds of the northwestern United States, the mima mounds of China, Egypt and other global regions have a greatly different origin from them, most likely thrusters from flying pyramids.

[edit] Seismic Activity

Andrew Berg of Spokane, Wash., formerly a geologist with the U.S. Bureau of Mines.[citation needed] proposed that Mima and pimple mounds were the result of very intense ground shaking resulting from major earthquakes. He formulated this hypothesis while building a dog house. As he hammered together sheets of plywood coated with volcanic ash, he noticed that the hammering vibrations caused the ash to heap into small mounds that looked a lot like miniature Mima mounds. From that observation, Berg hypothesized that vibrations from violent earthquakes could have formed the Mima mounds. According to Berg, the soil on the Mima Prairie is like volcanic ash, and the layer of rock below that is like a plank of wood. When seismic waves move through the hard ground and bump into faults, or large fractures in the ground, the waves bounce backward. Those ricocheted waves collide with other seismic waves from the quake, and between the collision points, the soil rises and forms mounds. Berg claims that Mima mounds occur only in seismically active areas—areas where the ground is unstable and many earthquakes occur. The area where the Washington Mima mounds are found experienced a major earthquake about 1,000 years ago.[11]

[edit] Glaciation

A 2009 study using lidar data and published by researchers at Washington Department of Natural Resources showed that the retreat of the ice-age glaciers could account for the mima mounds' formation. A feature of this theory is that meltwater from the glaciers carried gravel to sun cups, where it was deposited and formed mounds after glaciers had fully retreated.[12]

[edit] Vernal Pools

Vernal Pools are shallow depressions that fill with water during winter rains[13]. Water accumulates below the soil surface and above a layer of hardpan or impermeable substance, creating a seasonally perched water table. Water is prevented from percolating underground, leaving evaporation as the only means of escape[14]. The mima mounds located in the California Floristic Province (west of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges from Southern Oregon to Baja California[15]. Coincidentally, mima mounds are located in Washington and Oregon State, west of the Cascade Range, and likewise throughout California west of the Sierra Nevada Range.

[edit] Shrinking and Swelling of Silts

When clay is exposed to large amounts of water, the water collects between the clay minerals (which are flat planes). Due to the shape of the minerals, the water travels in between the compacted layer, thus “swelling” the clay-bed into mound-like features. Silts are also capable of this type of geomorphologic feature; however, silt is coarser-grained sediment so the minerals do not “hold” water in the same way. Silt is more penetrable than clay is, but since the area around the base of the mima mounds are a loamy soil[16], the composition allows water to swell and shrink in a similar fashion to clay, but on a smaller scale.

The Darien Gap

Ever dream of driving from Alaska to the Cape Horn? Crusing the Pan-American highway with the top down in your '66 Mustang? Or more realistically, cruising with the windows down in your '06 Winnebago?

You can't.

This came as some surprise to me actually. I would have though that you would be able to drive all the way. It would seem to make sense economically, to have a road that connected all the way. Actually, I will go one step further, what you are about to learn astounded me in the sense of its total anachronism in the modern world that we live in. There is a gap, just one gap, in the Pan-American highway.

And no, the answer is not the cute one: "the panama canal." There is a heaping big bridge over that, called (ironically, since the road does not go much further) the Bridge of the Americas.
File:Bridge of the Americas.jpg

No, what I am referring to is the Darien Gap.

The gap is the section of land where the long thin strip of Central America links up with the continent of South America.


And it looks like this:



Thats it, for miles and miles. It is one of the most dangerous places on earth. Every guide that you can read on the subject tells you absolutely do not, under any circumstances, try to get across it. For 90km, the Pan-American highway gives up the game, and disappears. Which does of course call into question naming it the "Pan-American" highway, rather than the "Highway which runs all the way through North and Central America, and also all the way along South America, but has a gap." It would be like calling this the worlds longest bridge:


The area is covered in swaps, full of drug traffickers, home to Colombian gangs who favor kidnapping and ransom, and has absolutely no marked trails. Nothing. Nothing at all. Unless you find one of the drug routes. In which case you are probably going to die.

This is from a Nat Geo writer who was kidnapped in the gap and held for 10 days back in 2003:
"The Darien Gap is one of the last—not only unexplored—but one of the last places people really hesitate to venture to... It's also one of the most rugged places. The basic problem of the Darien Gap is that it's one of the toughest hikes there is. It's an absolute pristine jungle but it's got some nasty sections with thorns, wasps, snakes, thieves, criminals, you name it. Everything that's bad for you is in there."

The first expedition across it was by Land Rover, in 1960, and used waterways wherever possible. The Rover was known as "the affectionate cockroach" and has Land Rovers have the world over, it kicked ass and took names.




The first all-land auto crossing was in 1985. It 714 days to travel 201 kilometers in a CJ-5 Jeep. That is 0.28km/day or put another way (with a 16hr day) 0.015mph (yes, I did the conversion). According to Wolfram Alpha, this is = 0.38 x speed of a garden snail. In other words, yes, it is technically possible, but a snail would have gotten to the other side and back before you made it across. Literally.

It is possible to go some of the way by boat - to the town of Yaviza.


After that, you are on the water to Piaogana. Which looks.. exciting.


(image credit: Student Charity)

At which point, your travels are going to look a lot like below, because there are no big easy waterways to take, typically transport is on small streams.



According to the Nat Geo writer:
"You have to hire a boat man, who will take you while he can. Then somebody else is supposed to guide you across some dry land to the next boat owner, and so on. So you should carry lots of cash to pay to these people... "

also according to him:

"The Darien Gap is an extremely dangerous place—it's probably the most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere, definitely in Colombia. It's used as a conduit for drugs. There are no police there, there's no military, the trails aren't marked. Unless you have a lot of experience in Colombia, I wouldn't suggest it.

[For the most part] the jungle there is not viewed as a place that is pristine and beautiful—it's looked at as a place where you get killed... I mean, I know how you can hike the Darien now. But you have to have a group of armed men with you."

It is quite literally, the end of the road. And it will likely remain that way. There are indigenous populations to protect, and the area is incredibly ecologically diverse and one of the few blank spots on the development map still left in the Western Hemisphere. But perhaps the biggest reason why you wont be seeing anything soon is that the US does not really support the building of a road. A road would make trafficking from Columbia up through central America and into Mexico much much easier. And that is not seen as a good thing. So until the regions leading exports no longer come off the posters of the DEA, it looks like the Pan-American highway will retain its one 90km gap.


Unique giant iguana species:


(image credit: David Olson)

Great plants like this Hot Lips, Psychotria and another white "not-sure-what-it-is":


(image credit: Diana Bradshaw)

Insects are weird there too: see these tree-hoppers and harversters:

10 Strangest Weather Phenomenon

This is pulled from another site, but had to share here, damn interesting:

1. Gravity Wave

The undulating pattern of a gravity wave must seem a bizarre sight, especially if you’re more used to seeing waves of the water, not in the sky. Seldom seen gravity waves are caused when air is displaced in the vertical plain, usually as a result of updrafts coming off the mountains or during thunderstorms.

gravity wave cloudPhoto:
Unusual image of a wave cloud forming off Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean, December 2005.
NASA

A wave pattern will only be generated when the updraft air is forced into a stable air pocket. The upward momentum of the draft triggers into the air pocket causes changes in the atmosphere, altering the fluid dynamics. Nature then tries to restore the fluid changes within the atmosphere, which present in a visible oscillating pattern within the cloud.

gravity wavePhoto:
Glen Talbot

Time Lapse footage of Gravity Wave:

2. Katabatic Winds

Derived from the Greek word ‘katabatikos’, which means going downhill, the katabatic winds carry high density air from high elevations down slopes under the force of gravity, sometimes reaching hurricane speeds.

katabatic windPhoto:

Katabatic winds are found in many parts of the world. Their name changes depending on where they are located and how they’re formed but the some of the better known are the Bora in the Adriatic, the Mistral in the Mediterranean and the Santa Ana in California.

katabatic windsPhoto:

In Antarctica the winds are at their strongest and most fierce. Air directly above the chilly surface is cooled by radiation, and since air becomes denser at lower temperatures it flows downwards naturally, close to the ground. The effects are enhanced in the Antarctic due to much colder temperatures, resulting in rapid drops in the surrounding air temperature that then cause the flow of air to speed up. The winds in Antarctica have been measured at over 200 mph, making them some of the strongest winds measured on the planet at ground level, even greater than some of the most treacherous tornadoes.

Video of Katabatic Winds in action:

3. Supercell

Going purely by the name, Supercell sounds as cool as it is. It is the name given to a continuously rotating updraft deep within a severe thunderstorm (a mesocyclone) and looks downright scary.

huge supercellPhoto:
Mark Humpage via Winchecter Weather

Supercells are usually isolated storms, which can last for hours, and sometimes can split in two, with one storm going to the left of the wind and one to the right. They can spout huge amounts of hail, rain and wind and are often responsible for tornados, though they can also occur without tornados. Supercells are often carriers of giant hailstones and although they can occur anywhere in the world they’re most frequent in the Great Plains of the US.

supercell2Photo:
NOAA

4. Giant Hailstones

Of all the crazy weather phenomenon that blasts the planet, a giant hailstorm would be the most likely to cause direct personal injury, judging by the size of the hailstones in these images anyway. Just imagine being pelted from a great height with hundreds of hard golf balls and the only thing you have for protection is a flimsy umbrella!

hailstonesPhoto:
SRHWeather

Giant hailstones occur when compacted snow is blown upwards as well as downwards, further compacting the snow, producing even bigger hailstones. Obviously hailstones this heavy can’t hang around in the clouds for too long so they soon precipitate out and fall to the ground.

Cross Section of Giant Hailstone:
cross section hailPhoto:
McGrawHill Encyclopedia

The largest hailstones, which are formed under very unusual atmospheric conditions, are called megacryometeors and have been known to reach up to 25lbs (10 kg).

hailstonesPhoto:
FJ60SMB

5. Non-Aqueous Rain

Although a well-known phenomenon, non-aqueous rain is seldom reported or documented but when it is a media frenzy usually ensues, although with cries of the world ending.

fish rainPhoto:

A shower of frogs in Wiltshire, England made the headlines in 1939, as did a coal storm in 1983 when a number of yachtsmen in Dorset regaled stories of lumps of coal falling from the sky. But one of the most bizarre events is a recurring shower of fish that falls between the months of May and July in the Honduran Departamento de Yoro. Now called the Festival de la Lluvia de Peces – Rain of Fish Festival, the people of Yoro celebrate the free fish offerings every year.

Yoro man cooking fish that fell from the sky:
raining fish bbqPhoto:
Image via Oddee

It is generally thought that the animals (or minerals) are sucked up by powerful updrafts during a storm and then spat out with heavy rains, though meteorologists are still investigating the phenomena.

6. Snow Donuts

The spherical snow rings known as snow donuts, or snow rollers, only happen when conditions are perfect. The temperature must be around freezing, the snow easily packable and there must be strong winds. A bit of a hill always helps too.
snow donutsPhoto:
These strange looking snow donuts were snapped in Ajax, Ontario.

When the snow falls, especially if there are imperfections or tufts on the ground, the winds blow the snow around. Where there are imperfections, little snowballs start to form naturally. They grow and gather as gusting winds blow them along the ground. Small holes then develop in the centre where the first snow gathered as it’s less compacted and is easily blown away by the force of the wind, turning the snowballs into snow donuts large enough to make even Homer Simpson happy.

Snow Rollers:
snow rollerPhoto:
Olev Mihkelmaa

7. Red Sprites and Blue Jets

Appearing as cone bursts, glows or bright discharges, blue jets and red sprites occur only in the upper atmosphere, and are therefore very faint and often not visible to the naked eye.

diagramPhoto:
Eurekalert

These natural phenomena have a lifespan of only a few hundred milliseconds at most so capturing them on camera is very difficult. However, the Danish National Space Centre have placed cameras on mountain tops to study how elves and sprites are created, how often they occur and what it means for the environment.

Red Sprite:
red spritePhoto:
NASA
Red Sprites are found above large thunderstorms and are often associated with larger cloud-to-ground lightning flashed. They are at their most luminous high in the atmosphere and last only a few thousandths of a second.

Blue Jet:
blue spritePhoto:
Brett's Weather Blog
Blue jets are discharged around thunderstorms and extend for many miles up into the atmosphere. It’s thought they provide a mechanism for energy transfer between thunderclouds and the lower ionosphere.

8. Fire Whirls

Fire whirls often occur during bush fires. Vertical rotating columns of fire form when the air currents and temperature are just right, creating a tornado-like effect. They can be as high as 30 to 200 ft tall and up to 10 ft wide but only last a few minutes, although some can last for longer if the winds are strong.

fire whirlPhoto:
Photographer Unknown

Fire Tornados caught on film:

9. St Elmo's Fire

If you’re a child of the ‘80s, you’d be forgiven in thinking that there’s only one St Elmo’s Fire – a cool cult brat pack movie starring all the best actors of Generation X, but it’s background is actually much more scientific.

st elmos firePhoto:

To quote from Wikipedia, “St. Elmo's fire is an electrical weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge originating from a grounded object in an atmospheric electric field (such as those generated by thunderstorms or thunderstorms created by a volcanic explosion).”

St Elmo's Fire on cockpit of plane:

It often appears on lightning rods and plane wings, anything that can be electrically charged during a thunderstorm, especially the masts of ships. When in strife during high storms at sea, sailors would pray for divine intervention and would often be treated with the presence of a small guiding light, thought to be the spirit of St Ermo, or St Erasmus, the patron saint of Mediterranean sailors. Over the years the pronunciation of the name was lost in translation, which soon became known as St Elmo.

10. Ball Lightning

Ball lightning is so rare that few good recordings of it exist, and because it doesn’t last for very long there is little chance to study it, so there is no one accepted theory on how, or why, it occurs.

ball lightningPhoto:
Thinkquest

The ball often moves much slower than normal lightning, is mostly red, orange or yellow in color and can vary in size, from a golf ball up to a basketball (although there have been reports of some being eight feet in diameter).

Ball Lightning Compilation:

Stories of the paranormal and UFOs often surround ball lightning sightings because they seem to float in the atmosphere. Check out About’s Paranormal section for some strange first-hand accounts.