Three months ago I was contacted by Henning Kuersten, a German computer scientist, psychologist and mountain climber. He wanted to consult with me about a strange case that he extensively investigated regarding an incident that happened in the Ural Mountains, Russia, 62 years ago.
Some background on the case: A group of expert mountaineers did an expedition to one of those mountains, but never came back. Later they were all found dead and their bodies presented signs of a violent death.
In spite of the official explanations of the authorities, after a very meticulous investigation Kuersten recently found that the true cause of the wounds that were found on the bodies were due to something other than simple avalanche and frost. After searching and finding a large amount of documentation – including photos, video footage and eyewitness reports – and after a scrupulous image analysis and comparative analysis with similar effects, he found that the cause of death was a sudden and intense thermal outburst probably due to a physical phenomenon that resembled ball lightning.
One of the merits of this author is that of having brought order to an affair that has remained very confused for over six decades. And this relentless investigation leans towards a rational explanation in terms of a natural, rare and highly energetic phenomenon, of which so far several physical theories have been proposed. What Kuersten was able to deduced from what happened on Mount Kholat Syakhl represents one more piece towards a full physical explanation of the ball lightning phenomenon in terms of its observed characteristics, especially its effects on humans.
Due to this reason, it was very intellectually stimulating to discuss with Kuersten his findings on the case, to the point that I felt pushed to put forward some additional interpretative hypotheses that could explain several reports of the phenomenon. Some of its manifestations (especially its similarities to cases occurring elsewhere in the world) might be easily interpreted as “actions by aliens” by some UFO investigators. In reality, they can be explained as consequences of particular dynamical configurations of ball lightning, indeed a natural phenomenon, strange as it is.
Due to the involved strong energetics, a full knowledge of ball lightning and similar phenomena will surely open a new chapter of the book of physics. I have recently become an affiliate researcher of the Galileo Project, directed by astronomer Prof. Avi Loeb: using the methods of exact science we are trying to prove or disprove that Earth has been visited by a possible extraterrestrial intelligence and its technology. Of course I do not exclude this possibility, but at the same time I realize very well that we have to verify first all the possible causes of a given phenomenon, and in most cases the explanation is natural. This is the path of rational and explorative science, where observational and theoretical objectivity is on the top of everything. Sometimes what we call “noise” – opposed to the “signal” that we are searching for – can become a “serendipitous signal” of something else that is equally interesting for our knowledge of the world that surrounds us.
All this said, I strongly recommend Henning Kuersten’s book. Its really enthralling reading and extremely well written and focused in the style of a scientific Sherlock Holmes-like investigation, especially knowing that this work is written by an author with scientific background as well as with a solid experience in mountaineering.