Paul Ronney wasn't looking for flame balls. They came as a complete surprise.
It happened in 1984 when Ronney, a combustion researcher, was at the NASA Glenn Research Center's Microgravity Drop Tower in Ohio. He pressed a button and sent a can of burning hydrogen falling down a 90 ft. shaft. For 2.2 seconds it plummeted, freely falling and weightless, with a 16mm movie camera recording the action. Ronney knew that flames did strange things in low gravity--that's why he was doing the experiment--but he wasn't prepared for what he saw in the film room later.