A Laser Lightning Killer
Lightning is pretty. But near airports, it can threaten ground crews, sending them indoors and delaying flights. Around power stations, it can cut the juice to entire cities.
Jean-Pierre Wolf, a physicist at the University of Geneva, says that new longrange lasers can travel for miles and stop electric zingers before they fry stuff. When pointed into a storm, their beams lay down a channel of low-density, ionized molecules and plasma filaments that draws electricity—just like Dr. Evil’s tractor beam seizing an asteroid—and this controls the lightning’s path.
Wolf demonstrated the beams’ effectiveness in the skies above South Baldy Mountain in New Mexico more than a decade ago. And he recently commissioned a working prototype from TRUMPF Scientific Lasers, which makes industrial and medical cutting lasers. When completed in about three years, he’ll deploy it around an actual airport or power station. The laser will be able to fire off 1,000 pulses per second—hopefully bleeding off any bolt that Zeus can hurl.
Far-Out Plans for Taming Our Weather