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To Control Lightning

In their effort for greater understanding of lightening strikes, a team of European scientists is getting out of the lab and moving forward on their 2004 research in a quest to use high power laser pulses to trigger electrical activity in actual thunderclouds. The powerful lasers create ionized channels known as plasma filaments in the atmosphere, which will conduct electricity. According to Jérôme Kasparian of the University of Lyon in France; "It was the first time we generated lighting precursors in a thundercloud."
Though these strikes were only generated within a cloud, the scientists hope to fine-tune the lasers to create filaments lasting long enough to produce air to ground strikes. If successful, the research will be used in lightning sensitivity testing for airplanes and power lines.

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I remember seeing something on discovery channel many years ago about a team of researchers who would launch a model rocket trailing a thin wire from a high peak into the frequent thunderstorms that would pass by the location. It was, I have to say, probably the coolest job imaginable; here were these grad students, sitting in a lab on top of a mountain in a thunderstorm, blasting away heavy metal music on the stereo—and when the time is right, someone would hammer down a large red button and launch a rocket into the clouds, calling the lightning from the sky… The wires would trail down into buckets of sand, allowing them to study the coral-like patterns of glass melted into them by the lightning strikes.

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