Can Humans Control Lightning?

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Zeus was the greek god of the sky and ruler
of the Olympian gods, but he also had quite a knack for handling lighting. Could humans
ever harness the power of a God? Could we ever control lightning? Hey guys Julia here for Dnews Lightning is one of the most fearsome and
enigmatic forces of nature. Since Benjamin Franklin first flew his kite into the stormy
sky some night long ago, we’ve be fascinating by the idea of taming lightning. Cloud-to-ground lightning bolts are a common
phenomenon—about 100 strike Earth’s surface every single second with a force of a billion
volts of electricity. Which can do some nasty damage to stuff on the ground. and some studies
show that lightning could increase by 50% thanks to global warming. Lightning happens because storm clouds are
charged in the atmosphere. The top tends to be positive and the bottom negative. But I
won’t go into all the details because Traces explains it all in this great episode right
here. With incidents of lightning on the rise, it
makes sense that we would want to control it. What if we could direct the path of lightning?
Well not surprising, but scientists are working on it. Specifically they are working on controlling
lightning WITH LASERS. Back in 2008 a bunch of French scientists
took huge lasers into the New Mexican Desert. When they fired them into storm clouds they
noticed that they increased electrical activity in the cloud. Unfortunately, lightning didn’t
happen. So they scaled things down and took it back
to the lab. In another experiment they fired an electrical charge between two electrodes.
Normally the charge would go straight from electrode to electrode. But by firing a laser
5 to 20 centimetres close to the electrode, the charge jumped to the laser before hitting
the other electrode. This showed that lasers could have some effect on the trajectory of
an electrical charge. Okay yeah so nothing that terribly exciting,
BUT in a more recent study published in the journal Science Advances, other researchers
harnessed more control over the trajectory of an electrical charge. In a proof of concept experiment the researchers
fired charges between two electrodes only centimeters apart. The fired a laser through
that electrical charge to guide its path. The lasers ionize the air, and as a charge
goes between the electrodes, it follows the path of the least resistance, along the trajectory
determined by the laser beam. They used several types of laser beams, to
create differently shaped paths. Gaussian beam, Bessel beam, and an Airy beam. In the
Gaussian beam the charge looked kind of like a normal charge (butuuuuuttt). In the Bessel
beam made the charge follow a straight path. An airy beam made the charge follow a parabola
shape. Putting two airy beams together made the charge follow a sweet s shape. But what’s really cool is that Airy and
Bessel type beams self heal. Meaning that once they encounter an obstacle, they can
go around it and reform like nothing even happened. So the charge wasn’t stopped by
something in its way. So yeah we’re talking on the scale of centimeters.
Nothing that dramatic, humans won’t be Zeus quite yet. So while it’s a long way away
from controlling lightning it’s certainly a cool start! So remember how I mentioned how global warming
is causing more lightning? Matt Lieberman has more on that in this DNews episode right

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