Scientists Steer Lightning Bolts With Lasers

Image copyright: AFP/Getty Images [via The Guardian]

The Facts

  • On Monday, the journal Nature Photonics published a report in which scientists demonstrated that a laser beam could be used to guide the path of lightning. The report claims that powerful lasers could potentially reroute lightning strikes away from critical locations and be an alternative to lightning rods.

  • In experiments, scientists demonstrated this ability by firing powerful laser pulses from the top of a Swiss mountain during severe storms over several months in 2022.

The Spin

Narrative A

Lightning strikes are a daily and dangerous occurrence, although ironically, research indicates that this will become a diminishing threat with climate change. For now, however, 40-100 lightning strikes happen every second across the globe. An airplane is struck by lightning about once in every thousand flight hours. It's prudent to explore laser technology as an upgrade over traditional metal lightning rods.

Narrative B

Weather alteration has a long and questionable history. US taxpayers paid $3.6M per year to fund the altering of the weather during the Vietnam War. In 1978, the Environmental Modification Convention went into effect banning weather modification during warfare. The treaty doesn't provide accountability or transparency, leaving the world's most dangerous powers to potentially violate the treaty. Without better regulation, this development is a slippery slope.

Articles on this story

Sign up to our daily newsletter