Scientists with frickin’ weather control lasers in their heads

From the University of Central Florida

‘Dressed’ laser aimed at clouds may be key to inducing rain, lightning

UCF, Arizona researchers extend length of high-intensity laser with hope of stimulating showers

The adage “Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it,” may one day be obsolete if researchers at the University of Central Florida’s College of Optics & Photonics and the University of Arizona further develop a new technique to aim a high-energy laser beam into clouds to make it rain or trigger lightning.

The solution? Surround the beam with a second beam to act as an energy reservoir, sustaining the central beam to greater distances than previously possible. The secondary “dress” beam refuels and helps prevent the dissipation of the high-intensity primary beam, which on its own would break down quickly. A report on the project, “Externally refueled optical filaments,” was recently published in Nature Photonics.

Water condensation and lightning activity in clouds are linked to large amounts of static charged particles. Stimulating those particles with the right kind of laser holds the key to possibly one day summoning a shower when and where it is needed.

Lasers can already travel great distances but “when a laser beam becomes intense enough, it behaves differently than usual – it collapses inward on itself,” said Matthew Mills, a graduate student in the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL). “The collapse becomes so intense that electrons in the air’s oxygen and nitrogen are ripped off creating plasma – basically a soup of electrons.”

At that point, the plasma immediately tries to spread the beam back out, causing a struggle between the spreading and collapsing of an ultra-short laser pulse. This struggle is called filamentation, and creates a filament or “light string” that only propagates for a while until the properties of air make the beam disperse.

IMAGE: This is an illustration of the dressed filament that fuels the high-intensity laser to travel farther.

Click here for more information.

“Because a filament creates excited electrons in its wake as it moves, it artificially seeds the conditions necessary for rain and lightning to occur,” Mills said. Other researchers have caused “electrical events” in clouds, but not lightning strikes.

But how do you get close enough to direct the beam into the cloud without being blasted to smithereens by lightning?

“What would be nice is to have a sneaky way which allows us to produce an arbitrary long ‘filament extension cable.’ It turns out that if you wrap a large, low intensity, doughnut-like ‘dress’ beam around the filament and slowly move it inward, you can provide this arbitrary extension,” Mills said.

“Since we have control over the length of a filament with our method, one could seed the conditions needed for a rainstorm from afar. Ultimately, you could artificially control the rain and lightning over a large expanse with such ideas.”

So far, Mills and fellow graduate student Ali Miri have been able to extend the pulse from 10 inches to about 7 feet. And they’re working to extend the filament even farther.

“This work could ultimately lead to ultra-long optically induced filaments or plasma channels that are otherwise impossible to establish under normal conditions,” said professor Demetrios Christodoulides, who is working with the graduate students on the project.

“In principle such dressed filaments could propagate for more than 50 meters or so, thus enabling a number of applications. This family of optical filaments may one day be used to selectively guide microwave signals along very long plasma channels, perhaps for hundreds of meters.”

Other possible uses of this technique could be used in long-distance sensors and spectrometers to identify chemical makeup. Development of the technology was supported by a $7.5 million grant from the Department of Defense.

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52 Responses to Scientists with frickin’ weather control lasers in their heads

  1. philjourdan says:

    Great! Then countries will be yelling about who is stealing the rain! Clouds only have so much rain. If you force them to drop it in one place, it will not be dropped in another.

  2. Martin A says:

    I remember that seeding clouds with silver iodide was going to make rain fall where it was needed. Whatever happened to that?

  3. WJohn says:

    I foresee a lawyer bonanza.
    As for the science
    “The collapse becomes so intense that electrons in the air’s oxygen and nitrogen are ripped off creating plasma – basically a soup of electrons.” With positively charged nuclei as croutons?
    Ah suddenly it is all clear.

  4. Berényi Péter says:

    Way back in time I have read about ephemeral plasma channels high up in the atmosphere created by micrometeorites. They were supposed to be used as antennas to distribute internet access over sparsely populated areas. Their individual lifetime may be short, but it is sufficient to transmit several packets, then one can switch to the next one. I can’t remember bandwidth figures though.

  5. sherlock1 says:

    Having experienced tropical storms in Central Florida, I’m not sure I understand why UCF should be wanting more…

  6. jlurtz says:

    Phasers ! I want one [hand held].

  7. Quinn the Eskimo says:

    “Ultimately, you could artificially control the rain and lightning over a large expanse with such ideas.” Unless, that is, you give me a jillion, ka-jillion dollars!

  8. SadButMadLad says:

    “So far, Mills and fellow graduate student Ali Miri have been able to extend the pulse from 10 inches to about 7 feet. And they’re working to extend the filament even farther.”

    So someway to go before it reaches the clouds then.

  9. lance says:

    And who will decide when and where it rains….this just will open a can of worms

  10. Patrick says:

    “SadButMadLad says:

    April 22, 2014 at 5:21 am”

    I am sure that to be able to extend anything beyond 10 inches will impress many.

  11. “So far, Mills and fellow graduate student Ali Miri have been able to extend the pulse from 10 inches to about 7 feet. And they’re working to extend the filament even farther.”

    Consensus science at its finest!!
    Peer reviewed science at its finest!!
    Settled science at its finest!!

    They are only around 3 orders of magnitude too early with their press release!

  12. Joe Born says:

    Has anyone understood how the “doughnut-like ‘dress beam’” is created? I’m guessing the illustration is not helpful in this regard (but, then, despite my surname, I don’t know much optics).

  13. Neil says:

    Why am I reminded about Queensland introducing Cane Toads to fix the problem of grey backed beetles? Or infecting rabbits with Calicivirus on Wardang Island – and the rabbits somehow making to the Australian mainland, where the virus (ineffectively) ran through the population, wiping out pet rabbits.

    Oh, now I know: If you mess with Nature you better be sure you understand the consequences of when it goes wrong…

  14. Gary says:

    And using a CO2 laser (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_laser) will satisfy IPCC requirements for human-induced climate change. /sarc

  15. Mark Bofill says:

    Forget the weather application, this is a pretty cool trick in general.

  16. Eyal Porat says:

    Martin A says:
    April 22, 2014 at 4:31 am
    I remember that seeding clouds with silver iodide was going to make rain fall where it was needed. Whatever happened to that?

    In Israel this is standard practice for years now.
    Once it was applicated by little furnaces but today only by aircraft.
    It has been said it added up to 15% to local precipitation.

  17. James Strom says:

    Cloud seeding is already widely practiced, especially by China and other Asian countries. Silver iodide is a bit worrisome because of toxicity, however. Quite a few substances have been tried, some successfully. Source? OK, I confess–Wikipedia on cloud seeding.

  18. Joshua says:

    [snip]

  19. If it could be economical and really work, they wouldn’t be interested in doing it. With the scam of “climate science” being exposed, they desperately need another scam to justify taking vast quantities of wealth from those who earn it and use it to appear to be doing something. I am sure they have planned many meetings and conferences at exotic places to discuss why they need still more funding and that they will have the problems solved in only ten more years.

    Unfortunately, it is just the sort of thing our politicians love. They can prance, dance, pontificate, tax and spend while appearing to be doing something without having responsibility for actually accomplishing anything. We rubes in flyover country buy into the scam because the magic words “Science” and “Research” are used.

    I say they should be required to pay for it themselves. Then when they can show that it really works, someone can invest in it and build a business around it. Otherwise, they and their tag along politicians can simply stuff it.

  20. Bruce Cobb says:

    Hmmm…A possible side-effect might be shattered glass.

  21. Gary says:

    This is wrong. No one should seek to directly interfere with the weather. If you force showers in one place, you rob it of its rightful place – on somebody else’s lawn. If you don’t like the weather in your clime, move. On a sarcastic note: wouldn’t them lasers explode all that CO2 up there? That stuff is dangerous.

  22. Henry Clark says:

    Cool — and reminds me of ideas for using a path of laser-produced ionized conductive air to not only act as a super lightning rod but to make a taser-like laser stun weapon without the wires.

    “Development of the technology was supported by a $7.5 million grant from the Department of Defense.”

    Ah yes, the funding source makes sense. :)

    ——

    All of modern technology and civilization is based on unnaturally messing with nature, down to the pure water people drink made by wiping out its prior natural suspension of mud and bacteria, by filtration and chlorination.

    Some actions in the past haven’t worked out well (while others have), but that’s not reason to never do anything.

    I’m not that scared about manmade weather disruptions. Like many other things, it can go right or can go wrong but probably will be of more benefit than harm on average or else not be bothered with heavily.

  23. SAMURAI says:

    Sorry guys, with Anthony’s post header, I couldn’t resist:

  24. Tom J says:

    I prefer dancing around in a circle and banging drums.

  25. Bob Shapiro says:

    Just fly the laser into the clouds on a kite as is today. No need to spend many million (or more) to make it go from the ground up to the clouds.

  26. Gary Pearse says:

    Probably can generate ozone while we are at it. Just what we need, free nuclei with our rain accelerated by a thunderbolt

  27. G. Karst says:

    Wouldn’t positive results be confirmation of the cosmic ray theory. After all, if excited electrons can produce such effect, then it seems cosmic particle bombardment would be even more profound. Someone correct me if I am off base. GK

  28. Nemo says:

    Karst, the energy levels involved are orders of magnitude different, in favor of the laser. Cosmic ray packets interfere with items on the molecular level. Lasers such as this interfere with the mass of the entire column, and all the molecules in it. While the Cosmic packet is stronger than the packets in the laser and invokes a greater state change than an individual packet from the laser, the sheer volume of packets results in an outcome you are not expecting.

    As I understand it at least.

  29. george e. smith says:

    Well if you force clouds to dissipate, by making it rain, where it isn’t supposed to, then you will have less cloud cover, and more ground level solar insolation, so it would induce global warming, where nature intended none.

    Ah, but Mother Gaia will take care of that, by warming the surface with the increased solar energy, and make more evaporation (drier soils), and more desertification.

    Wunnerful.

  30. anna white says:

    why dont they just admit HAARRP has been around since the 90,s and now they (CAN) control the weather and pollute our skys with the Chemtrails that allow HAARRP to do its dirty buisness, and drop harmful chemicals on us all!

    [it is customary when being sarcastic/sardonic/ironic to use "/sarc", thanks . . mod]

  31. tadchem says:

    “summoning a shower when and where it is needed” depends on whether or not the water is actually present. If the humidity is low the ‘rainmaking’ laser will fail.
    The laser will not alchemically transmute air into water.

  32. DD More says:

    “Because a filament creates excited electrons in its wake as it moves, it artificially seeds the conditions necessary for rain and lightning to occur,” Mills said.

    In what world does ‘lightning’ help create rain. It is a dangerous by-product of the system.

  33. alex says:

    Those death rays freaks from DoD.

  34. ATheoK says:

    “DD More says: April 22, 2014 at 8:36 am

    “Because a filament creates excited electrons in its wake as it moves, it artificially seeds the conditions necessary for rain and lightning to occur,” Mills said.

    In what world does ‘lightning’ help create rain. It is a dangerous by-product of the system.

    Is a very good question!

    Add to that, not only are storms dangerous enough with natural rain and lightning but now clueless blokes are firing off imploding lasers that cause plasma streams that allegedly cause more rain and lightning.

    Does anyone wonder what the maximum range for these imploding lasers are? More fun for aircraft and the yet untouched by wind turbines flying creatures?

    I have a suspicion that most of their results are models with small controlled conditions lab experiments.

    It is also somewhat remarkable that researchers in Arizona haven’t experienced the dry lightning storms that occur in the Southwest USA yet? Don’t these lab rats ever go outside?

    Perhaps it would just be easier if the Arizona researchers went and flew a few kites during the lightning storms. Then they could claim they’re helping to make rain… Poof!

  35. Rabe says:

    Here comes the new winner: Ladies and Gentleman, the lightning goes to…

  36. Walt The Physicist says:

    Take a look at very recent publication (http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1404/1404.3744.pdf) where it is demonstrated that theory behind the laser filament is flawed and it is impossible to create long laser filaments. These researchers already spent $1M of taxpayer’s money to “extend” filament to just 7ft. Now, they plan to spend the rest of $6.5M on something that is impossible… Great funding decision, AFOSR! (sarc.)

  37. John from the EU says:

    This is stupid. First they blame us for changing the climate and now they are doing it..

  38. Walt The Physicist says:

    @ Joe Born says:
    April 22, 2014 at 5:44 am

    Please type “AFOSR grant# FA9550-12-1-0143″ in your search and it will lead you to
    pdf file with presentation of how they plan on doing it:
    [pdf] Pavel Polynkin – APAN Community

    Utter nonsense…

  39. george e. conant says:

    This project sounds like a laser tuned to electron stream death ray tech if you ask me…. Has anyone thought about the consequences of a flock of geese flying into a tubular imploding laser fed electron field? Frying grease falls from flying geese at the wrong place at the right time….

  40. Walt The Physicist says:

    About 15 years ago Europeans spent millions initiating TERAMOBILE project with same goals and similar approach. It failed in approximately five years of its existence.

  41. Les Johnson says:

    Alberta has an active cloud seeding program, which is financed by the insurance agency. Reportedly, they have seen a 50% reduction damage from hail, since the start of the program.

    http://www.wingsmagazine.com/content/view/1555/38/

  42. Jeff says:

    If they ever got this thing working, to a distance that could even be slightly useful, I thing planes, helicopters, (drones :) ), etc. would have a problem with it…

    As the old commercial said, “It’s not nice to fool mother nature…”.

    Once again, we think we can, with a word, still the wind, but only end up …ing into it…

  43. Jeff says:

    “jlurtz says:
    April 22, 2014 at 5:07 am

    Phasers ! I want one [hand held].”

    There’s always ThinkGeek (and theirs are cheaper, too…:) ).

  44. Edohiguma says:

    How are they going to power this? Since everything but “renewable” is evil and can’t be used there can’t be a controllable, stable and efficient energy source for this.

    So how are they going to power this? Hot air from Al Gore?

  45. Gunga Din says:

    But…but…to generate the electricity to power the lasers using solar cells would require a cloudless day. So what would they shoot at? A windthingie?
    If not some sort of “green thing” then all we need to do is wait since we make the climate change all the time anyway. We just need more cash for the fine tuning.

  46. DesertYote says:

    Walt The Physicist says:
    April 22, 2014 at 11:14 am

    ###

    Well that was sure an interesting read. It was curious to see the authors finding the erroneous assumptions so early in the derivation. I guess that is why when confronted with a discrepancy, it is best to go back and start at the very beginning, working forward, without skipping any steps. I was a bit surprised by the accepted assumption of a planar wave front. I seem to remember reading, decades ago, a paper on high powered lasers that would have invalidated this assumption.

  47. Regarding suggestions that you will steal water from the air, dry air accepts water from evaporation more easily. Also, as rain falls on a dry area and promotes plant growth it does several things: it moderates surface temperature (stopping desiccation by day and freezing by night), it causes transpiration, which results in more rain (especially when combined with what is still coming in from the seas), it loosens soil and provides biomass to keep water from too quickly running out to sea.

    There is growing belief that deserts do not lack plants because they are hot and dry but they are hot and dry because they lack plants (though both trends feed back on each other, the importance of plants to the local/regional climate is likely the more important driver). Bringing moisture to an area would serve to increase the land’s moisture accumulation and retention ability. Rather than “stealing” moisture from other areas they would be kick starting more rain down wind of them. If it works.

    I wish the article had explained more about how the donuts are formed and why 50 meters is the envisioned upper limit. If the system could be shrunken, maybe multiple unmanned airships with lasers going out in a 50m radius could be spaces 100 meters apart to create a cloud forming fleet.

  48. 2soonold2latesmart says:

    Les Johnson says:
    Alberta has an active cloud seeding program. . .

    Also has a program to encourage low-till farming to prevent global warming/climate change. (/sarc)

    http://www.no-tillfarmer.com/pages/News—Carbon-Trading-Pays-For-Alberta-Farmers.php

  49. Joe Born says:

    Walt The Physicist: Thanks for the pointer. That presentation does shed more light (so to speak) on the scheme, but I’m afraid I’m not conversant enough (to put it mildly) with Bessel beams to attempt an assessment.

  50. Cold in Wisconsin says:

    Repeat my last comment on the differences between scientists and engineers.

    I’d be a little concerned about what applications the Department of Defense is contemplating for longer range laser beams.

  51. Walter Dnes says:

    > Cold in Wisconsin says:
    > April 22, 2014 at 8:04 pm
    >
    > I’d be a little concerned about what applications the Department
    > of Defense is contemplating for longer range laser beams.

    Stuff like this

    and this

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