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Laser triggers lightning in a thunderstorm

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Lyon, France, April 16, 2008
European scientists say they have, for the first time, triggered electrical activity in a thunderstorm by aiming high-power laser light into the clouds.

The experiment was conducted at Langmuir Laboratory in New Mexico, on top of 10,500-foot South Baldy Mountain. The laboratory is equipped to measure atmospheric electrical discharges.

The scientists used laser pulses to create plasma filaments that could conduct electricity. They said that although no cloud-to-ground lightning was triggered because the filaments were too short-lived, the laser pulses generated discharges within the thunderclouds.

"This was an important first step toward triggering lightning strikes with laser beams," said Jerome Kasparian of the University of Lyon in France, who led the study. "It was the first time we generated lightning precursors in a thundercloud."

The next step of generating full-blown lightning strikes, he said, might come after the lasers are reprogrammed to use more sophisticated pulse sequences that will make longer-lived filaments.

The study that included researchers from the University of Geneva, Switzerland; the National Higher School of Advanced Technology and the Polytechnique School in France; the Free University of Berlin; and the Dresden-Rossendorf Research Center in Germany is available in the online journal Optics Express.

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Radio Wave Cooling Offers New Twist On Laser Cooling
Gaithersburg MD (SPX) Sep 24, 2007
Visible and ultraviolet laser light has been used for years to cool trapped atoms-and more recently larger objects-by reducing the extent of their thermal motion. Now, applying a different form of radiation for a similar purpose, physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have used radio waves to dampen the motion of a miniature mechanical oscillator containing more than a quadrillion atoms, a cooling technique that may open a new window into the quantum world using smaller and simpler equipment.

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