US Army Shoots Lightning (!) Down a Laser Beam (!!)

By Gary Cutlack on at

Here's what happens when a bunch of kids who played Quake III all day on their university computers grow up and get jobs in the real world -- lightning guns.

The Laser-Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) uses a Laser guide to locate its target, generating a very short (two-trillionths of a second) burst of light some 50 billion watts in intensity. The electrical current will then lock on to anything that conducts electricity better than the surrounding air, like the chassis of vehicle or the tooth fillings of a terrorist, then make it melt/explode pretty promptly.

George Fischer, the lead developer on the project, explained: "If a laser beam is intense enough, its electro-magnetic field is strong enough to rip electrons off of air molecules, creating plasma. This plasma is located along the path of the laser beam, so we can direct it wherever we want by moving a mirror." [US Army via BBC]