Physicists Controlled Lightning with Lasers on a Mountaintop


The car-sized laser can shoot up to 1,000 pulses per second.

LAST YEAR MARKED the 270th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod — but it’s more than a relic of history. The Franklin rod remains in use today because the simple design exploits some powerful physics: A tall metal rod lures in lightning and chunky wires dissipate the storm’s energy into the earth, sparing humans and surrounding structures.

But thanks to recent physics breakthroughs, a wild new technology could end the rod’s lightning safety monopoly.

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