Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
News Idle Science Technology

Swiss Researchers Try to Make it Rain With Lasers 139

Posted by samzenpus
from the rain-makers dept.
formaggio writes "Last year a team of researchers at Switzerland's University of Geneva had come up with an interesting way of making it rain– by shooting lasers high up into the sky. At the time it seemed like science fiction, but now they are one step closer after the team successfully finished tests around Lake Geneva. From the article: 'Records from 133 hours of firings revealed that intense pulses of laser light created nitric acid particles in the air that behaved like atmospheric glue, binding water molecules together into droplets and preventing them from re-evaporating. Within seconds, these grew into stable drops a few thousandths of a millimeter in diameter: too small to fall as rain, but large enough to encourage the scientists to press on with the work.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Swiss Researchers Try to Make it Rain With Lasers

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2011 @05:51AM (#37273300)

    While they weren't able to make rain fall they did make 34 pigeons, 12 sparrows, 334 bees and 1 hanglider fall from the sky...

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      ...and a whole lot of nitric acid.

    • Yes, and the people who were near the where the lasers impacted the earth at the end of their ballistic trajectory were not amused.

    • by geoskd (321194)

      While they weren't able to make rain fall they did make 34 pigeons, 12 sparrows, 334 bees and 1 hanglider fall from the sky...

      I've said it before and I'll say it again...

      Stop trying to solve engineering problems with frickin' laser beams.

      -=Geoskd

  • Flood the Sahara (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If only there were a way to divert all the clouds from the places that get too much rainfall and flooding, and have them all over the Sahara, as well as the Arabian peninsula. Would make that entire continent more agriculture rich, and solve food distribution issues in the region. While at the same time, giving the heavily rained on regions some respite!
    • What they should build are vast farms of passive air condensers, much cheaper and have low maintenance requirement. Start by building them west coast of Sahara and move inland.
    • by tokul (682258)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desalination [wikipedia.org]
      And stop solving food distribution issues by draining Chad or Aral Sea
    • by Xest (935314) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @07:10AM (#37273638)

      Yes, then that way the dust that blows across the Atlantic from the Sahara to fertilize the Amazon can stop, and whilst Africa becomes a luscious new area of growth the whole of the Amazon can just die off.

      Really, fucking around with things that can have such a massive, potentially unknown effect elsewhere isn't a smart idea at all because you can just end up making things worse.

      Other parts of the world depend on the Sahara being like the Sahara is, so if you change the Sahara, you change those other parts of the world. In boosting food supplies in Africa you damage the food supplies in say South America, and create a problem there instead.

      • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @07:36AM (#37273752) Homepage

        > Other parts of the world depend on the Sahara ...

        Yep. I've got hurricanes on the mind lately, so here's just one example that might not immediately occur to more normal people (I'm definitely abnormal): sometimes, you'll have a storm brewing in the Atlantic, but intensity will be inhibited by dry Saharan air mixing into the core. If you remove that dry air, we might have stronger hurricanes.

        Of course, then someone will decide to blow lasers or set off nukes in the storm to compensate. What could POSSIBLY go wrong then? :)

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        In boosting food supplies in Africa you damage the food supplies in say South America, and create a problem there instead.

        Which might bother the Africans if they weren't largely subsistence farmers.

      • by afidel (530433)
        The Amazon was just fine from 10,000BC to 5,500BC while the area currently part of the Sahara ranged from lush to semi-arid.
        • by Xest (935314)

          It depends what you mean by "just fine".

          Certainly it wasn't the same ecosystem it is now, and certainly removing fertilization from the sahara would decrease south american biomass and reduce biodiversity.

          If you mean it'd still have some green stuff there then yes, you're probably right, but how much, and how diverse would be the fundamental problem. Would biomass increase in Africa occur quickly enough to deal with the resultant decrease in South America, and hence the potential imbalances in CO2 capture,

      • Other parts of the world depend on the Sahara being like the Sahara is, so if you change the Sahara, you change those other parts of the world.

        And my straw reaches acroooooooss the room, and starts to drink your milkshake ... I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!

    • I think you'd need more than water...you need neutrients as well. The reason that agriculture flourished along the banks of the Nile while all around was desert was thanks only in part to the water - it also owed a lot to the soil and neutrients that got washed downriver in the annual floodwaters as well. Water != agricultural viability
    • This problem was already discussed in the early 1970's by a very naive college student to the college age descendents of the various OPEC ministers. The "solution" is simple. Have the various OPEC countries place Desalination plants along their respective cost lines. The fresh water the population doesn't use, then pump that water out into various parts of the deserts. Their reply was, "how does one pump the water?", my reply,(at the time), "use the same motors that Tankers use as pumps, because these e
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Stupid swiss should better stick to making chocolate !!

  • Surely we can build a device to target individual raindrops and evaporate them with a laser? They can already do it with mortars, afaik. Perhaps I should petition the government for funding - think of the boost to Scottish tourism if the weather here was predictable more than 5 minutes in advance!
  • And they will call this the Laser Age!

  • ... with their head mounted lasers. The horror.
  • Nitric acid [wikipedia.org] raining from the sky sounds no good at all to me.
    But maybe I'm not so good at science to understand the pros of such a rain.

    • Depends on how much they end up generating... Nitric acid isn't especially stable at even modest temperatures, and exposure to sunlight doesn't help its stability any, so you could get away with generating modest quantities; but it doesn't take all that much pH depression before exterior stonework and/or trees start whining.
    • Re:Is this safe? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @07:25AM (#37273702)

      Compounds like nitric acid act as nucleation sites for rain already. It'd be no more acidic than natural precipitation.

      • by aglider (2435074)

        There will definitely be more nitric acid than natural. They are pushing hard to increase it above the natural concentration.

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          Right, you still have to deal with dicking with the nitrogen cycle, but at least the pH of the rain will be normal.

  • We won't like it when it's going to rain sharks all of a sudden!

  • by foobsr (693224)

    Presumably they were testing the equipment in Europe this year, thus summer failed to happen.

    CC.

    • by Pieroxy (222434)

      Presumably they were testing the equipment in Europe this year, thus summer failed to happen.

      It sure happened! it was the 17th of August.

  • Doctor Frankenstein was from Geneva. Nothing like his descendants firing lasers into thunderclouds. Now witness the firepower of this FULLY ARMED and OPERATIONAL battlestation!
  • by will_die (586523) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @06:26AM (#37273426) Homepage
    but I hear they have made a nice CH engraved in the moon.
  • there is a theory that is backed up by research by scientists at CERN that cosmic rays from the sun help in promoting the formation of clouds, the scientists at CERN is not offering much press on this because of the climate-change/global-warming religion that is so firmly entrenched in mainstream media and liberally biased US colleges...
    • by dvoecks (1000574)
      Just make sure you don't try to pick up the "precipitation" too soon, or you're going to get punched.
    • It's warranted, my friend. It's warranted.

      Some moderators don't understand the concept of "humor", but a lot of them do. Roll dem dice! :)

  • I think that I saw this already, in the land of Malaria, an Evil Scientist (Why are they always Evil?) creates a rain machine (Fires pink beams into the sky) and causes it to rain ALL the time.......causing a situation where Evil science projects are the country's only source of income........and the Igor saves the day/country/his lot in life/, in the end by destroying it.
    • I think that I saw this already, in the land of Malaria, an Evil Scientist (Why are they always Evil?) creates a rain machine (Fires pink beams into the sky) and causes it to rain ALL the time.......causing a situation where Evil science projects are the country's only source of income........and the Igor saves the day/country/his lot in life/, in the end by destroying it.

      I saw that too. I thought it was a travel documentary about Scotland.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    We would get arrested [npr.org] if we were shooting lasers into the sky, and one happened to shine into an airplane cockpit.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm not sure how the strippers are going to feel about this...

    • Maybe they can use energy-collecting thongs that absorb the lasers and then they can sell the power back to the grid. Couple that with using the same material for the floor around the pole, the club sells that power back and repays the strippers based on how many watts were collected during their act.

  • ... and the following famines and potential warfare.

    We already see this with dams on rivers which are vital to the down streams countries and people. If it became realistically possible to control the rain, we would start to see countries affecting each others rain fall, especially due to fairly predictable overall wind patterns.

    I'm not saying there aren't positive possibilities, but there is massive scope for negative consequences and if this became viable technology it is something the UN would have to b

  • Not that the area above lake Geneva was one of the most crowded airspaces in Europe or anything.

    Still, I welcome our rain-making overlords.

  • Fascinating story but, my question is, what sensory apparatus are they using to measure "stable drops a few thousandths of a millimeter in diameter" in the resulting atmosphere?

    They seem to have neglected to mention their prior discovery, The Star Trek Duotronic Sensor Array...

  • If the total energy/financial cost of causing rain is more than the cost of transporting water via conventional means, then it's not really practical.
  • So let's say we're in drought-stricken West Texas and you zap the clouds and make it rain. But that rain would have originally fallen on central or east Texas. To whom does the rain water belong?

    • by Animats (122034)

      That's a real issue. Santa Clara County, CA, which used to be a major agricultural area before Silicon Valley took it over, had, for decades, a rain-making operation. [ametsoc.org] Several hundred silver-iodide generators were spread around the county, and, when conditions were right, the call went out to turn them on. This increased rain in the agricultural valley, while reducing it in the barren inland hills. The end result was about 10% more rain.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      To whom does the rain water belong?

      Billy Bob.

    • So let's say we're in drought-stricken West Texas and you zap the clouds and make it rain. But that rain would have originally fallen on central or east Texas. To whom does the rain water belong?

      Stop being smart. You're ruining the stock values. :)

      HUMOR, people. HUMOR.

  • I think the research should continue... In Texas!
    • by boristdog (133725)

      I'm-a go out this evening and fire every damn laser pointer I gots into the air tonight...It may not work but it will drive the cats completely nuts.

  • It will never work. They need to have prayer meetings like we do here in Texas. That always works.

    Oh wait.

    • It will never work. They need to have prayer meetings like we do here in Texas. That always works.

      Oh wait.

      Well, it will eventually.

      Maybe not today, maybe not this year.... but damnit, it will! :>

      HUMOR, HUMOR.

  • stable drops a few thousandths of a millimeter in d

    How many Olympic-sized swimming pools is that?

It is impossible to travel faster than light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off. -- Woody Allen

Working...