You think China inducing rain to prevent a washed-out Olympics is impressive? Whatever. Check this out: a group of scientists has just shot a laser into some clouds and triggered lightning.
The scientists used "laser pulses to create plasma filaments that could conduct electricity," creating electrical activity within the clouds in a passing thunderstorm in New Mexico. No air-to-ground lightning was created due to how short-lived the filaments were, but now that they know what they're doing it's only a matter of time before they make that one happen.
Jérôme Kasparian, one of the scientists involved with the project, told me that they'd be able to consistently conjure up air-to-ground lightning within "5 to 10 years. This includes the development of a new, 10 times more powerful laser, for better ionisation of the air, its test in laboratory and field campaigns."
Naturally, the first thing that came to my mind when hearing about forced lightning was: when can I use it to smite my enemies? Unfortunately, unless I'm hanging out with my enemy at the time, this will be a bad idea. "Let us leave this for James Bond. In fact, the laser would be able to attract lightning to itself (or near to itself) by providing an easy path for the lightning strike. If you would like to trigger a lightning on a target, you would have to have your beam go from the target to the thundercloud— this is not an easy configuration."
Don't shy away from a challenge, Jérôme. [Eurekalert]