They say that the odds of being struck by lightning are one in a million—but all that could change thanks to a terrifying new technology.
Scientists from six research institutions have found a way to guide a lightning bolt as it fires from the sky.
A team was able to use a laser beam to 'aim' a lightning bolt at the ground from the top of a Swiss mountain.
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Now they want to start working on a way to 'trigger' lightning in order to protect strategic military installations.
The research team lugged a car-sized laser beam to the top of the 2500-meter-high Santis mountain peak in Switzerland, and have shared photos of how this was used to 'steer' the lightning bolt.
Aurelian Houard, a physicist at the ENSTA Paris institute, told AFP: "We wanted to give the first demonstration that the laser can have an influence on lightning—and it is simplest to guide it."
Houard explained that the method works because laser beams create plasma, which makes the air "partially conductive, and therefore a path preferred by the lightning".
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The laser is able to guide 'precursors' in clouds, where static electricity has built up.
The scientists behind the research believe the technique could in theory be used to not only guide but trigger lightning, making it possible to deflect it away from airports or rocket launchpads.
In the wrong hands, it's not hard to see how this could be weaponised either, with militaries harnessing the power of lightning to vanquish their targets from the skies.
Thankfully, that's still hypothetical—let's just hope nobody tells Vladimir Putin about it.
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