Laser-powered rain: sounds too awesome to be true

Here in Seattle (welcome!) we have no problem getting enough rain. Lasers are not necessary. But this international project studying the effect of high-power lasers on mistifying the atmosphere could still help a lot of areas where rainclouds are shy. The effect, which has no cool name yet, comes from the fact that high-energy beams like terawatt lasers and cosmic rays will knock electrons off water molecules, which end up lopsided chargewise and glom together, forming the rudiments of a raindrop.

Now, don’t go expecting a personal raincloud device in SkyMall any time soon: the power required for such a beam is immense, and of course if you pointed it in your eye… well, we’ve seen what lasers can do. The technology is still totally just a lab thing right now, and of course there’s more to making it rain than just making water molecules stick together. It helps to be smug, for instance, which is probably why it’s so wet here in the Northwest.