Reinventing Ben Franklin’s 1749 innovative rod
Ric Edelman: It's Wednesday, July 26th. Lightning strikes 40 million times in the United States every year. Our main defense, the lightning rod. It was invented by Benjamin Franklin. He himself was saved twice by his own invention. It works really well if you're inside a building. But how do you protect yourself when you're out in the land? You know, how do you protect acres of land or a wind farm or an airport or a spaceship launching pad?
Lightning caused 25,000 fires last year, killed a quarter of a million people, injuring a million people. Caused half $1 billion in property damage. Well, now scientists think they have a way to prevent lightning strikes. They've pointed a laser beam into the sky from a mountaintop in Switzerland. It's a laser lightning rod. The laser beam turns air into an electrical conductor when the laser fires, it creates charged particles and that attracts lightning. The lightning hits the beam and follows it to the ground, just like Ben Franklin's lightning rod. This is a very high powered laser. It fires a thousand times a second. Each pulse lasts one trillionth of a second. It doesn't consume much power, only about ten kilowatts, the same as a commercial oven, but you can burn stone with it. That's a pretty powerful laser.
The biggest problem with the technology? Well, if you aim the laser into the sky, you could harm pilots. So they're working on it to try to figure it out. But if they do figure it out, we might be able to prevent wildfires. Pretty cool tech idea, isn't it?