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Pentagon-funded team developing high-powered laser to trigger lightning and rain

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Researchers are working to develop a technique to trigger rain or lightning with high-energy laser beams.

Stimulating static-charged particles in clouds with the right kind of laser could summon rain or lightning, scientists believe, but lasers cannot reliably be fired great enough distances for this to be practical.

A team of scientists from the University of Central Florida and the University of Arizona think that lasers could be fired at greater distances if a secondary beam is used as an energy reservoir to prevent the breakdown of the high-intensity primary beam.

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They recently published a report, “Externally refueled optical filaments,” on their project in Nature Photonics.

Although lasers can travel great distances, they tend to collapse inward on themselves when a beam becomes too intense.

European researchers produced artificial ice clouds last year using high-power, ultrashort laser pulses focusing on cirrus clouds in the upper troposphere, where weather occurs.

But lightning strikes have not thus far been triggered by lasers because high-intensity beams are dispersed as plasma when electrons in the air’s oxygen and nitrogen are excited by the beams.

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“What would be nice is to have a sneaky way which allows us to produce an arbitrary long ‘filament extension cable,’” said Matthew Mills, a graduate student in the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers.

He said that wrapping a large, low-intensity beam around the stronger beam like a doughnut could provide this arbitrary extension.

Mills and another graduate student, Ali Miri, have been able to extend the pulse from 10 inches to about 7 feet, and they’re working to extend their laser pulses even further.

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“This work could ultimately lead to ultra-long optically induced filaments or plasma channels that are otherwise impossible to establish under normal conditions,” said professor Demetrios Christodoulides, who is working with the students on the project.

In theory, he said, this principle could extend lasers for about 165 feet.

Development of this technology was supported by a $7.5 million grant from the Department of Defense.

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The researchers say their technique could be used in long-distance sensors to divert lightning strikes away from buildings or in spectrometers that can identify chemical makeup.

Watch this video report posted online by GeoBeats News:

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[Image: Lightning strike via Shutterstock]


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Internet slams ex-Trump aide for bragging he’ll be loyal to the president when he testifies before Congress

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On Tuesday, ahead of his public testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski took to Twitter to effectively boast that he will parrot the president's talking points and offer nothing new to House Democrats — and tease an upcoming run for Senate in 2020:

Excited about the opportunity to remind the American people today there was no collusion no obstruction. There were lots of angry Democrats who tried to take down a duly elected President. Tune in. #Senate2020.

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Award-winning broadcaster Cokie Roberts dies at 75

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Veteran broadcaster Cokie Roberts has died at the age of 75 due to complications from breast cancer.

Roberts joined NPR in 1978 before moving to ABC News, and she won three Emmy Awards and was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and was cited by the American Women in Radio and Television as one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting.

"She was a true pioneer for women in journalism," said James Goldston, president of ABC News, "well-regarded for her insightful analysis of politics and policy in Washington, D.C., countless newsmaking interviews, and, notably, her unwavering support for generations of young women — and men — who would follow in her footsteps."

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Millennials are moving to Trump-backing states — and the GOP should be terrified: columnist

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Millennial voters are substantively more progressive than older generations of voters, but their political power has been diluted by the fact that many of them have been concentrated in cities in deep-blue states.

However, The Atlantic's Derek Thompson argues that this is about to change because more millennials are leaving the big blue-state cities to move out to metro areas in key states such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas.

"The five fastest-growing metros of the past few years -- Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, and Orlando, Florida -- are in states won by Trump," he writes. "The other metro areas with a population of at least 1 million that grew by at least 1.5 percent last year were Las Vegas; Austin, Texas; Orlando, Florida; Raleigh, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; San Antonio; Tampa, Florida; and Nashville, Tennessee. All of those metros are in red or purple states."

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