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Shooting lasers at the sky can make the germ of a rain cloud, a new study shows. In an experiment that smacks of science fiction, scientists used a high-powered laser to squeeze water from air, both indoors and out.
Although the technique is unlikely to be an instant rainmaker anytime soon, it could plant the seeds for more eco-friendly cloud manipulation.
“It’s just like when you take a shower with hot water — it’s very humid in your bathroom, but it’s not raining,” Kasparian says. Water droplets need a surface to condense on, like a mirror in a bathroom or a speck of dust or pollen in the atmosphere.
Previous experimenters hoped droplets would form around flakes of silver, salt or other materials just like on a bathroom mirror. “The idea is, you provide more condensation nuclei, you get more condensation,” Kasparian says. “It seems obvious, but in practice no one could really prove that it works.”