Lightning Thief

Look out Percy Jackson, there’s a new lightning thief in town!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

From Greek mythology to Benjamin Franklin, humans have been fascinated by lightning. For centuries, lightning rods have been used to “catch” lightning, preventing fires. Unfortunately, they’re not always successful. But what if we could direct the path of lightning? 

An international team of scientists led by Aurelian Houard from ENSTA Paris says WE CAN.

Their idea? LASERS! Pew pew! They went up a mountain in Switzerland during a thunderstorm to investigate. There, they rapidly pulsed a laser into the sky next to a lightning rod. This pulsing created a charged, low-density channel of air which attracts electricity. When lightning came within fifty meters of the laser, the laser DIRECTED the lightning’s path! 

The scientists hope that this technology can be used to prevent damage caused by lightning.

Zeus better watch out, before someone steals his thunder! I mean lightning! Gah!


Houard, A., Walch, P., Produit, T., Moreno, V., Mahieu, B., Sunjerga, A., Herkommer, C., Mostajabi, A., Andral, U., André, Y.-B., Lozano, M., Bizet, L., Schroeder, M. C., Schimmel, G., Moret, M., Stanley, M., Rison, W. A., Maurice, O., Esmiller, B., … Wolf, J.-P. (2023). Laser-guided lightning. Nature Photonics.