Since "The Avengers" is a giant movie this year, when you think of something that shoots lightning, you might think of Thor.  If so, perhaps your clever joke would be "Can we name that Laser-Induced Plasma Channel "Mjolnir"?

If you're old like me, "Star Trek" will be more your thing and "Set your phasers to fry" will be more your speed.(1)

You'd better get ready either way. Researchers at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey are  developing a weapon that will shoot lightning bolts down laser beams to destroy the target, according to, the official homepage of the US Army. 

Lasers and lightning together?  It will delight Organic Weapons proponents and future thinkers alike. 

A guided lightning bolt travels horizontally, then hits a car when it finds the lower resistance path to ground. The lightning is guided in a laser-induced plasma channel, then it deviates from the channel when it gets close to the target and has a lower-resistance path to ground.  Link:

 "We never got tired of the lightning bolts zapping our simulated (targets)," lead scientist George Fischer told
Jason Kaneshiro at  Well, who would? 

"Light travels more slowly in gases and solids than it does in a vacuum," explained Fischer. "We typically think of the speed of light in each material as constant. There is, however, a very small additional intensity-dependent factor to its speed. In air, this factor is positive, so light slows down by a tiny fraction when the light is more intense. If a laser puts out a pulse with modest energy, but the time is incredibly tiny, the power can be huge. During the duration of the laser pulse, it can be putting out more power than a large city needs, but the pulse only lasts for two-trillionths of a second."

As in 50 billion watts of optical power, he said. Whew. That's a lot of light bulbs.

"If a laser beam is intense enough, its electro-magnetic field is strong enough to rip electrons off of air molecules, creating plasma," said Fischer. "This plasma is located along the path of the laser beam, so we can direct it wherever we want by moving a mirror."

While Laser-Induced Plasma Channel is great for the military, when will we see a home version?  Here is LIPC in what could be the most awesome game of office laser tag ever.


(1) If you are a Star War IV Jar-Jar Binks fan, though, there is no hope for you.