Career: Building lightning-resistant objects
Learn to: Catch lightning—millions of volts of it
At the Lightning Lab, a group of students and researchers work around the clock all summer to trigger lightning during passing storms. A thin wire attached to a rocket acts as a kind of fuse, coaxing a bolt of lightning down the so-called plasma channel to the grounded metal launcher. There the lab's sensor networks help solve such mysteries as the cause of each stroke's unique electromagnetic field, or how a direct hit will affect underground cables. But triggering lightning is not as easy as it sounds.
Lab co-director Vladimir Rakov says the students are lucky if they get 40 strokes of lightning per season, and many of those could happen during the same storm. Five years ago, students in the Lightning Lab helped make one of the decade's biggest discoveries: that most lightning emits x-rays. Today, students are still trying to figure out why by building new x-ray-sensor networks.
Web site: University of Florida