In 1950, Senator Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico introduced a bill in the Senate to create a federal "Weather Control Commission" modeled after the Atomic Energy Commission. Its purpose would be to regulate and license rainmaking activities in order to ensure the "equitable distribution of precipitation among the States." It would also study military applications of weather control.
Anderson didn't get his Weather Control Commission, though in 1953 the federal government did create an Advisory Committee on Weather Control. And of course there are all those conspiracy theories alleging that the government is using the HAARP station up in Alaska to control the weather.
Back in 2005, MIT researcher Moshe Alamaro came up with an oddball idea to fight hurricanes: use barges equipped with upward-pointing jet engines to create tropical storms in their path. Details from The Salina Journal (July 2, 2005):
Alamaro, in cooperation with German and Russian colleagues, presented his latest idea at a weather conference in Washington earlier this year. The idea is to tow barges equipped with about 20 jet engines into a hurricane's projected path, ignite the engines with the jet pointed skyward and create updrafts and plumes that would suck up some of the heat from the ocean.
After operating for about half a day, the updraft would create a tropical storm of its own. This would cool the water through which the advancing hurricane would move and so rob a potentially deadly storm of some strength. Alamaro said there's more than an ample supply of unused jet engines on the mothballed fleets of Cold War bombers now rusting in desert junkyards in Arizona and Nevada.
Alamaro said a 10 percent reduction in a hurricane's wind speed would result in a 50 percent reduction in its power when the storm hits landfall. If it works the way Alamaro and his colleagues suggest, residents of the Atlantic and Caribbean shores might one day experience more tropical storms, but not so many hurricanes.
"What we want to do is create several tropical storms to replace the hurricane. It would not stop it completely," he said.
Maybe this would work. Or maybe the artificial tropical storms would themselves turn into hurricanes? Since Alamaro estimated it would cost around $1 billion a year to do this, it's unlikely his idea will be tested any time soon.
According to the popular science writer Louis Figueir, all the excitement about the new knowledge of electricity led to an odd trend: in his recounting, Paris in the 1770s saw a fad for ladies’ lightning-rod caps, trimmed with metallic thread connecting to a cord that dragged along the ground. The (extremely flawed) theory was that the cord would carry a lightning bolt harmlessly away from the wearer. He also writes of a lightning-rod umbrella proposed by one of Ben Franklin’s acolytes, Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg. The umbrella would be surmounted with a metal pole and trail a silver braid to bear away the charge.
On August 20, 1975, the McQuilken siblings were hiking in Sequoia National Park when their hair started to stand on end. They paused to take a photo of the unusual phenomenon. The top photo shows the two brothers, Sean and Michael. The bottom one shows their sister Mary.
A few minutes after taking these photos, lightning struck Sean and Michael. Luckily, they both survived.
Suddenly, I was immersed in the brightest light I have ever seen. I moved my head from side to side and all I could see was bright white light, similar in appearance to arc welding light. This next part is strange. I distinctly remember feeling weightless, and that my feet were no longer touching the ground. For some reason, it felt like a number of seconds transpired, even though I realize that lightning strikes are instantaneous. A deafening explosion followed, and I found myself on the ground with the others. Sean was collapsed and huddled on his knees. Smoke was pouring from his back. I rushed over to him and checked his pulse and breathing. He was still alive. I put out the embers on his back and elbows and carried him down the path towards the parking lot, with the rest of the group following.
Dec 20, 1980: On a cold winter's evening, 19-year-old Jean Hilliard's car got stuck in a ditch, so she decided to walk for help. She was found the next morning, two miles away, frozen solid.
Later, people told her she'd made it to her friend's yard, tripped, and crawled on her hands and knees to his doorstep. They said she lay there for six straight hours, with her eyes frozen wide open. Hilliard doesn't remember any of that.
Remarkably, doctors were able to thaw her out even though she was so rock hard that needles broke on her skin. She suffered no serious injuries — just some blistered toes.
I'm surprised someone isn't selling a battery-operated version of these today as a gag gift. Wouldn't even need to be for motorists. Perfect for anyone out for a stroll in the rain.
The Oklahoma Freedom Call - Feb 8, 1934
"Miss Paddie Naismith, noted English racing chauffeur, is shown wearing the very latest in motor modes, rain goggles, with wipers 'n' everything. A small fan, you can see it over the bridge of the nose, operates the wipers when the car is travelling at speeds in excess of 15 M.P.H. Its inventor is L.A.V. Davoren of London." — International News Photo, Oct 1933 image source: reddit
Patent No. 2,320,848 was granted to Hollie Lee Byars of Parrish, Alabama for an umbrella designed to protect people stooped over. She imagined it would be useful for field workers. Although anyone who spent a lot of time hunched over could benefit.
There have been times when I've been weeding my yard that I could have used something like this.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.