Researchers from the University of Geneva hauled a massive laser on a mountaintop on July 12 to serve as a high-tech lightning rod. Swiss Physicist Jean-Pierre Wolf, who has been working with lasers for over 20 years, is leading the project and has shown interest in controlling lightning with the laser. It shoots approximately 1,000 times per second, and a five-kilometer wide no-fly zone will be issued once the laser is active. It poses no threat to aircraft, but laser is harmful to human eyes, so the researchers will only activate the laser when increased lightning activity is detected.

The rod was brought to the summit disassembled in a complex operation of multiple trips via cable car and helicopters. “It’s a huge laser — it takes a large truck to transport it, which is why it was built like a puzzle, with modules that can be put together on site,” Wolf said. His team used 18 tons of concrete blocks to secure the laser array to its base and stabilize its structure. The assembly took two weeks, but the laser can now be switched on for testing. The trial will last until September this year, and if successful, the next experiment will be at an airport.