Striking Back at Lightning
Seldom is the weather more dramatic than when thunderstorms strike. Their electrical fury inflicts death or serious injury on around 500 people each year in the United States alone. As the clouds roll in, a leisurely round of golf can become a terrifying dice with death — out in the open, a lone golfer may be a lightning bolt’s most inviting target. And there is damage to property too. Lightning damage costs American power companies more than $100 million a year.
But researchers in the United States and Japan are planning to hit back. Already in laboratory trials they have tested strategies for neutralising the power of thunderstorms, and this winter they will brave real storms, equipped with an armoury of lasers that they will be pointing towards the heavens to discharge thunderclouds before lightning can strike.
The idea of forcing storm clouds to discharge their lightning on command is not new. In the early 1960s, researchers tried firing rockets trailing wires into thunderclouds to set up an easy discharge path for the huge electric charges that these clouds generate. The technique survives to this day at a test site in Florida run by the University of Florida, with support from the Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI), based in California. EPRI, which is funded by power companies, is looking at ways to protect the United States’ power grid from lightning strikes. ‘We can cause the lightning to strike where we want it to using rockets,’ says Ralph Bernstein, manager of lightning projects at EPRI. The rocket site is providing precise measurements of lightning voltages and allowing engineers to check how electrical equipment bears up.
But while rockets are fine for research, they cannot provide the protection from lightning strikes that everyone is looking for. The rockets cost around $1,200 each, can only be fired at a limited frequency and their failure rate is about 40 per cent. And even when they do trigger lightning, things still do not always go according to plan. ‘Lightning is not perfectly well behaved,’ says Bernstein. ‘Occasionally, it will take a branch and go someplace it wasn’t supposed to go.’
And anyway, who would want to fire streams of rockets in a populated area? ‘What goes up must come down,’ points out Jean-Claude Diels of the University of New Mexico. Diels is leading a project, which is backed by EPRI, to try to use lasers to discharge lightning safely — and safety is a basic requirement since no one wants to put themselves or their expensive equipment at risk. With around $500,000 invested so far, a promising system is just emerging from the laboratory.
The idea began some 20 years ago, when high-powered lasers were revealing their ability to extract electrons out of atoms and create ions. If a laser could generate a line of ionisation in the air all the way up to a storm cloud, this conducting path could be used to guide lightning to Earth, before the electric field becomes strong enough to break down the air in an uncontrollable surge. To stop the laser itself being struck, it would not be pointed straight at the clouds. Instead it would be directed at a mirror, and from there into the sky. The mirror would be protected by placing lightning conductors close by. Ideally, the cloud-zapper (gun) would be cheap enough to be installed around all key power installations, and portable enough to be taken to international sporting events to beam up at brewing storm clouds.
A stumbling block
However, there is still a big stumbling block. The laser is no nifty portable: it’s a monster that takes up a whole room. Diels is trying to cut down the size and says that a laser around the size of a small table is in the offing. He plans to test this more manageable system on live thunderclouds next summer.
Bernstein says that Diels’s system is attracting lots of interest from the power companies. But they have not yet come up with the $5 million that EPRI says will be needed to develop a commercial system, by making the lasers yet smaller and cheaper. ‘I cannot say I have money yet, but I’m working on it,’ says Bernstein. He reckons that the forthcoming field tests will be the turning point — and he’s hoping for good news. Bernstein predicts ‘an avalanche of interest and support‘ if all goes well. He expects to see cloud-zappers eventually costing $50,000 to $100,000 each.
Other scientists could also benefit. With a lightning ‘switch’ at their fingertips, materials scientists could find out what happens when mighty currents meet matter. Diels also hopes to see the birth of ‘interactive meteorology’ — not just forecasting the weather but controlling it. ‘If we could discharge clouds, we might affect the weather,’ he says.
And perhaps, says Diels, we’ll be able to confront some other meteorological menaces. ‘We think we could prevent hail by inducing lightning,’ he says. Thunder, the shock wave that comes from a lightning flash, is thought to be the trigger for the torrential rain that is typical of storms. A laser thunder factory could shake the moisture out of clouds, perhaps preventing the formation of the giant hailstones that threaten crops. With luck, as the storm clouds gather this winter, laser-toting researchers could, for the first time, strike back.
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
Write the correct letter in boxes 1-3 on your answer sheet.
1 The main topic discussed in the text is
A the damage caused to US golf courses and golf players by lightning strikes.
B the effect of lightning on power supplies in the US and in Japan.
C a variety of methods used in trying to control lightning strikes.
D a laser technique used in trying to control lightning strikes.
2 According to the text, every year lightning
A does considerable damage to buildings during thunderstorms.
B kills or injures mainly golfers in the United States.
C kills or injures around 500 people throughout the world.
D damages more than 100 American power companies.
3 Researchers at the University of Florida and at the University of New Mexico
A receive funds from the same source.
B are using the same techniques.
C are employed by commercial companies.
D are in opposition to each other.
Complete the sentences below.
Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 4-6 on your answer sheet.
4 EPRI receives financial support from ..................... .
5 The advantage of the technique being developed by Diels is that it can be used.....................
6 The main difficulty associated with using the laser equipment is related to its.....................
Complete the summary using the list of words, A-I, below.
Write the correct letter, A-I, in boxes 7-10 on your answer sheet.
In this method, a laser is used to create a line of ionization by removing electrons from 7 ..................... . This laser is then directed at 8 ..................... in order to control electrical charges, a method which is less dangerous than using 9..................... . As a protection for the lasers, the beams are aimed firstly at 10 ..................... .
A cloud-zappers B atoms C storm clouds
D mirrors E technique F ions
G rockets H conductors I thunder
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?
In boxes 11-13 on your answer sheet write
YES if the statement agrees with the claims of the writer
No if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this
11 Power companies have given Diels enough money to develop his laser.
12 Obtaining money to improve the lasers will depend on tests in real storms.
13 Weather forecasters are intensely interested in Diels’s system.
关键词： main topic
解题思路: 通过标题知道整篇文章的主旨是“通过激光来回击闪电”，因此答案是 D 选项,意思为 “一种用于控制闪电袭击的激光技术”，属于对标题的同义替换。
关键词： every year lightening
解题思路： 本题考查关于每年闪电情况的细节,可 定位于第一段。B 选项可以通过 golfer 一词来定 位,也在第一段,原文意思是“孤单的高尔夫球 手或许将是闪电之箭最为有吸引力的目标”,选 项 B“在美国主要杀死或者伤害高尔夫球手”改 变了原意 ;C 和 D 选项可以分别通过 500,100 这两个数字来定位到第一段,但是 C 选项中将原 文 in the United States 偷换成了 throughout the world,因此不对;D中将原文的$100 million 偷换成 100 companies,也不对。通过对第一段 的概括,可以知道闪电带来的影响是非常大的, 因此答案是 A。
关键词： University of Florida, University of New Mexico
解题思路： 题目问的是 University of Florida 和 University of New Mexico 的研究员的关系。通 过 University of Florida 和 University of New Mexico 分别定位至第三段和第五段。对两处论 述进行对比,不难得出两者共同之处是“从同一来源获得经费”，都是 EPRI。答案是 A。
答案： power companies
关键词： EPRI, financial support
对应原文： 第3段第4句“EPRI, which is funded…”
解题思路： 用EPRI定位到文章第三段，EPRI第一次出现之后即指出其是由电力公司资助的，原文中的funded 等同于题干中的 receives financial support from, 因此答案应该填power companies。注意不要写成单数。
关键词： Diels, advantage
定位原文： 第5段第3句“...to try to use lasers to…”
解题思路： 用人名Diels在文中定位到第五段，从题目看出这里应填入一个副词，所以可以在人名周围寻找 use或者use的替换词，并且在其周围找带有-ly形式的词，这样正确答案safely很快就能浮出水面了。
关键词: difficulty, laser equipment
定位原文: 第7段第1、2句“…The laser is no nifty…”
解题思路： 这道题目的定位稍微有一些困难，需要将 difficulty一词与文章中的stumbling block联系起来，进而找到第七段中的laser一词。文中提到，该激光设备并不方便携带，它是个体积占据了一整间房间的庞然大物。看到这里，通过理解，考生们可以想到激光设备最大的问题就是体积太大，不好携带，所以正确答案是size。
关键词： removing electrons
定位原文： 第6段第1句“...to extract electrons out…”
解题思路： 本题关键是要理解题目中的remove...from...与文中的extract...out of...属于同义替换，这里要表达的是从原子(atoms)中提取电荷(electrons)。
关键词: then, control electrical charges
定位原文: 第6段第2句“If a laser could generate a line of ionization in the air all the way up to a storm cloud...”
解题思路： 注意文中generate是“产生”的意思;directed at对应文中的 all the way up to，其后的 a storm cloud即对应空格处要填的内容。因此正确答案是C。
关键词: less dangerous than
解题思路：解答本题需要对文章有一个提炼,第 9 题问的是激光是相对于哪种方式更加有安全 的技术。根据第四段和第五段可以知道，第四段说火箭发射的缺点，第五段说出于安全性的考虑开始使用激光，因此答案应该是火箭(rockets)。
关键词： protection, aimed firstly
定位原文： 第6段第3、4句“To stop the laser…”
解题思路: protection对应文中的 stop...being struck; at是解题关键词，即使不知道文中的directed和题目中的aimed是同义词，也可以从词组的形式上看出来两者是同位的，其后的名词即为答案。由此可知答案是D。
关键词: Diels, enough money
定位原文: 第8段第3句“‘I cannot say I have…”
解题思路: “I cannot say I have money yet, but I am working on it”( “我还不能说我已经拿到钱了，但是我正在为之努力。”)看到这句话，再联系上句：Bernstein says that Diels’ system is attracting lots of interest from the power companies. But they have not yet come up with the $5 million that EPRI says will be needed to develop a commercial system...(Bernstein表示，Diels的激光系统正在引起各电力公司的广泛兴趣。但他们还没有准备EPRI提出的500万美元——开发一个……的商用系统的所需资金。)这两句话足以证明Diels系统还没有得到足够的资金支持。
关键词： depend on tests in real storms
定位原文： 第8段第4句“He reckons…”
解题思路： 根据第八段Bernstein的话可知,他认为即将来临的实地测验将是转折点,他希望有好消息。如果一切进展顺利，Bernstein 预测关注和支持将潮涌而来。题目表述符合文意。
答案： NOT GIVEN
关键词： Diels, weather forecasters
定位原文： 第9段最后两句“Diels also hopes…”
解题思路： 文章第九段虽然提到了天气预报，即Diels希望将来看到“交互式气象学”， 不仅是预报天气，还可以控制天气 ;但是却并没有提到过 weather forecasters 的态度，他们也许感兴趣,也许不感兴趣，无从判断。