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We all know how lightning works: The clouds have a strong static charge and release that charge towards the ground. But could it be used as a weapon?

Would a weapon of the following description work? Would it be practical for mass destruction?

A strongly negatively charged piece of metal is fired at a target. Then, a machine builds up a very strong positive charge. Because of the charge difference, a strong electrical current flows through the air and strikes the target.

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  • $\begingroup$ Lightning contains relatively little energy, so the answer is no. $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Jan 25, 2016 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ What I was more thinking was that the heat created by this lightning would certainly be damaging. Also, the average lightning strike is ~70,000 volts. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2016 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ Voltage doesn't do the damage, energy does. According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvesting_lightning_energy a lightning strike doesn't contain more energy than fits into the fuel tanks of a few vehicles. This is comparable with the chemical energy stored in a mid size conventional explosive ordinance bomb. An American made MOAB probably contains about almost two orders of magnitude more energy than that. I don't think even the latter weapons are being counted among WMDs. $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Jan 25, 2016 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ What is wrong with a taser? $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jan 25, 2016 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ +CuriousOne Well, V=IR. If resistance is low and voltage is high, current must be strong. And strong current damages nerves, right? $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2016 at 22:52

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The weapon you are suggesting is similar to one where a laser pulse ionizes the air to the target and channels a high voltage high current charge to the target. It requires extremely high power laser pulses in the femtosecond region. The name of the tech is Electrolaser

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This weapon exists and is commercially available. The amount of heat discharged is minimal, but it's excellent at disrupting electrical oscillators like hearts and low-current electrical pathways like nerves.

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  • $\begingroup$ This clearly isn't what OP was thinking; the last paragraph states, A strongly negatively charged piece of metal is fired at a target....a strong electrical current flows through the air and strikes the target. That is, a singular piece of metal hits the target and the current flows through the air to hit the target. A taser requires both electrodes to be on the target. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jan 26, 2016 at 13:02

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