Sometimes it's not so easy being a mad scientist. Narrow-minded colleagues disparage your theories using harsh terms like "crackpot" and "ethically dubious". Persons in charge of critical supplies vital to your experiments - morticians, gravediggers, the people who run the brain depositary* - refuse to cooperate. Even once these hurdles are overcome, and your creation lies ready on the slab awaiting only a lightning bolt to add the vital spark of life, you must often wait weeks or months for the necessary thunderstorm.
Well, not any more. Enter those splendid brainboxes from DARPA, the US military research bureau where every lab assistant is hunchbacked, every burst of laughter is hysterical and where living disembodied brains in bubbling jars are de rigueur office accessories. DARPA have now decided that proper scientific enquiry requires that lightning be made available on tap.
According to a DARPA announcement issued last week (Word docx):
Experimental Set-up for Triggering Lightning: Bidders should fully describe how they would attempt to trigger lightning and list all potential pieces of equipment necessary to trigger lightning, as well as the equipment necessary to measure and characterize the processes governing lightning initiation, propagation, and attachment.
The project to provide lightning on tap is known as "Nimbus".
According to DARPA, Nimbus lightning-triggering equipment is in no way intended for differently-sane researchers to jumpstart enormous, powerful monsters assembled from assorted body parts and directed by brains recovered from criminal psychopaths. No, it's all about protecting property from lightning damage, or "advances in... science relating to lightning".
But then, DARPA claimed that packet-switched networking was all about military communications or something of that sort: whereas in fact it turned out to be predominantly a vehicle for global distribution of pornography. So it would be unwise to believe what they say this time around.
It may be time for local residents in the vicinity of DARPA headquarters to start getting out the pitchforks and flickering torches. ®