The bacteria is called Pseudomonas syringae and when it's kicked up into the air, it collects condensation fury, forming water droplets (or in the case of hail, death pellets). Generally the moisture in clouds needs something to cling around in order to create precipitation, and the syringae provide the perfect nucleus.
Howard F. Schwartz
Pseudomonas syringae, seen here biding its time.
So how does this information help us? Well it could allow us to weaponize water, destroying the windshields of our most hated enemies. Or we could use it to stop droughts.
We know that this particular bacteria causes water to freeze about 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than usual, which means it can create snow and ice in slightly warmer temperatures. For that reason, mountain resorts have been using Pseudomonas syringae bacteria to make fake snow since the late '80s. But for anyone who's not jetsetting to Aspen this winter, there are more practical applications as well. Scientists say it's possible that planting crops already infected with these bacteria may help overcome droughts by inducing rain.
Anne Sherwood, New York Times
The scientists assured reporters that they had "no plans for supervillainy" and then
cackled like mad men for 12 solid minutes.