Why do supervillains love freeze rays? Easy. They allow you to trap your arch-nemesis in a solid block of ice and monologue away for hours, while your foe slowly dies of hypothermia and/or boredom. Sure, freezing things with lasers may sound weirdly impractical, but hey, so does training a dozen polar bears to guard your lair. Supervillainy is not about practicality, it's about style. And it's just about time to start practicing your ice puns, because science is absolutely on top of the "freezing things with lasers" situation.
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"Tomorrow's forecast ... um ... c-cold? Hang on, gimme a sec."
By using lasers on high-pressure gas, German scientists were able to lower temperatures by 119 degrees in just seconds. The trick is that photons can knock electrons out of their orbits. When an atom loses electrons, it loses energy and, therefore, heat. The lasers are essentially blasting the warmth away at the atomic level. And it happens so fast they can freeze a gas before it has time to turn into a liquid.
We're talking an instantaneous flash freeze that could lead to more efficient refrigeration devices, but obviously the real goal is for malefactors to lock entire panicked metropolises in blizzards of ice-cold criminality. You see, this isn't some theoretical technique that can only be recreated in laboratory conditions. A research team in Berlin has used a similar process to create clouds over Germany's capital city. That's right, we're talking laser weather control.
Suck it, Yuri!
By firing 220 millijoules of laser awesomeness into the atmosphere (while presumably laughing maniacally), scientists were able to create condensation out of thin air. By using the laser to knock electrons from atmospheric molecules, researchers created charged particles that could facilitate the formation of droplets.