… lightning touched the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the holiest Catholic churches, hours after Benedict XVI’s shock announcement
The Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict’s decision to quit – the first pontiff to do so in 600 years.
The move surprised even his closest aides, even though Benedict, 85, had made clear in the past he would step down if he became too old or infirm.
In recent years, the Pope has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences.
He now goes to and from the altar in St Peter’s Basilica on a moving platform, to spare him the long walk down the aisle. Occasionally he uses a cane.
His 89-year-old brother, Georg Ratzinger, said doctors had recently advised the Pope not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips.
“His age is weighing on him,” Mr Ratzinger said. “At this age my brother wants more rest.”
Benedict announced his resignation in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, calling it “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.”
He emphasised that carrying out the duties of being pope requires “both strength of mind and body.”
He told the cardinals: “I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.” …
28 June 2012 – US Army scientists are developing a weapon which can fire a laser-guided lightning bolt at a target.
The Laser-Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) is designed to hit targets that conduct electricity better than the air or ground that surrounds them.
The weapon went through extensive testing in January.
George Fischer, lead scientist on the project, said: “We never got tired of the lightning bolts zapping our simulated [targets].”
Details of the weapon were released on the US Army’s website.
Mr Fischer explained how the usually unpredictable lightning bolts can be controlled.
“If a laser puts out a pulse with modest energy, but the time is incredibly tiny, the power can be huge,” Mr Fischer said.
“During the duration of the laser pulse, it can be putting out more power than a large city needs, but the pulse only lasts for two-trillionths of a second.”
50 billion wattsThis means, Mr Fischer said, the air could be manipulated to “act like a lens”.
“We use an ultra-short-pulse laser of modest energy to make a laser beam so intense that it focuses on itself in air and stays focused in a filament,” he said.
Fifty billion watts of optical power are used. By comparison, a typical filament lightbulb uses 100 watts of power.
“If a laser beam is intense enough, its electro-magnetic field is strong enough to rip electrons off of air molecules, creating plasma,” Mr Fischer said.
“This plasma is located along the path of the laser beam, so we can direct it wherever we want by moving a mirror.”
The team said it faced a challenge in making the technology rugged enough to survive in harsh battle conditions.
No, just a coincidence. 😉 Popes don’t step down very often. This marks the first time a Pope has stepped down since 1415, when Gregory XII resigned.