French scientists have just made a breakthrough in directing a lightning bolt by use of laser beams:
In 2008, a group led by André Mysyrowicz of the applied optics laboratory at ENSTA ParisTech in France took a trailer-sized laser to New Mexico for field experiments with clouds. The group found that its laser filaments increased electrical activity in storm clouds, but did not trigger lightning.
Now the group has reached two milestones on the road to practical lightning protection with a more compact laser. In one experiment in a military lab in Toulouse, France, they set up a high-voltage discharge with two possible targets about 2.5 metres away. With the laser off, the artificial lightning always hit the closer target. But with the laser on, generating a filament path to the farther target, the discharge went where it was directed.
In a second experiment, Mysyrowicz's team aimed the laser beam across 50 metres of a lab, passing 5 to 20 centimetres from a lightning-producing electrode and an oppositely charged electrode. Usually, lightning jumps straight from electrode to electrode, but with the laser on, the discharge jumped to the laser filament and followed it before jumping to the second electrode.
Zeus, here we come! Link