The People's Weather

At this summer’s Beijing Olympics, China puts a 50-year experiment to the test: Officials are betting weather modification can keep the sun shining on the Games. Despite shaky science, the government is confident (not for the first time) that man can best nature. Whatever their chances, there’s plenty at stake—because all that development and urban renewal won’t look so good beneath a curtain of smog.

By Tom Scocca

Beijing under the haze of industry and construction, October 2007. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The thundershower passed. The rocket launcher was still pointing upward as I left in my taxi. Between air traffic and the southerly origins of the storm, the bureau later stated, none of the other weather-modification stations had been able to fire either. As we returned to the expressway, though, drops began sprinkling the windshield and then pelting it. Lightning flashed. Before long, we were in a downpour again. We rode home through the unassisted rain.

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Issue 25

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