Getting fresh with the weather

IT is more than 30 years since a hand-picked group of London University students quit a project on weather-control, because they believed it wasbeing funded by the Ministry of Defence.

IT is more than 30 years since a hand-picked group of London University students quit a project on weather-control, because they believed it was

being funded by the Ministry of Defence.

In the decades since then, mind-bending strides have been made in the

fields of computing, medicine, genetics and - sadly - weaponry. But

progress then predicted in weather-manipulation has so far not

materialised.

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At least, if it has, the people behind it (and those paying for it) have

not owned up to the rest of us.

There have been some steps, though, in the direction of that long-ago

London research.

When Sir Paul McCartney performed his 3,000th public concert this week, rain threatened to dampen the spirits of the crowd gathered in St

Petersburg, Russia. So - here comes the sun - action was taken to keep the drops away.

Up went three jets to spray the clouds with a fine mist of dry ice and, hey

presto, the rain held off until after the last chord of the last encore had

faded.

The price of about £30,000 seems quite cheap when you reckon it at just

50p for each person at the concert - cheaper than giving them a mac or an

umbrella each.

So now Beatlemania even affects the weather. But was this just a gimmick? Could the organisers of next year's Suffolk Show ensure two rain-free days at the cost of less than a pound per entry ticket?

It could all amount to rather more than that.

"Seeding" clouds to make rain fall is not that new. Spraying them to prevent the rain is a modification of the technique, and still a bit hit-and-miss.

Both are rather small potatoes in the grander world of weather control. The big thing would be to create the rainclouds in the first place - or move them from one place to another.

Just think how useful those techniques could be in the deserts and drought regions of the world. How handy it might be in preventing catastrophic floods.

Or, to look at it another way, think what a stunning military device it would be.

If you could send a drought, or a flood, to devastate your enemy you would wield an enormous threat.

You can see the attraction such a Biblical power would have for a born-again power freak like, say, George W Bush. Or, indeed, for some of the American big businesses he represents.

If anyone has the will, the ability, and the cash to control the weather on the grandest scale you can bet your bottom dollar it's the Pentagon.

If - and who knows how big an "if" that is? - humanity has the means to work such miracles, it's sure to be the warmongers who control it.

"WHAT are the odds," I said to my mate on Tuesday lunchtime, "of Sweden and Denmark drawing 2-2?"

"It's down to about 4-to-1," he said.

"That still sounds extremely generous," I said.

And don't I wish now I'd put my money where my mouth was?

If any football result was ever certain before kick-off, that was it - a result that satisfied both sides.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that the Scandinavian neighbours and rivals came to any ungentleman's agreement to stitch up Italy. I'll leave the conspiracy theories to the hard-done-by Italians themselves.

The real villains of the piece are the idiots in UEFA who came up with a crazy qualification system that enabled two teams to go into a game knowing exactly what result would suit them both.

At 2-1 up, Denmark were bound to ease off the throttle, knowing it wouldn't hurt them to concede another goal. Even if they didn't ease off deliberately, the subconscious psychology is obvious.

At the same time, Sweden were bound to step up their efforts - just enough. Once they'd drawn level, neither side was going to take any further risk and the final scoreline was a foregone conclusion. As it was right from the start.

If the qualifying groups were decided on simple goal difference, Italy would still have been on their way home, the way the results turned out. But the results might not have turned out that way - because the Danes and Swedes would not have known where their safety line was.

So poor Italy became the first team eliminated from the European Championship with five points, and without losing a game.

At that stage, there was still a possibility of Germany going through to the last eight with just two points and no victory. Just how crazy - and how typical - would that have been?

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