Where: Beijing, China

July 19: The photograph in the newspaper shows a soldier handling an anti-aircraft gun. At once, an image flashes across your mind: the gun moving left to right and firing away with a deafening, staccato noise, with an aircraft bursting into flames and somersaulting to the ground.

Good powers of imagination, fed on Hollywood films, but, unfortunately, completely off the mark.

Gunning for Clouds
Gunning for Clouds []
The anti-aircraft gun shown in the Hindustan Times is used for the purpose of cloud seeding, or making rain.

Several years ago, the Chinese came up with a solution to the problem of low rainfall. They used old anti-aircraft guns to shoot a chemical called silver iodide into the clouds to make rain. But around this time next year they are all prepared to shoot rockets into the sky to scatter the rain clouds and prevent them from falling on ground as rain.

Reason? They want to ensure a picture-perfect opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing next year, on August 8, 2008 – quite a perfect date, 08/08/08!

In fact the Chinese government has given a guarantee that it will not rain. They want nothing to spoil the opening ceremony at the open-air National Stadium.

Gunning for clouds was never so serious.

Want to know more?

What is cloud seeding? How can you make rain?