BEIJING - As they prepare to host the Olympics - an event whose very purpose is to push the limits of human beings - the Chinese are trying to do what man never has: control the weather.
With five months to go before the Summer Games come to Beijing, Chinese scientists say they are confident they can keep rain away from the opening ceremony, or summon a storm on cue to clear the city's choking pollution.
It's a bold - and, according to international scientists, dubious - bit of stage managing, even for a nation that has already shown an outsize ambition to use the Olympics to showcase its development from rural poverty to economic powerhouse.
China is spending US$40 billion to remake the infrastructure of the ancient capital, and it already spends an estimated $100 million a year and employs 50,000 for rainmaking.
At installations like one called Fragrant Hills, outside Beijing, peasants don military fatigues and helmets and squat behind anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers, blasting the sky with silver iodide, hoping to shock rain from the clouds.
If rain threatens the opening or closing ceremony, Beijing officials say they will set up several banks of rocket launchers outside the city to seed threatening clouds and cause them to release their rain before it reaches the capital.
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