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Point a Laser, Go to Jail
September 29, 2011 10:42 AM   Subscribe

The FBI presents: Laser Pointer Leads to Arrest. Laser events logged by the FAA in 2010 nearly doubled from 2009, with 2,836 reports. posted by oneirodynia (180 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Onion weighs in.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:48 AM on September 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


Just make the windows impervious to optical-band electromagnetic radiation and problem solved!
posted by DU at 10:50 AM on September 29, 2011 [29 favorites]


On one level, it's kind of creepy that they were able to catch the guy that easily, but fuck him. I hope he gets the chair.
posted by empath at 10:52 AM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just make the windows impervious to optical-band electromagnetic radiation and problem solved!

Also known as light?
posted by empath at 10:52 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Holy fuck, I had no idea IR imaging was that high res spatially and temporally. Awesome.
posted by silby at 10:53 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope he gets the chair.

I was with you up to here.
posted by everichon at 10:54 AM on September 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


This is why we can't have nice things.

If you blind a pilot, your punishment is a blinding as well, right?
Eye for an eye and all that.
posted by madajb at 10:54 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some asshole on the ground hit me in the eyes with a blue laser when I was flying during the day outside Richmond, VA. It was painful - must have been one hell of a powerful laser.

I told the air traffic controller, but he was pretty busy and never acknowledged my report. To make myself feel better I faxed a report according to FAA Advisory Circular 70-2, but I never received any follow-up. Thought about bringing it up with local law enforcement, but I couldn't pinpoint the ground location very well.
posted by exogenous at 10:55 AM on September 29, 2011


I hope he gets the chair.

The chair where some annoying prick flashes a laser pointer in your eyes while you're just trying to do your job.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2011 [34 favorites]


On one hand it's horrible that someone could potentially bring down an airplane with a laser but on the other hand we live in a world where you can bring down an airplane with a freakin' laser!
posted by bondcliff at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


I don't get how they got this video. Were they cruising around as a honeytrap? Or are all police(?) helicopters (I assume) equipped with this creepy stuff?
posted by DU at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2011


I was with you up to here.

I didn't say what kind of chair. Maybe I meant the time-out chair.
posted by empath at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


It is absolutely essential that you play a Clint Mansell soundtrack behind this video. Or open youarelistening.to/losangeles in another tab or something.
posted by carsonb at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2011


Poor bastard didn't know he was pointing that silly thing at a police chopper (which explains why 10 cops showed up).

Lasers are a nuisance and people should be punished appropriately, but in this case it wasn't a danger. The police helicopter chose to hover and be painted by the laser. If that was an actual target acquisition device the chopper would've been blown to bits.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


fuck him. I hope he gets the chair.
posted by empath


Our standards are falling.
posted by DU at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2011 [24 favorites]


I hope he gets the chair.

Death penalty sentences for laser usage offers a whole new way to introduce color bias.
posted by Trurl at 10:58 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


The chair where some annoying prick flashes a laser pointer in your eyes while you're just trying to do your job.

It's not just pilots, this shit actually happened to me quasi regularly while DJing. And happens to a lot of bands and shit.

I hope those assholes get the chair, too.
posted by empath at 10:58 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe I meant the time-out chair

I am totally on board for some time-out chair for this laserclown.
posted by everichon at 10:58 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If that was an actual target acquisition device the chopper would've been blown to bits.

In some small US city in the middle of the night...? ;)
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2011


ya know i have a laser pointer and live near a major airport. the idea of seeing if i could tag one of those planes has crossed my mind, but i know better and won't ever try. but i certainly wouldn't be so stupid to tag a helicopter since they're closer to the ground and have a much better chance at catching you.
posted by lester at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2011


> I don't get how they got this video.

Read the linked article in the video description. Some jackass was pointing the laser at a tower and a cop helicopter chanced into his field of view. Yes, most urban cop helicopters have FLIR and high-res cameras to watch you.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2011


Also, why did it take 300 officers to arrest one guy with a laser pointer?
posted by DU at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


DU, "creepy" stuff? That looks like a kind of normal high quality visual/night vision/infrared camera set up for helicopters. As for why was he up there, police/FBI helicopters are in the air all the time. In his initial call into dispatch, he mentioned something about a gun ("u-til"? probably some cop speak) before he mentioned the laser. My guess is he was looking for something else, flying over and the dude they arrested decided to shine a laser at the copter.
posted by skynxnex at 11:00 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


> why did it take 300 officers to arrest one guy with a laser pointer?

Because it was a cop helicopter and cops don't like people challenging cops.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:00 AM on September 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


Lasers are a nuisance and people should be punished appropriately, but in this case it wasn't a danger.

It's impossible to tell from the video how blinding the laser was. Have you ever tried piloting an aircraft without use of your eyes? I think the tendency to crash would pose a danger to everyone on board as well as people on the ground.
posted by exogenous at 11:02 AM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


> It's impossible to tell from the video how blinding the laser was.

Well, the helicopter pilot opted to circle and pinpoint the laser. It's not the same as a pilot on a fixed landing route.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:03 AM on September 29, 2011


Also, why did it take 300 officers to arrest one guy with a laser pointer?

It's fairly standard practice to send more than one unit if you've got them available to a crime in progress, especially at night.

As to why they all stand around afterwards, well, that's just human nature, I guess.
posted by madajb at 11:04 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also known as light?

Light with a VERY narrow bandwidth and only sold in a couple of colors.
posted by dibblda at 11:05 AM on September 29, 2011


> Light with a VERY narrow bandwidth and only sold in a couple of colors.

The FCC is going to auction off that spectrum anyway.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:06 AM on September 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


I have to wonder- is there some sort of technological solution for this? Could the windows in the cockpit be changed to not dazzle as much? Or maybe shades that could be pulled down, so at least the pilots could fly by their instruments?

Obviously they should arrest these people but assuming that people will always be assholes, aren't there some defensive steps that could be taken?
posted by thewumpusisdead at 11:06 AM on September 29, 2011


Damn lasers. This whole scene makes me sick, because we've known about the consequences for years. More than 2000 incidents. Good grief!

Just make it illegal to sell the damn things to minors and put a VISIBLE warning on them about the impact they have when they are sold, and the penalties for disobeying the law, thereof. In addition, they should require that any store selling these things compel the purchaser to sign a contract saying that s/he understands the warning.

Yes, it's a hassle, and that's what we should want with something that so easily can blind a person or cause an accident. Lasers are often sold at retail point-of-sale, as impulse items. That's just stupid, given what we know. No more open counter sales; put them behind a locked transparent case, requiring the retailer to physically help the customer gain access. The hassle involved will deter mom-and-pop retail stores from carrying them as simple impulse items.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


How the heck can these lasers even hit the cockpit of a jet from the ground for longer than half a second? Are people mounting their lasers on tripods now? I'm used to the hand held kind you torture cats with.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm mostly impressed by his aim.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the linked article:

Interfering with the operation of an aircraft is a crime punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine

So, I don't think that they will electrocute this person.
posted by everichon at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2011


If they electrocute him now, that's under the 20 year maximum.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:08 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


fuck him. I hope he gets the chair.
posted by empath

Our standards are falling.


Eponyronical?
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 11:08 AM on September 29, 2011


Holy fuck, I had no idea IR imaging was that high res spatially and temporally.

Never seen that infrared shotgun suicide video, eh? I won't link it, but it's two clicks away for the interested (hint: google ` infrared shotgun suicide ').
posted by Edogy at 11:14 AM on September 29, 2011


OK, this is kind of tangential and obsessive maybe, but here goes. My understanding is that green laser pointers can be used at night to point out constellations or other heavenly bodies (in the sky, you pervs). The red ones don't work for this, I guess the beam isn't visible for some reason. So if your astronomy club is out giving demos, what if a plane flies by overhead? And what if it's at too high an altitude to easily see, and what if its cockpit intersects the beam? Will you get hauled off to jail. How do you ensure that this never happens?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:15 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait. Is it still ok to go outside and give them the finger when they are buzzing around your neighborhood and keeping you awake? Or are they going to take THAT away next?!
posted by orme at 11:16 AM on September 29, 2011


according to my friendly flight attendant I can bring down a large commercial jet by just leaving my cell phone on below 10000 MSL.

Lasers pointed at airplanes are a problem and imply a bunch of vulnerability that passengers don't want to tolerate. In truth many many more airplanes crash from far more mundane sins of omission (and commission?). The disproportion in reaction seems a little weird, eh?
posted by lomcovak at 11:16 AM on September 29, 2011


Back when I was doing HR for the University of Washington, I had to do criminal background checks. Much more interesting than anything on anyone's record, was digging through state code and seeing the -potential- infractions someone, somewhere, could theoretically have.

"Unauthorized Laser Use within City Limits" was my favorite, because I always envisioned some Doctor Doom-like individual cackling while powering up a laser to shoot the moon.

Instead we just have assholes who think it might be funny if someone is blind.
posted by yeloson at 11:16 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope he gets the chair.

He deserves the table.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:16 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


And if anyone should be given the chair for wielding a laser pointer, it's the fuckers shining them in goalkeeper's eyes during soccer matches.
posted by Edogy at 11:18 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


> So if your astronomy club is out giving demos, what if a plane flies by overhead? And what if it's at too high an altitude to easily see, and what if its cockpit intersects the beam? Will you get hauled off to jail. How do you ensure that this never happens?

Not to worry, there. For one, at cruising altitude the "dazzling" effect of a laser will be a fraction of what it would be if the aircraft was on landing approach (or was a helicopter hovering at 2000 feet). Secondly, just a random flyby of a laser would hardly be noticeable. The incidents that get reported are when someone shines the laser and waves it repeatedly at the airplane. Just a brief flash isn't anything to worry about.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:19 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The other night I was driving by a residential building on my university's campus, and some asshole was shining a green laser pointer at me from a high-up window of the building, trying to get me in the eye. It was so frustrating, because there didn't really seem to be anything I could do about it! I didn't want to look up into the window because I was afraid that'd make it a lot easier for whoever it was to blind me. There really ought to be some kind of restriction on buying these things, so that drunk sociopathic college students can't use them to try and cause car accidents quite so easily.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 11:21 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


So... if one ever wishes to get away with a bank heist, shining a laser at a helicopter via robot with a heated crash test dummy adjacent is the best way of distracting most of a precinct's police officers?

Good to know.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:22 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by empatterson at 11:23 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am totally on board for some time-out chair for this laserclown.

I think he should be locked into a chair and use a laser pointer to amuse underprivileged cats at a local shelter as a form of community service. For years. Pilots win, society wins, shelter wins, cats win... that's a win-win-win-win situation, and we don't see those that often.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:23 AM on September 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


Lasers pointed at airplanes are a problem and imply a bunch of vulnerability that passengers don't want to tolerate. In truth many many more airplanes crash from far more mundane sins of omission (and commission?). The disproportion in reaction seems a little weird, eh?

It fills the cockpit with blinding light, actually.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:24 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just make it illegal to sell the damn things to minors and put a VISIBLE warning on them about the impact they have when they are sold

Always the first to chime in with the statist position. Right on cue, really.

It's not that easy. First of all, why is there any reason to believe that banning their sale to minors would solve even a tiny fraction of the problem? Is there any data, any data at all to suggest that minors are responsible for any of these events? No? Then why is banning their sale to minors even something to be suggested here?

And second, your solution is a warning label? Seriously? I'm currently defending a case where a guy light himself on fire because he decided to use a lighter on an applicator hose for a product which is 85% alcohol. The box clearly says "WARNING! FLAMMABLE!" People don't pay attention to warning labels on products which can hurt the user fairly significantly. Why in the hell is there any reason to think that a warning label is the solution to prevent injury to random strangers?

And as others have pointed out, it's entirely possible that these incidents are in no small part accidental, e.g. astronomy clubs or just people goofing off, completely unaware that there's a plane over there. So the solution is to... increase government regulation?

Just because something is a problem does not mean that the preemptive regulation is the solution. This is one of those cases. Imposing the regulations would be expensive both for the government and for industry, and there's no real reason to think that it would have any effect whatsoever.

This whole scene makes me sick, because we've known about the consequences for years. More than 2000 incidents. Good grief!

There were just a hair under 10 million flights in the US last year. There were almost 3,000 laser incidents that year. So 0.03% of flights had a laser incident, none of which ended in a crash. Imposing an entirely new regulatory regime is not an appropriate response to something like this.
posted by valkyryn at 11:24 AM on September 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


Some asshole on the ground hit me in the eyes with a blue laser when I was flying during the day outside Richmond, VA.

The average laser pointer isn't that powerful, but laser diodes are getting scary and cheap. Your boring red laser pointer for presentations has about 3mW output, but you can get a 300mW green for $300, and a 1W (1000mW) Green for under a grand.

End result, flux density about 8000x solar, and very very firmly in Class 4*. The video looks like it's nowhere near that -- for one thing, the camera's optics still work -- but you can see the distraction, and the more powerful ones can very quickly do real damage.

I do think 10 cops was serious overkill. The suspect was not resisting, the two officers on the initial call could have handled the arrest. It's that sort of overkill that makes policing harder, not easier. Going overly heavy on a compliant suspect just makes everyone else not trust the cops.

However, he deserved to be arrested. Flash blindness is dangerous to both the pilot flying, anybody else on board, and anybody on the ground underneath the aircraft.

* Class 4 lasers are basically instant vision loss from direct or specular reflection, possible injury and vision loss to diffuse reflection, and risk of skin damage to direct exposure. Handling these safely is *tricky* -- you think that wall is safe, but hey, someone put a screw into the wall, you knock the laser, the beam crosses the shiny head of the screw, and you find part of your retina never works again.

The correct answer to someone pulling one out and offering to show you the beam is probably to punch them, unless they hand you the correct protective gear for your eyes and you can trust them not to point the beam the wrong direction. And, of course, the most dangerous situation in the world is when you have your 532nm safety goggles on and the laser is beaming at 394nm.

Doubly worse: Most green 532nm laser pointers are actually frequency doubled 1064nm beams (and often what's pumping the whole system is a 808nm IR diode!) and if that's leaking, your 532nm goggles may not be protection you against the IR.

So, if you don't know how to read the laser *and* protective gear specs, and verify that the protective gear is intact, class 4 lasers are quite simply not safe to have around you. Period. The world is a shiny place, your retinas cannot be repaired. The line about not looking into lasers with remaining eyeball is not a joke. It is a cautionary tale. There are no second chances when the beam hits your eyes.
posted by eriko at 11:24 AM on September 29, 2011 [63 favorites]


OK, this is kind of tangential and obsessive maybe, but here goes. My understanding is that green laser pointers can be used at night to point out constellations or other heavenly bodies (in the sky, you pervs). The red ones don't work for this, I guess the beam isn't visible for some reason. So if your astronomy club is out giving demos, what if a plane flies by overhead? And what if it's at too high an altitude to easily see, and what if its cockpit intersects the beam? Will you get hauled off to jail. How do you ensure that this never happens.

If you're outside looking at stars you're going to be easily able to spot a plane's lights and motion out from the background and avoid it. This is not hard.
posted by odinsdream at 11:25 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


shining a laser at a helicopter via robot with a heated crash test dummy adjacent is the best way of distracting most of a precinct's police officers

Nice job of giving away the opening scene of Die Hard 5.
posted by aught at 11:25 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I haven't had a laser hit me in my plane yet, but I'm waiting for it. I know several other pilots who have. It's deadly dangerous to a landing airplane, not a game at all. A few high profile arrests and punishment will hopefully make idiots think twice.

One concern is that it's not always some dumb kid playing around pointing at things but rather deliberate harassment of pilots using a neighborhood airport. It's a little like stretching a wire across a dirt road to deter motorcycles.
posted by Nelson at 11:27 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dear people standing outside pointing things into the sky:

There's this thing called the internet. Discover it.

Thank you.
posted by perhapses at 11:28 AM on September 29, 2011


Always the first to chime in with the statist position. Right on cue, really.

Well, let's look at the potential consequences, shall we/

There is a real safety issue here, it seems. When you aim a laser pointer very far away, the cone of light it emits grows with distance. So, by the time it reaches a helicopter or plane, it can light up the cockpit and blind the pilots.

Tell you what, the first time this happens, you can call the 300 families and explain exactly why their families are dead. I mean, really? Can we just all agree that its bad to shine blinding lights into the cockpits of aircraft and its good to make sure that minors don't get them and shine them into cockpits?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:28 AM on September 29, 2011


> Lasers are a nuisance

So are helicopters, which don't have to follow the same rules as airplanes about minimum height above populated areas, because you know, helicopters never crash.

I found this out when MTfuckingV was shooting "atmosphere" of the Santa Cruz coast at nightfall for some Real World-esque show about fraternity assholes. I filed a complaint and the FAA said (nicely) that if they're buying the fuel, they can do whatever they want.

> Wait. Is it still ok to go outside and give them the finger when they are buzzing around your neighborhood and keeping you awake? Or are they going to take THAT away next?!

I'm tempted to build a big middle finger out of Christmas lights on my roof to turn on when the SJPD are pulling this. I'm disappointed the IR can't quite resolve a middle finger from 1000' up, but I'll come up with a workaround.
posted by morganw at 11:29 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


MEW
posted by everichon at 11:29 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just make it illegal to sell the damn things to minors and put a VISIBLE warning on them about the impact they have when they are sold, and the penalties for disobeying the law, thereof. In addition, they should require that any store selling these things compel the purchaser to sign a contract saying that s/he understands the warning.

Of course, that doesn't stop the Chinese online stores from selling them (which is a large proportion of the stores selling them, if my Ebay research is any indication). And on top of that, I'm not convinced this is all done by minors, either.
posted by antifuse at 11:30 AM on September 29, 2011


From the LA Times over the last year: Coachella; LAX; 14-year old; Long Beach; Burbank; South L.A.; Glendale; Clark Gable's grandson; Compton.

The thought of the pilot of any aircraft being unexpectedly blinded, even for a brief amount of time, is unduly frightening. I understand the whole "fuck the people in the aircraft for somehow ruining my day" aspect of it, but trying to cause them to crash is not a viable solution to this.

Unfortunately, I believe that the next step is for aircraft manufacturers to come up with a technical solution to this.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:32 AM on September 29, 2011


The disproportion in reaction seems a little weird, eh?

Maybe it has something to do with the natural, instinctual social outrage we do and should feel anytime some punk with no sense of the potential consequences of their actions and not even a modicum of personal social responsibility decides one fleeting, moment of diversion is worth potentially bringing down an entire plane carrying as much as hundreds of innocent men, women and children.

It's selfish and its antisocial, but then, I guess those are the times we live in.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:33 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


And as others have pointed out, it's entirely possible that these incidents are in no small part accidental, e.g. astronomy clubs or just people goofing off, completely unaware that there's a plane over there. So the solution is to... increase government regulation?

Yes, that is the solution. We should regulate people shining lasers into the cockpits of aircraft, and stop children from doing it.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:34 AM on September 29, 2011


I have to wonder- is there some sort of technological solution for this? Could the windows in the cockpit be changed to not dazzle as much? Or maybe shades that could be pulled down, so at least the pilots could fly by their instruments?

I would think the easiest and cheaper solution would be for people just not to shine lasers at aircraft and peoples' eyes. Driving your cat crazy with them is enough amusement.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:38 AM on September 29, 2011


WANT TO point out that I was told that an Eye for an Eye really meant do not punish in excess of the evil done you, ie, don't blow up a guy's car because he banged your fender in parking.
posted by Postroad at 11:38 AM on September 29, 2011


And, of course, the most dangerous situation in the world is when you have your 532nm safety goggles on and the laser is beaming at 394nm.

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times ...
posted by mrgrimm at 11:42 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy fuck, I had no idea IR imaging was that high res spatially and temporally. Awesome.
That kind of equipment has been used in the military for a while. You see wartime footage like that from time to time. And then there as this from a while back (probably back in the 90s).

IR is just below red light on the spectrum, so it's not surprising you can get high-resolution images from it. The "Night-vision" mode on cheap camcorders is mainly IR, and that's been available since the 1990s
Tell you what, the first time this happens, you can call the 300 families and explain exactly why their families are dead.
BE AFRAID!!! Anything that lets people do anything dangerous should be banned!!!!

Whatever. There is probably less risk caused by laser pointers overall then there is by helicopters in general. According to this there were 459 occupational deaths from 1995-2002 caused by helicopters. 1% of all workplace deaths in total!

But no one is saying we should ban helicopters, which do cause deaths, but rather we should ban laser pointers, which in theory, hypothetically could cause death but never has. Ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 11:45 AM on September 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


valkyryn: And as others have pointed out, it's entirely possible that these incidents are in no small part accidental, e.g. astronomy clubs or just people goofing off, completely unaware that there's a plane over there.
I have a very cheap, low-power red laser pointer, and aiming it steadily at objects even as much as 100 meters away, while holding it in the hand, takes a deliberate effort. At longer distances it becomes difficult or impossible. One may think one has a reasonably steady hand, but at a few hundred meters, even one's heartbeat will send the laser dot skittering wildly.

I'd be very surprised by any solid evidence that even one "cockpit laser incident" worthy of the name was genuinely accidental. The sky is very big, the laser dot and cockpit windscreen are quite small, and I expect a genuinely accidental overlap, while certainly not impossible, is likely to be so brief that the people in the cockpit may not even notice it or may not recognize it for what it is.

I have no idea how to solve it. I just suspect that when it happens, it's not an accident.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:49 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is almost no chance of accidentally shining your laser into an aircraft so as to blind the pilot. In level flight the view to the ground is miles away, and unless you are regularly waving a laser around in daylight (unlikely) you'll see the airplane lights quite easily well before it would be close enough for this to be a danger.

What is so scary about this is the deliberateness of it. There have been small airplanes that have landed to discover bullet holes where someone decided either that it was a fun activity or that they were entitled to scare air traffic away from their turf by shooting at it. This isn't any better behavior.

I frankly don't get the justification that this is okay because occasionally there is an aviation accident. At all. Thousands die from auto accidents yearly. Would it be okay for me to lob rocks off of overpasses near my house onto passing cars because I don't like the traffic noise? It sure would be nice to not have to hear freeway traffic.
posted by meinvt at 11:49 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm still waiting for my 5 megawatt laser.

I just don't understand what people are thinking. Why do people want to shine the beam at aircraft? Do they think it's funny? I don't think so, since you can't actually see the pilot's reaction. Are they actively trying to bring about the destruction of the aircraft and all those on board? Again, I don't think people (most) people consciously go out into their backyard thinking "I'm gonna crash me a plane." Are they just bored and looking for a moving target? Perhaps? I think this indicates a serious case of "wasn't raised right." I'm all for rapid police response in these cases, but I would really like to fix the underlying issue that causes people to do this. Can we solve it through education? Do they really not know this is dangerous? I mean, people could shoot guns at airplanes, but for the most part they don't. What is the difference?

Banning lasers seems overkill, though. If we can't fix the root cause for why people want to shine lasers at aircraft, we should just tax them enough (proportional to output) to make them expensive enough that they're no longer amusing toys.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:51 AM on September 29, 2011


But no one is saying we should ban helicopters, which do cause deaths, but rather we should ban laser pointers, which in theory, hypothetically could cause death but never has.

You are missing the obvious: Helicopters are useful for getting from point A to point B, emergency help, daring getaways etc. Shining a laser pointer into the sky is vastly less useful.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:53 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


some punk with no sense of the potential consequences of their actions

That's the thing: I don't think they understand what they're doing. The guy who's had a couple of beers and is out wandering around his yard shining his stupid laser toy at people probably just has no idea. Punishing him as if he'd been down on Main Street firing a gun into the air doesn't seem fair. Nail him with a huge fine or a very long community service sentence, but don't punish ignorance and stupidity with years in prison.

And stop selling laser pointers as toys.
posted by pracowity at 11:53 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, here's the problem. Why else would you point a laser at an aircraft, other than to blind the pilot? There is NO OTHER REASON.

Why would it ever be okay to shine a laser at a helicopter or an airplane? I get the sense that some people think it's just a minor nuisance. Blinding a pilot, even momentarily, is a little more than a minor nuisance, whether the pilot is flying a helicopter, a four-seater, or a commercial airliner.

I get it that there might be accidental lasering, but I'm doubtful that it's something that happens as often as intentional lasering.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:54 AM on September 29, 2011


It's not just planes, though: it happened to me while driving -- as I approached a 270-degree ramp -- and I was pretty put out.

Three beefy jerks in a Cape Cod Moving van did this over and over to me as we drove on a state highway, so I called the Staties on them. The dispatcher sounded pleased that she's get to sic a trooper on some Massholes, so I figured justice would be done and no one else would be dazzled and drive into a ditch.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:55 AM on September 29, 2011


But no one is saying we should ban helicopters, which do cause deaths..

Has nobody seen Blue Thunder?

Yes, once upon a time, people objected to the militarization of the police.

I am reminded of an incident from long ago, maybe the late 80s in LA. Some idiot tried to outrun the police instead of pulling over and getting a speeding ticket. He kept going so far that he passed from LA to Orange County. As the LAPD police helicopter tracking him prepared to hand off to the OC Sheriff copter, they crashed and the pilots were killed. Result: speeding and evading police now becomes 2 counts of murder.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:56 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, some people can take contrarianism and that perpetual, reflexive "I'm on the little-guy's-side" shtick to some ridiculous extremes.

But maybe they're right in this case.

In fact, let's go one further and formally enshrine the right to shine laser pointers in pilot's eyes--hell, anyone's eyes--in the US constitution. It's been implicitly a natural right--along with less technological forms of eye-gouging--since at least the time of Locke.

The little guy desperately needs some protection from the rampant abuses of the all-powerful, airplane pilot's eyeball lobby.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:56 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nail him with a huge fine or a very long community service sentence, but don't punish ignorance and stupidity with years in prison.

I mostly agree with this take, but if that negligence actually brings down a plane, all bets are off. At the point, even if involuntary, that's still a lot of counts of negligent homicide.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:59 AM on September 29, 2011


I just don't understand what people are thinking. Why do people want to shine the beam at aircraft? Do they think it's funny?

They're idiots. Seriously. They have no fucking clue and aren't thinking beyond "gee, cool laser."
posted by odinsdream at 12:09 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


imouth: It fills the cockpit with blinding light, actually.

yep. the right wavelength at the right vector can dazzle the cockpit pretty severely. It's an issue but it isn't (thus far) bringing down airplanes wholesale with a proportionate causality to say, fly-by-wire control system failures, turbines grenading, or even just plain running out of fuel. In fact for most commercial jets in landing phase there is, by law, tremendous avionics support. The laser doesn't just blow up the airplane. (and as a commercial pilot believe I have a sensitivity to someone frying my retinas on short final).

Let's put our reactionary tongues back in mouth and focus on what what is most dangerous IRL. The NTSB is a good place to start if you are curious about the best thinking in what causes actual accidents.
posted by lomcovak at 12:13 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a very cheap, low-power red laser pointer, and aiming it steadily at objects even as much as 100 meters away, while holding it in the hand, takes a deliberate effort.
They probably just flash it at the plane
You are missing the obvious: Helicopters are useful for getting from point A to point B, emergency help, daring getaways etc. Shining a laser pointer into the sky is vastly less useful.
People are talking about making it illegal to sell laser pointers to minors or as "toys". I don't think we should just make everything illegal because it can potentially be used in an inappropriate way.
posted by delmoi at 12:16 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was with you up to here.

Our standards are falling.

Maybe I'm just feeling especially generous today, but I don't think empath was seriously advocating for the death penalty. Just a hunch.
posted by kmz at 12:28 PM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think there's a distinct difference between laser pointers as an entire category, and high-power lasers. It's been made clear above just how dangerous Class 4 lasers are, and in particular I'd like to highlight this particular element of stupidity: Double-ended 'Sith' 2x1W laser. Because 1 1W laser wasn't enough, they had to present two of them. In a manner that encourages people to wave them around like lightsabers. For $700, and a beam (.25 lux) distance of ~7km. This isn't just 'Oh, hey, we're putting dangerous lasers in the hands of a demographic unlikely to treat it with appropriate precaution', this is actively courting disaster.

To be honest, I'm surprised we haven't seen cases of people perma-blinding a crowd, whether on purpose or by accident. Guy at a laser show thinks it's a good idea to chime in... Perhaps a small group of people striking crowded areas with terror and blindness for cheap...
posted by CrystalDave at 12:28 PM on September 29, 2011


...so I called the Staties on them. The dispatcher sounded pleased that she's get to sic a trooper on some Massholes...

That's just like in The Departed!
posted by goethean at 12:29 PM on September 29, 2011


Does anyone have photos or video showing exactly the 'dazzle' effect we're talking about, where the cockpit supposedly fills up with blinding light? Because that just seems hilariously wrong, and I'm calling bullshit until I see some proof.
posted by mullingitover at 12:32 PM on September 29, 2011


Hah, goethean, I didn't think of that. :7) Life imitating art...or just "everyone hates Massholes"?
posted by wenestvedt at 12:32 PM on September 29, 2011


Yeah, I'm not sure I agree with the anti-regulation crowd on this one. Flashing airplanes is only one of many potential dangers. Honestly, if you're going to regulate the sale of dangerous items at all, under any reasonable definition high-powered laser "toys" fall clearly into that category.

It's unlikely we'd actually hear about the true number of accidents from these devices. Is anyone even bothering to look at the number of partial blindness events? With the size, price, and target market of these devices I guarantee people are knocking out parts of their retinas every now and then.
posted by odinsdream at 12:37 PM on September 29, 2011


Does anyone have photos or video showing exactly the 'dazzle' effect we're talking about, where the cockpit supposedly fills up with blinding light? Because that just seems hilariously wrong, and I'm calling bullshit until I see some proof.

Scroll all the way to the top of this browser window and click the video links.
posted by odinsdream at 12:37 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, that is the solution. We should regulate people shining lasers into the cockpits of aircraft, and stop children from doing it.

But it already attracts a penalty of up to 20 years/$250,000. What good is another regulation going to do? And what evidence is there that the problem is caused by kids? Every asshole that I've ever seen abusing a laser has been a male in his 20s.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:41 PM on September 29, 2011


I moved into a new place this summer that has a view of a slice of the lake I kayak on regularly. I've been trying to think of a way to take a self-portrait, setting up a camera on my deck, then jogging the couple of miles to the lake, and paddling out to one of the spots I can see from my deck, combined with a really long self-timer. The problem of course if making sure I'm positioned where the camera is pointing. I've thought about setting up a laser pointing parallel to the camera lens and then finding the dot while I'm out on the water. But since they have seaplanes that take off and land on that same lake, it doesn't seem like the best idea to have a static laser pointing through their flight/taxi-path.
posted by nomisxid at 12:42 PM on September 29, 2011


I have to wonder- is there some sort of technological solution for this?

Mine involves taking laser guided (seeking) missiles and letting them chase down the source once it's been pinpointed on the ground.

They won't explode violently, but rather, will airburst and coat the target in fluorescent dye designed to last for at least a month or so. Just so everyone who encounters them knows what a complete fuck-up they are.
posted by quin at 12:42 PM on September 29, 2011


It's not just pilots, this shit actually happened to me quasi regularly while DJing. And happens to a lot of bands and shit.

One of Vancouver's famously charming sports fans did this in a hockey game last year.
posted by Hoopo at 12:46 PM on September 29, 2011


OK so that didnt work. Here.
posted by Hoopo at 12:47 PM on September 29, 2011


To the credit of law enforcement, instead of putting the guy into actual or financial jail for many years, they put him in front of the cameras to explain what he was doing and accept responsibility for the risk he created. I think a graduated approach from public apology/community service like this up to prison or heavy fines for willful or malicious abuse is the right way to go. Existing regulation seems more than adequate.

I've thought about setting up a laser pointing parallel to the camera lens and then finding the dot while I'm out on the water.

Right, then you look over your shoulder while you're bobbing about in your kayak and boom, retina damage. Never mind about the seaplanes, this is a stupid idea. Go out to the cool place you want to photograph first. Leave a marker there, you can make a buoy with a bright-colored bottle, a rock and some string. Go back to your cabin. Find the marker with your camera, set a long self-timer or get a radio trigger. Go back to your marker, remove it, pose, and voila. OK, this means two journeys, but as a bonus you'll also be able to measure the depth of the lake.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:53 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


odinsdream: "Scroll all the way to the top of this browser window and click the video links."

Saw it, still calling bullshit. I feel pretty safe betting that no consumer-grade laser is going to bring down an aircraft, ever. The beams spread over distance, losing brightness, and you can't hold them steady enough to keep them in the pilot's eyes for more than a tiny fraction of a second at that distance.

Can we not freak out and call for lasers to be banned in an absurd panic over a non-existent threat, please? I like them.
posted by mullingitover at 12:55 PM on September 29, 2011


I've thought about setting up a laser pointing parallel to the camera lens and then finding the dot while I'm out on the water.

What apparently people doing the plane-painting don't understand is that the small laser dot quickly becomes a giant laser dot the further it gets from you.

You'd have the same problem. There wouldn't be a little dot sitting on the water. It would be a giant circle of potential eye-damage.
posted by odinsdream at 12:56 PM on September 29, 2011


Yes, that is the solution. We should regulate people shining lasers into the cockpits of aircraft, and stop children from doing it.

I'm not opposing making this illegal. It's already illegal, and the penalties, as this post shows, include arrest, prosecution, and potentially heavy fines and jail time.

This is a kind of regulation I can completely get behind.

What I'm objecting to is the idea that additional warning-label and restrictive-sales type regulation will have any effect whatsoever on this issue other than costing the government, industry, and retail sales outlets a bunch of money.

No one has presented any arguments to the contrary.

I stand by my position.
posted by valkyryn at 12:56 PM on September 29, 2011


Saw it, still calling bullshit.

Any, uh, particular reason you take this stance given the evidence? Or are we just going to wait for a suitably disabled pilot to actually fuck up a landing for you to feel like this is actually real?
posted by odinsdream at 12:58 PM on September 29, 2011


i am fucking terrified of lasers

you cannot see them, they are racing around at knee level waiting to blind you forever as soon as you dip your head down
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:58 PM on September 29, 2011


Wicked lasers... didn't they commission a web comic series about time traveling women with giant tits who fought evil with laser pointers? Apparently they did.

I think that's a data point about the maturity level of the company and it's customers right there.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:59 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


You'd have the same problem. There wouldn't be a little dot sitting on the water. It would be a giant circle of potential eye-damage.


I am aware. When I first picked up my vintage HeNe tube laser, I spent a night seeing how far away I could hit with it, and quickly noticed that the best targets were the reflective stickers on mail boxes, and that after several blocks, the beam was above the size of a dinner plate. One of the upsides of the desertion of St Louis' downtown in the 90's was the lack of people to endanger before I thought things through.
posted by nomisxid at 1:00 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


In fact, let's go one further and formally enshrine the right to shine laser pointers in pilot's eyes

Will the lasers also work on men made of straw?
posted by inigo2 at 1:06 PM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


regarding "why the hell would someone put a laser on an (overhead) airplane?" i think that your average tool who would shine a laser at an airplane is really just doing it to see if he can. this is, for my money, the most unfortunate thing to consider. all the warnings, and info on the packaging (and in general) are largely ignored, or unknown altogether, and "hey cool laser" is the order of the day. i know i'm kind of re-hashing, but wanted to chime in on this.

also, i'm thinking that there may be some of the more sinister components of human nature at play in the case of someone that would shine a laser deliberately towards the cockpit of an airplane on approach, or towards a low-flying helicopter. again, they may not really know what they're doing, or the severity of the consequences, but dude.
posted by rude.boy at 1:11 PM on September 29, 2011


it doesn't seem like the best idea to have a static laser pointing through their flight/taxi-path

Given that I know what lake you're talking about, I can confirm this is an exceptionally bad idea given the response times I've experienced with the police on that exact body of water. However, I think that if you got one of the more powerfull lasers (100mW say) and waited until a suitable late hour (when there are no sea planes or much of anyone else), you could shine it briefly and get an idea of where it lands, and just use that as a guide for your camera. Then paddle out to the approximate place and be just fine.
posted by jeffamaphone at 1:12 PM on September 29, 2011


odinsdream: "Any, uh, particular reason you take this stance given the evidence?"

First video: it's from the footage of the camera, which is set to dramatically amplify light. I don't see any evidence that the pilot was in danger of having his own vision impaired whatsoever.

Second video: there are two clips showing laser hitting the cockpit. The first clip shows five frames, so about 1/6th of a second. It's not going to bring down the plane or blind the pilot, sorry. There's another clip in the video showing a perfectly steady beam flashing at the cockpit for about two seconds. My problem with this one is that it's too steady. I don't buy that this is a person standing on the ground holding a laser in their hand, and regardless, it's not bright enough to blind anyone.

I'm not saying anything about the current law should be changed. Don't be a douchebag and try to blind pilots, kids. However, with that being said, I don't find it realistic that anyone with a laser pointer is ever going to actually blind a pilot or crash a plane.
posted by mullingitover at 1:13 PM on September 29, 2011


I feel pretty safe betting that no consumer-grade laser is going to bring down an aircraft, ever.

Define "consumer-grade".
posted by Revvy at 1:14 PM on September 29, 2011


Lasers are a nuisance

Says you. I find them hysterical.
posted by stormpooper at 1:15 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Define "consumer-grade".

Jesus. Why the hell don't people need permits for a laser that is potentially visible from space?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:16 PM on September 29, 2011


every generation has an activity that captures the essence of what it is to be a nimrod, and this is ours
posted by facetious at 1:20 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't see the problem with better labeling, especially for lasers above 5 mW. Obviously this guy was uninformed about the risk of pointing lasers at aircraft and could have used a helpful illustration. What's the harm?

Drunk retards with frickin' laser beams are terrifying to me. I don't see an issue with restricting their sale to places where they aren't impulse buys for dumbasses seeking to do dumbass things to other people's retinas.

In other words, stop illuminating my lawn with your gosh darn green laser beams.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:23 PM on September 29, 2011


Horselover Phattie: "Jesus. Why the hell don't people need permits for a laser that is potentially visible from space?"

There's also no limit to the amount of gasoline you can buy without a permit. Heck, you can purchase highly explosive ammonium nitrate 50 pounds at a time, without a permit, and put it in your garden.
posted by mullingitover at 1:27 PM on September 29, 2011


Yeah, that kind of seems like a false comparison though. I can't put 500 gallons of gasoline in my coat pocket.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:28 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm impressed at our collective ability to stake out extraordinary positions and then fight over them. This is pretty obviously behavior that is both dumb and dangerous. It is already currently illegal. It would be good to make people more generally aware of the hazard. Otherwise I don't see a government role in this.

At the same time, it is pretty insulting to the folks who have had their vision temporarily impaired while doing an exacting, concentration intense and potentially dangerous activity calling them liars for reporting what has happened to them. Lasers have been around for a while, it is the fact that pilots reporting lasers impacting their ability to fly the airplane is a growing trend which is concerning.
posted by meinvt at 1:28 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying anything about the current law should be changed. Don't be a douchebag and try to blind pilots, kids. However, with that being said, I don't find it realistic that anyone with a laser pointer is ever going to actually blind a pilot or crash a plane.

If someone was deliberately inclined that way, it would be easy. I've spent whole days standing on some patch of waste ground shooting airplane takeoffs/landings for a movie. With a tripod, a fluid head (the pan/tilt bit, with some motion damping - around $150 for a good lightweight one) and bit of practice, it's fairly easy to track a plane even with a long lens. The laser can be mounted later. Planes are big heavy machines; they can't turn on a dime. At a busy airport you can get lots of practice; the only reason we were there all day was that the story required footage of a particular plane from a particular airline.

Smart? No. Viable? Certainly.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:29 PM on September 29, 2011


anigbrowl: "With a tripod, a fluid head (the pan/tilt bit, with some motion damping - around $150 for a good lightweight one) and bit of practice, it's fairly easy to track a plane even with a long lens. The laser can be mounted later. "

I think there's a difference between this scenario and your random Joe Dumbass drunkenly pointing a handheld laser pointer at a plane. In your scenario it's a premeditated attempt (however weak) to crash a plane using special equipment. If you're going to this length, why even bother with a laser when a high-powered rifle would be so much more effective? I'd put that in a different category than your average idiot pointing at a plane with a cat toy they bought at the local radio shack.
posted by mullingitover at 1:36 PM on September 29, 2011


Also, why did it take 300 officers to arrest one guy with a laser pointer?

SOP due to the high probability of associated frickin' sharks.
posted by The Bellman at 1:40 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think there's a distinct difference between laser pointers as an entire category, and high-power lasers. It's been made clear above just how dangerous Class 4 lasers are, and in particular I'd like to highlight this particular element of stupidity: Double-ended 'Sith' 2x1W laser. Because 1 1W laser wasn't enough, they had to present two of them. In a manner that encourages people to wave them around like lightsabers.
Well, so what? Just because something is stupid doesn't mean it should be illegal. It isn't like there are actually a huge number of people being injured by these things. The world doesn't need to be made perfectly safe against hypothetical dangers just because you think the people who want to buy them seem 'immature'.

In India (at least in big cities) it's completely illegal to use helicopters for non-governmental purposes. No news footage or choppering to the golf course. Why not in the U.S. as well? We've already established that they are much more dangerous then lasers, and Wallstreet bankers don't need to fly in from the hamptons in a half an hour.

My guess is that the dumbasses shining laser pointers at airplanes probably don't realize that they can damage the plane, and are just curious whether or not they can make it light up. Better labeling and public awareness could be helpful.
posted by delmoi at 1:41 PM on September 29, 2011


@grimgrin i am at the 'enema pages' of this comic

what the actual fuck
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:42 PM on September 29, 2011


mullingitover: here's one example of what it looks like to be dazzled by a laser (made by a company that sells goggles to protect against them, so feel free to call bullshit on them for being biased). Also read exogenous's post.
posted by zsazsa at 1:44 PM on September 29, 2011


Horselover Phattie: "Yeah, that kind of seems like a false comparison though. I can't put 500 gallons of gasoline in my coat pocket."

True. But you can put a one-liter bottle of gasoline in it, and that would do a hell of a lot more damage than you could ever do with even the most powerful laser on that web site. And it would cost a hell of a lot less.

But you wouldn't. And I'm pretty sure that pretty much everyone buying the high-powered lasers at wicked lasers aren't being idiots with them. Meanwhile, if they do something stupid, we have existing laws and regulations to deal with them.
posted by mullingitover at 1:44 PM on September 29, 2011


If you're going to this length, why even bother with a laser when a high-powered rifle would be so much more effective?

Laser pointer, $9 on amazon.com.

Tripod, $20 on amazon.com.

ARMALITE AR30 338 Lapua Rifle, $2000 and requires licensing.

If you're trying to do it on the Really Cheap...
posted by mephron at 1:49 PM on September 29, 2011


Everybody knows gasoline is dangerous. Does everybody know that high-powered lasers can be dangerous?
posted by kmz at 1:49 PM on September 29, 2011


I think there's a difference between this scenario and your random Joe Dumbass drunkenly pointing a handheld laser pointer at a plane.

You said 'anyone,' not 'any random drunken dumbass.' And your original dispute was about whether lasers could or could not light up an entire cockpit. Now if you want, we can argue about that all day, because I have a nice fat textbook on photonics sitting three feet away with all kinds of equations for calculating things like refractive indices, beam diffusion, and so on. Nobody has proposed banning lasers, so I suggest you take that straw man back to the rhetoric shop and ask for a refund.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:52 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Saw it, still calling bullshit.

It's OK guys, the expert has weighed in.
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:53 PM on September 29, 2011


What's a legitimate use of lasers other than medical, scientific, or cat amusement? Buy a small flashlight for the cat, and require a license for medical or scientific use.

I can't click through a bunch of links right now, so what are people buying high-powered lasers for in the first place?
posted by desjardins at 1:53 PM on September 29, 2011


or cat amusement

I'm pretty sure it pisses the cat off. It does however amuse the inert jackass waving it around.
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:54 PM on September 29, 2011


What's a legitimate use of lasers other than medical, scientific, or cat amusement?


Stoner amusement?
posted by nomisxid at 1:55 PM on September 29, 2011


Dear morons with lasers.....

Use mirrors. that is all.
posted by MrLint at 1:58 PM on September 29, 2011


> Stoner amusement?

They have Laser Gaga now? It was cute when it was Dark Side of the Moon or something, but that is obscene.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:00 PM on September 29, 2011


Funny how some people who love to gripe about all the useless crap and mindless entertainment we consume and how it makes all Americans so morally irredeemable they deserve to be sold out by their political and economic leaders, and yet, suggest that jabbing people in the eyes with laser pointers isn't a god-given right, and suddenly we're all for letting the free markets run their course and the crowd-wisdom of deregulation.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:01 PM on September 29, 2011


Nobody has proposed banning lasers


http://www.laserpointersafety.com/news/news/other-news_files/61240a157f996edcf26fff3beec83fb5-178.php

http://www2.scnow.com/news/2011/sep/13/myrtle-beach-considers-ban-laser-pointers-ar-2405219/

http://laserpointerforums.com/f44/warning-italy-has-decided-ban-lasers-47278.html

http://manila-paper.net/total-ban-on-laser-pointers-in-paranaque-city-proposed-why/6671

Only reason I posted these links is that I have seen these go by in the news. I have no comment otherwise.
posted by MrLint at 2:04 PM on September 29, 2011


What's a legitimate use of lasers other than medical, scientific, or cat amusement? Buy a small flashlight for the cat, and require a license for medical or scientific use.

Zsazsa's video features 35 to 80 mW lasers. Those higher power lasers should probably be as restricted as guns (we could just classify them as firearms and let the existing legislation deal with them), but the <=5mW red lasers everybody has are basically harmless; you could blind yourself more quickly by staring at the sun than by looking at one.
posted by Pyry at 2:07 PM on September 29, 2011


MrLint, I was responding to this (emphasis added): Can we not freak out and call for lasers to be banned in an absurd panic over a non-existent threat, please? I like them.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:11 PM on September 29, 2011


Right, then you look over your shoulder while you're bobbing about in your kayak and boom, retina damage.

Presumably he wouldn't use one powerful enough to do that... I'd fucking hope? It's not like your typical pen laser you can buy locally is going to be powerful enough to do that.
posted by floam at 2:12 PM on September 29, 2011


Nomisxid, next time I'm in town I'll just hang out with the camera and we can coordinate by cell phone. That way Metafilter won't have to worry about the well being of your eyes.
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:14 PM on September 29, 2011


Also read exogenous's post.

Just for the record, I wasn't blinded for more than a small fraction of a second, but it was daytime and the laser source was really far away, I guess about four to eight miles almost straight ahead. I did have some mild lingering pain and was pissed off and distracted from flying the plane. I admit that the laser looked sort of cool, appearing as a very slightly tapered cone of light zipping up at me from the distance, but it is definitely not something I would want to experience again.
posted by exogenous at 2:19 PM on September 29, 2011


Nobody has proposed banning lasers

Eventually, someone will green light one.
posted by hal9k at 2:22 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


valkyryn: What I'm objecting to is the idea that additional warning-label and restrictive-sales type regulation will have any effect whatsoever on this issue other than costing the government, industry, and retail sales outlets a bunch of money.

No one has presented any arguments to the contrary.


First, you're asking to prove a negative, because it hasn't been tried, yet.

Oh, and, ow about not imposing "warning-label and restrictive-sales type regulation" on the next 1000 or so products that we know have deleterious impacts on human beings, just to save a few bucks and make it more "convenient" for ourselves because we "already have laws in place". This is the same disingenuous argument that is used by the NRA, to "protect" us, and "keep government off our backs" - we can clearly see where that has led us...i.e. more than 65MILLION handguns in America.

Would you have argued against the warnings placed on toys with small parts that a little kid can choke on? That's consistent with your current stance,

We live in a complex world; most people don't have the time to monitor new dangers. I welcome strict oversight of new products in this way, and further welcome the banning of products deemed not necessary for most people to have, from retail and online venues that just want to make a cheap buck and damn the consequences. I'm ore interested in social responsibility and the *enforcement* of same, if necessary, for the greater good. I"m not afraid of the "toy police" or the "retail police", as your statements imply those groups should be called.

Another example: Why put warning notices on certain brands of automotive tires - warnings that suggest that the tires may disintegrate at high speed? After all, we already have speed limits.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:24 PM on September 29, 2011


I once drank a plastic bottle of cherry-7up that had no less than *3* warnings about not unscrewing the cap with your eye socket.
posted by nomisxid at 2:26 PM on September 29, 2011


Things I did not expect to find while researching this topic:
CHP Laser Dazzler
posted by bitmage at 2:27 PM on September 29, 2011


> CHP Laser Dazzler

Note that the cop anti-riot laser has 50% of the power of that consumer laser linked above.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:29 PM on September 29, 2011


NSW Premier Morris Iemma said the laws were in response to a spate of incidents in which aircraft were targeted with lasers.

Most recently, an air ambulance was picked out by a laser over Sylvania on Saturday night.

The lasers, depending on their strength, can temporarily or even permanently blind pilots, with potentially horrific consequences, Mr Iemma said.

"We are introducing new laws to stop the potential for mass murder when it comes to these hand-held lasers," he said.

"Make no mistake, they are lethal weapons."

http://news.smh.com.au/national/laser-possession-to-attract-a-jail-terms-20080421-27ij.html

Look if a politician says they are a mass murder weapon.... (whistle whistle)
posted by MrLint at 2:29 PM on September 29, 2011


...put a VISIBLE warning on them about the impact they have when they are sold...

I have a bunch of cheap lasers used for teh kittys. Of the five that I can find, every one of them have a warning about using them on your eyeballs. Of course, that warning is in rather small print...

Obviously, the sheeple need bigger print.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:34 PM on September 29, 2011


Yes, this was definitely a disproportionate reaction. With ten officers looking for the perp, as soon as it was announced that they had taken someone into custody, two should have stayed on the scene, and the other eight should have immediately driven away. No way it could be the wrong guy, right?

Buncha mind readers.
posted by etherist at 2:39 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


What do we need laser pointers for anyway. There are other ways to entertain cats. Your presentation sucks if you use them. If you need a laser sight to hit bambi you shouldnt have a hunting license, much less a riffle. We would be better off to just ban them.
posted by humanfont at 2:41 PM on September 29, 2011


Who needs bathtubs? Showers don't have the same risk of drowning children, and if you can't use a shower for whatever reason, there are always sponge-baths. We should just ban bathtubs.
posted by Pyry at 2:49 PM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are lots of things no one needs--ipods, Tabasco, decorative lapel pins, blogs, electric guitars. I like lasers, find them fascinating, and have entertained hundreds of people with them. As long as I'm not blinding people with them, I shouldn't need anyone's approval of what I do for fun.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:51 PM on September 29, 2011


...and have entertained hundreds of people with them.

Um...you mean cats, right?
posted by goethean at 2:54 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


First, you're asking to prove a negative, because it hasn't been tried, yet.

Since you're proposing the change, it's your job to marshal some positive evidence of its likely effectiveness - that requiring a warning label (in addition to the existing warning label) will have any impact on consumer behavior, or that a majority of abusive consumer behavior is committed by minors.

Oh, and, ow about not imposing "warning-label and restrictive-sales type regulation" on the next 1000 or so products that we know have deleterious impacts on human beings, just to save a few bucks and make it more "convenient" for ourselves because we "already have laws in place". This is the same disingenuous argument that is used by the NRA, to "protect" us, and "keep government off our backs" - we can clearly see where that has led us...i.e. more than 65MILLION handguns in America.

So you're saying that if guns came with a sticker saying 'warning: shooting people can result in injury or death' the problem of gun misuse would disappear? What I'm not understanding is why you think a (potential) 20 year jail sentence/quarter-million dollar fine is not already a sufficient warning against fucking around with lasers.

We live in a complex world; most people don't have the time to monitor new dangers. I welcome strict oversight of new products in this way, and further welcome the banning of products deemed not necessary for most people to have [...]

And who makes this judgment of necessity? You? Me? Based on what? Suppose I don't think it's necessary for you to be be able to buy internet access, based on the easily-supportable argument that you hold a variety of self-contradictory (and therefore irrational) positions?
posted by anigbrowl at 3:07 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vibrissae: "After all, we already have speed limits."
Speak for yourself.
posted by brokkr at 3:08 PM on September 29, 2011


Obesity doesn't kill people, spoons kill people.. Oh wait...

Seriously though, the only way I can see to help the situation is require training/licensing to legally (we can't do much about illegal packages from abroad) purchase a certain class of laser and/or punish the crap out of people that abuse their toys, much like we would someone who takes their motorcycle up on the sidewalk or causes damage to others with gasoline.

Educating the users would be great as well but, sad to say it, idiots are going to be idiots and disclaimers/stickers/whatever just don't add much value in the face of blatant stupidity/malice such as what this post discusses.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:19 PM on September 29, 2011


While I'm not defending police militarization or overreaction - I don't think the people here saying "what's the big deal?" have any idea how dangerous lasers really are.

I built and operated my own low powered laser shows when I was a raver kid. I have small permanent blind spots on my retina. They were discovered and confirmed in a recent eye test where they test field of vision in one of those programmable light box diagnostic tools.

Lasers are a LOT more dangerous than people realize. Even that little toy keychain laser you us to play with your cats, which, to be honest, you shouldn't be beaming right in front of your cat's face. I'm not a photonics expert but Ive probably screwed around with lasers a lot more than your average MetaFilter user, including doing dumb stuff like very long beam shots or shining it at reflective things you shouldn't shine it at. Yes, retrorelfective "Scotch Brite" material is the perfect long range laser target.

I think the very first thing that I did when I got my tube laser was set it up on a tripod and aim it down my street, across a park and landing on someone's white garage door just under a half mile away - almost all the way across my half-mile wide suburban block.

By the time it got to the garage door the beam was about 10 feet wide and still very bright, like floodlight. You would NOT want to stand in the beam and look up the beam. It probably wouldn't cause permanent damage if you looked at it briefly, but it would dazzle the fuck out of you and basically ruin your night vision - even though it was red.

Even at a few miles it would be easy to severely dazzle a pilot and paint the cockpit windows in laser light really good, because the beam is very wide at that range.



So, besides the underestimation of how bright even cheap, low powered lasers are, how wide the beam is at distance or how easy it is to paint a target, there are a few other factors that the people here saying "what's the big deal?" aren't accounting for.

One factor is the "strobing" that happens because of the natural shaking going on when hand-aiming a laser a long distance. So you have a beam of light that's probably wider than the entire cockpit or maybe even the fuselage, and depending on the laser it's about as bright as a flood lamp or much, much brighter if it's in the 250-1000mw range.

And this really bright, intense light is erratically strobing over your entire cockpit. It's glaring off of your thick aircraft windows, it's flooding the cockpit and making it difficult to see indicators or control switches. More than 30 seconds of that in a cockpit could end very badly.

A second factor is the fact that laser light reflects off of everything, just like plain old incoherent light. Suddenly every curved and even mildly reflective surface is a lens or a mirror, throwing off focused and unfocused beams. It's entirely possible to aim a cheap little 5mw laser at the wrong surface or object and have it focus neatly and precisely on your retina, and you might not even see where the reflection is coming from.

There are a LOT of reflective and curved surfaces in a cockpit - flat, concave and convex. A 100mw laser would light up a cockpit at night like crazy. A 1000mw laser would be like the strobelight of an angry disco god, and could very well cause instant and permanent blindness thanks to all those reflections in the cockpit, or a direct view of the beam.


Banning lasers may not be the answer, but education could be the answer. In fact, it's the answer. Maybe if we had better schools and science education people would understand these things about lasers, and lots of other dangerous (if not fun) things.

Anyway, this conversation is going to be drastically different when handheld lasers start hitting 10+ watts to 50+ watts. Imagine the fun taggers and annoyingly dangerous people are going to have with those. Or arsonists. You could start a fire inside a structure through a window, or etch/scribe glass or metal.
posted by loquacious at 3:20 PM on September 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


...strobe light of an angry disco god...

Now I know what I'm going to be for Halloween this year.

posted by RolandOfEld at 3:31 PM on September 29, 2011


empath wrote: On one level, it's kind of creepy that they were able to catch the guy that easily, but fuck him. I hope he gets the chair

At first, I was all "WTF," it's not even plainly obvious it wasn't accidental, given how the suspect's aim sucked. After he stepped out and shone the laser directly at the helicopter though, fuck him or her.

TBH, I'm about as equally annoyed by fuckwits like this and by the police state helicopters (my city, which has been unable to mow the parks for three years now, still spends almost a million bucks a year flying their helicopter; it's infuriating) making it impossible to light up a cloud on occasion.

odinsdream wrote: If you're outside looking at stars you're going to be easily able to spot a plane's lights and motion out from the background and avoid it. This is not hard.

Late at night, the cop chopper here goes sans lights. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it on several occasions when there was a full moon. (obviously, without the moonlight, it wouldn't be visible)
posted by wierdo at 3:36 PM on September 29, 2011


If you blind a pilot, your punishment is a blinding as well, right?
Eye for an eye and all that.
posted by madajb


No, your punishment should be a screaming free fall for about 500 feet where they don't tell you about the net at the bottom. I spend a lot of time in airplanes and I don't want to go into a dive because of some moron with a flashlight.
posted by spitbull at 3:55 PM on September 29, 2011


Quick fix: instead of hauling laser offenders off to jail and fining them thousands of dollars and charging them with felony wreckless endangerment, they should make them do hundreds of hours of community service by lecturing at schools about the proper use and dangers of lasers.

Helicopters are a tantalizing target for folks who don't know any better.
posted by snsranch at 4:03 PM on September 29, 2011


spitbull, do laser pointers have some heretofore unknown effect on aircraft systems that causes them to change attitude when a laser strikes them? If so, that's some pretty bad engineering!
posted by wierdo at 4:06 PM on September 29, 2011


Ah, Metafilter, where some random guy who likes lasers can discount an entire well documented safety phenomenon. The risk isn't that the laser is permanently scarring the pilot's retina, it's that a bright flash of light in the cockpit completely wrecks your vision, particularly if it's night adapted. It's also a dangerously startling thing when close to the ground, flying slow, trying to land a 2000 pound plane moving at 70+ mph. The whole cockpit is illuminated, partly because the laser beam spreads and partly because the plastic windscreen scatters the light everywhere.

I imagine many of the incidents are just some dumbass pointing the green dot at things and saying "neato, laser". I know I did that kind of thing myself when I was young and lasers were a novelty, although fortunately never at an aircraft. I think some well publicized capture and punishment will go a long way towards curtailing this kind of stupidity.
posted by Nelson at 4:07 PM on September 29, 2011


When it becomes a problem where pilots are teleported into bathtubs from the cockpit and drowned by drunk 20-somethings, you will be fully justified in your calls that bathtubs are just as much of a problem. I think we can also wait on fork flicking technology to start stabbing pilots on approach.
posted by humanfont at 4:08 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funny how some people who love to gripe about all the useless crap and mindless entertainment we consume and how it makes all Americans so morally irredeemable they deserve to be sold out by their political and economic leaders, and yet, suggest that jabbing people in the eyes with laser pointers isn't a god-given right, and suddenly we're all for letting the free markets run their course and the crowd-wisdom of deregulation.
What the hell does that even mean? First of all I see a lot of complaining about people being sold out by their political and economic leaders, rather then the other way around, and secondly I don't even understand what the second point has to do with the first.

If you're suggesting that people who think the average American is an idiot who deserves to have their lives controlled by the government because they are too stupid make their own decisions would be in favor of banning laser pointers, then you're probably right, I guess.

What I don't understand is why you seem to think that's a default position. Who are you even talking about? Who are these people who think "all Americans so morally irredeemable they deserve to be sold out by their political and economic leaders" and why should I care what they think?

W.T.F


The arguments in this thread are really bizarre. There are lots of dangerous things in the world. The people arguing that consumer Lasers should be banned are being ridiculously authoritarian. Just because you don't NEED a laser doesn't mean you shouldn't have one. Like MrMoonPie said there are lots of things we don't NEED, but what kind of world would we have if we got rid of all of them if they posed any danger at all?
I have a bunch of cheap lasers used for teh kittys. Of the five that I can find, every one of them have a warning about using them on your eyeballs. Of course, that warning is in rather small print...

Obviously, the sheeple need bigger print.
People need to learn the difference between high and low power lasers. The kind of laser you use to play with a cat isn't even going to be noticeable to an airplane.

If you look at the high powered laser store, they do have a lot of safety information, and even include safety glasses and warn you not to use the laser at all without the safety glasses.
posted by delmoi at 4:18 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heck, you can purchase highly explosive ammonium nitrate 50 pounds at a time, without a permit, and put it in your garden.

Where is it that you can do this so easily? Ammonium nitrate has pretty much disappeared off the shelves of any farming supply in California since Oklahoma City, partly due to insurers' fussiness about retailers carrying it, more arduous record-keeping requirements, and the fact that no one in the US really makes it anymore. I work in horticulture, and no one has been able to find this stuff anywhere for years. Looks like the same is true of New York. And If the ANSP passes, anyone selling or buying with over 25 pounds is going to have to be registered.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:26 PM on September 29, 2011


If you look at the high powered laser store, they do have a lot of safety information, and even include safety glasses and warn you not to use the laser at all without the safety glasses.

Is this the same company that's selling this ridiculously ill-advised piece of shit as linked above?:
Wicked Lasers strikes back with the new Sith Series handheld laser by incorporating two dual blades of scintillating energy into the world's first double handed laser. Delivering twice the power, the world's most powerful handheld laser now shoots backwards too. This is truly the most dangerous and awesome laser we've ever created.
Yeah, I'm not really down with their safety/education program when they sell a product like that. Sure, it's better than the no safety and education offered by buying one from an unknown foreign supplier off of dealextreme, but a quick YouTube search shows a lot of people being really stupid with lasers in that power range - and from that exact store. At 1 watt at full power that laser should emphatically not be handheld and portable. That's something that needs to be bolted to a bench with an appropriate beam stop and safety protocols.

There was a time not too long ago when basically anyone who could afford a 1 watt visible spectrum laser would know and practices these safety measures. When I ran laser shows my optics bench and laser source needed to be above the line of sight of the audience. Beamlines ran well overhead, generally out of reach, or broadcast to a wall like a video projector. I would often have idiots walk up and try to put their face in the beam path and I'd have to shutter the beam. (Simply flipping a mirror on a hinge to divert it to a stop. This was a manual and very old school laser show.)

These days you have cheap piece of crap 20-100mw club laser shows that'll shoot through a diffraction grating and beam a million split beams straight down into a dance floor, and I've seen some pro shows running 1-20 watt rigs where the beamlines intentionally were aimed into the crowd. They're basically trusting that they're splitting the beam enough and moving it fast enough that they reduce the risk of damage, but this isn't really ok or safe.


I'm personally kind of annoyed by these things and the "ooo, shiny" dorks that buy and use them casually because I used to consider myself something of a laser hobbyist. I wanted to get into holography but it was too expensive at the time. I did a lot of optical experiments as well, particularly looking at turbulence and Brownian motion in liquids and gases - literally smoke and mirrors, like that cool "liquid sky" effect when you scan a laser through smoke or fog.

That 1-watt laser from Wicked Lasers is something that you could do some pretty crisp, clear holographic plates with. Or run a serious professional light show. Or make all kinds of useful tools with it. Imagers and scanners, rangefinders and more.

Hell, using it as a clean way to light a bong would be more useful than pointing it at planes or people to annoy them.

There are a few valid uses for a laser like that. Star-pointing in astronomy, say, but you don't really need a full watt for that.
posted by loquacious at 4:43 PM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you see someone doing this, it is your duty as an American to beat them until they piss blood and cry piss....and...sneeze......poop?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:06 PM on September 29, 2011


Oh shit. WTF will happen when the FBI focuses most of its manpower on laser cats?
posted by hal_c_on at 5:09 PM on September 29, 2011


Speaking of dangerous, do people ever use these little laser pointers in a guerrilla warfare context? "Here, you guys all point your laser pointers at the helicopter while I circle around with the RPG" or even just randomly pointing them at aircraft flying around? Does it just get them bombed, or what? 'Cause it sounds like a ton of people with $50 laser pointers and bad intentions could cause some mischief resistance-wise.
posted by furiousthought at 5:51 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


They're banned in Australia. Lame.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:51 PM on September 29, 2011


It's entirely possible to aim a cheap little 5mw laser at the wrong surface or object and have it focus neatly and precisely on your retina, and you might not even see where the reflection is coming from.

It's also entirely possible that brownian motion will remove all the oxygen from the side of the room I'm standing on, but I don't worry about it too much.

I tried a while back to keep a laser on one brick on the side of a building (a big industrial affair with no windows anywhere near) from about 200-300 foot away. AND CLEARLY I WAS DOING THIS TO BLIND, uh, someone!, BECAUSE THERE IS NO OTHER REASON! Er, anyhow, the beam spot was about the size of the top of a coffee cup and it was hard as hell to keep it on target. Hitting an airplane is going to be a lot harder since you won't have a wall there to let you know if you're anywhere near being on target or not.

I wasn't sure about how bright or scattered the light would be after going through the window of a plane, though, but hey - I'm a scientist - I can do an experiment! So I took my laser pointer (650 nm, 5 mW) downstairs and shot it through a storm window I'm about to redo (1920s era glass with as much character as all get out). From across the basement the spot was about the size of a quarter, but through the glass it was about the size of a half-dollar. Next I shot through a glass soda bottle. This spread the light out quite a bit but if by blinding you mean "almost bright enough that you might be able to read by it if you're eyes are good and you have a couple minutes to dark adapt". Somewhere down there I have an old lyopholizer door and was really interested to see what 2 inches of lexan would to do the the beam but I can't find it right now.

Anyhow, my point is this - your basic cat toy laser pointer is clearly not a death ray. You might be able to annoy a pilot with one and you can definitely fuck some shit up with a more powerful lasers* but most people have something on par with the one I was just playing with. Now, imagine your average schmuck has heard all the handwaving freakoutery his tiny little laser pointer and NOTHING has ever happened despite all the dumb shit he's done with it. If he ever gets his hands on a serious laser he's going to be full to brimming with a false sense of security. That's bad.

*If you're wearing a white shirt, you can walk through the beam of a 6 watt argon ion laser (but don't loiter). Do not try this if you are wearing a white shirt with dark blue pinstripes. Don't ask me how I know this.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:52 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I just don't understand what people are thinking. Why do people want to shine the beam at aircraft? Do they think it's funny? I don't think so, since you can't actually see the pilot's reaction. Are they actively trying to bring about the destruction of the aircraft and all those on board?"

I always figured that Johnny Cash had this already figured out
posted by Blasdelb at 5:54 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everybody knows gasoline is dangerous. Does everybody know that high-powered lasers can be dangerous?

Evidently not on metafilter.
posted by happyroach at 6:32 PM on September 29, 2011


furiousthought: As far as I know the standard countermeasure for dealing with laser beam riding weapons is to shoot at the beam source as fast as possible, in hopes of killing the operator and sending the missile off course.

You might be able to crash a landing plane if you could get close enough to the airstrip, but I can't imagine not being killed immediately after doing it.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:42 PM on September 29, 2011


I wonder, are there military applications?

Surely blinding enemy pilots with targeted laser systems is cheaper and easier than trying to shoot them down.

On the other side of the spectrum, handheld lasers would be pretty easy to equip guerrillas with.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:52 PM on September 29, 2011


Whoops, jinx, furiousthought. I owe you a coke.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:53 PM on September 29, 2011


I own a 20mW green laser that I use for astronomy. It is truly wonderful in astronomy uses. Being able to point directly to a star, rather than trying to describe it ("see the sort-of bright one over there, well it's a little ways down and to the right of that, but no, not that far..."). It's also amazingly useful for being able to find objects; I was once able to find M51 without using my finder scope at all, just holding the laser next to the tube and swinging it until the laser was pointed in the right area.

I'm also extremely careful with the laser. No pointing at terrestrial objects, and no pointing at anything visibly moving in the sky. Even things that are probably just satellites, I avoid pointing at. Because I want to keep being able to use the laser for astronomy.

(I also have a 5mW red laser, but the beam is just too dim to see in all but the darkest settings with just-perfect weather. 20mW, on the other hand, is plenty bright for my purposes; the beam is visible even in light-polluted skies.)
posted by jiawen at 7:47 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone asked about why the military didn't use lasers as weapons if they were so powerful, which may or may not have been sarcastic. Anyway I suspected that there were Geneva-type regulations involved and managed to find this after a casual search.

The aim of the Convention and its Protocols is to provide new rules for the protection of military personnel and, particularly, civilians and civilian objects from injury or attack under various conditions by means of fragments that cannot readily be detected in the human body by X-rays, landmines and booby traps, and incendiary weapons and blinding laser weapons.

The reasoning, as I understand it, comes from the whole Geneva convention idea of not aiming to maim and handicap for life. Like it or not, Geneva conventions are ok with shooting someone in war but not in using a mine/gas/chemical/etc/etc with hopes of maiming. I'm no international lawyer but the thing is lasers are much more feasible as blinding (the permanent kind of blind, I mean) weapons than as let's zap this tank. Though I have heard about anti missile lasers i think.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:51 PM on September 29, 2011


The reasoning, as I understand it, comes from the whole Geneva convention idea of not aiming to maim and handicap for life. Like it or not, Geneva conventions are ok with shooting someone in war but not in using a mine/gas/chemical/etc/etc with hopes of maiming.

Well that's one of the oldest principles of war. Shooting an enemy takes out one man. Wounding an enemy is better, it takes out two men, the guy you shot, and the guy who carries him off the battlefield. And the wounded man puts a burden on the military infrastructure. Targeting whole populations of civilians creates refugees that are a burden on the state that makes it impossible to support a military.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:07 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of that CSI: Miami where the terrorist dude was standing at the end of the tarmac with an RPG, in broad daylight. Good times.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:11 PM on September 29, 2011


It's not just pilots, this shit actually happened to me quasi regularly while DJing. And happens to a lot of bands and shit.
Bands don't like 'em much, either.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:46 PM on September 29, 2011


So you're saying that if guns came with a sticker saying 'warning: shooting people can result in injury or death' the problem of gun misuse would disappear? What I'm not understanding is why you think a (potential) 20 year jail sentence/quarter-million dollar fine is not already a sufficient warning against fucking around with lasers.

No. I'm saying that making it extremely difficult - far more difficult than it currently is to buy a handgun (in many states) - would deter gun ownership in those states. The NRA uses the same "we already have laws against killing people" argument that you're using about lasers. It's a very passive way to promote public safety. And no, I'm not trying to legislate everything - the argumentum ad absurdiums that I've seen related to my original post make me wonder about what kind of parents some of these folks will make - e.g. 7 year-old to his father: "Daddy, can I buy that laser pen?" Father: "Sure, son - just realize that there are laws against pointing the pen at people and airplanes". That's the difference between having them on display racks, and not - in all too many cases. You may support that. I don't.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:04 AM on September 30, 2011


I never do this, but...

Metafilter: Collective ability to stake out extraordinary positions and then fight over them
posted by pardonyou? at 9:17 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of dangerous, do people ever use these little laser pointers in a guerrilla warfare context? "Here, you guys all point your laser pointers at the helicopter while I circle around with the RPG"
Those Sea Shepard guys were using them against whaling boats. Seems like it would paint a huge target on yourself if you used it against a US helicopter in Iraq.
posted by delmoi at 10:21 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


mephron writes "ARMALITE AR30 338 Lapua Rifle, $2000 and requires licensing.

"If you're trying to do it on the Really Cheap..."


A plain bolt action .308 isn't anywhere near that expensive ($350 and up) and a match weapon isn't required to hit a plane on final approach.

desjardins i writes "What's a legitimate use of lasers other than medical, scientific, or cat amusement? Buy a small flashlight for the cat, and require a license for medical or scientific use."

Warhammer 40K. And they'll need to take my construction laser from my cold dead hands. There isn't anything better for putting up t-bar and cable tray or setting a grade.

oneirodynia writes "Where is it that you can do this [buy Ammonia Nitrate] so easily?

Canada. But we seems to blow each other up a lot less than Americans.
posted by Mitheral at 6:28 PM on September 30, 2011


Hmm.. I missed some of this discussion, so I will just interject an infamous piece of Performance Art by Chris Burden, entitled "747," when he fired a pistol at an airliner departing LAX.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:27 PM on September 30, 2011


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