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Airborne Laser
June 7, 2002 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Airborne Laser 21st Century, here we come! According to the always serious folks at Janes, a new kind of weapon that has a strong smell of fifties sci-fi will soon become really real. An airborne basket-ball sized laser beam should soon be able to destroy missiles before they reach their target. Why doesn't this news makes more confident in the future of this world?
posted by Baud (32 comments total)

 
Kentucky Fried Panda, anyone?
posted by artifex at 1:32 PM on June 7, 2002


Is anyone else reminded of the dream where you see yourself standing in sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid, with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you?
posted by Cyrano at 1:44 PM on June 7, 2002


Uh huh. As long as the laser cannons are pre-programmed with the readings from the GPS boxes inside the missiles.
posted by GriffX at 1:44 PM on June 7, 2002


And now the USAF presents a laser light show!
posted by geoff. at 2:05 PM on June 7, 2002


Forgive my ignorance but couldn't you just wrap your missile in a reflective coating and have the laser bounce right off ?
posted by zeoslap at 2:06 PM on June 7, 2002


(1)Because no reflector is perfect. (2) Even when reflecting the light, the surface reflecting is heated/excited/ionized.

This news is nothing *but* good. Weapons that destroy people = good or bad (depends on where they're pointed & who's pointing them). Weapons that destroy weapons that destroy people = good.

How hard is that to figure?
posted by dissent at 2:11 PM on June 7, 2002


Right, because for sure these airborne lasers will always be destroying bad guys' ICBMs, and never an Airbus or a gasoline tanker or anything like that...
posted by anser at 2:22 PM on June 7, 2002


Dissent: Also, you have to remember that although the lasers are theoretically only for defensive use, they are very destabilizing.

Imagine a scenario where Alice and Bob are less than friendly and they both have nukes but Bob also has an anti missile shooter-downer. Then if Alice thinks that Bob is either going to destroy her missles or attack first, then it makes theoretical sense for her to attack as soon as she can so as to get a jump on Bob, and hopefully sneak a few through before she is rendered helpless and then obliterated. It is exactly because of the destabilizing force of anti-missle weapons that they were banned in the now defunct Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
posted by bshort at 2:39 PM on June 7, 2002


Finally, I can cook this giant ball of jiffypop popcorn I've had since 1985. It's a moral imperative!
posted by gr0k at 2:40 PM on June 7, 2002


Bshort-
The risk of destablization seems reasonable when dealing with those who are less than stable to begin with.

I think at this point, "anyone" (IE: nation) that's stable has a good sense the US won't be launching a nuclear first strike on them. The unstable countries don't *care*.

And, anser, seems quite well worth the risk to me. Shouldn't we worry more over unstable small nations with ballistic missiles than stable large ones with anti-missile devices? Hmmmm? If you're worried over the US having a defensive weapon, why aren't you ulcer-ridden over say, Iraq, having missiles at all?

Big definite problems take priority over small possible ones.

I wouldn't loose any sleep if China, or Russia decided to field exactly such a device as this... as long as they weren't sharing it with nations that couldn't be trusted to use the technology responsibly.
posted by dissent at 2:52 PM on June 7, 2002


I'm just waiting for Val Kilmer to make some popcorn with this baby.... mmmm popcorn!
posted by n9 at 2:52 PM on June 7, 2002


damn, gr0k. you beat me to it by a longshot. sniff.
posted by n9 at 2:53 PM on June 7, 2002


you know, you think kent would've got terribly burned by that giant wave of popcorn. either that or smothered.

lasers in airplanes i can believe; but a man surviving the crush of two tons of popcorn? c'mon. honestly, that's always bothered me.

posted by fishfucker at 2:54 PM on June 7, 2002


hey, God himself told Kent to wait out front and what happened? He went in anyway. Screw Kent.
posted by n9 at 2:57 PM on June 7, 2002


Have we learned nothing from Val Kilmer? All the terrorists need is a fake mostache to hijack the laser plane.
posted by gr0k at 3:00 PM on June 7, 2002


I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one that really liked that movie...

Big, powerful lasers? Cool, and needed. How else will be able to defend ourselves from the Kzin?

Seriously, I'll worry more about the implications of such a device when they can show that it actually works. I've heard this claim a few too many times.
posted by hadashi at 3:12 PM on June 7, 2002


n9 - Cryano beat you at grOk by at least an hour, but that's OK you were probably busy hammering nails or something.
posted by willnot at 3:32 PM on June 7, 2002


"I wouldn't loose any sleep if China, or Russia decided to field exactly such a device as this... as long as they weren't sharing it with nations that couldn't be trusted to use the technology responsibly."

Sure, because our biggest potential enemies are responsible, and always will be.

Cut the crap, Kent: You've built a weapon... A big mirror makes a big beam.
posted by kfury at 4:19 PM on June 7, 2002


On a related note: We only have to wait 4 more days. It's been a long time coming...
posted by kfury at 4:21 PM on June 7, 2002


Why am I the only one who has that dream?

(thanks for noticing, willnot)

*glows*
posted by Cyrano at 4:48 PM on June 7, 2002


I think that kfury is really Jeff Bezos, and is using this forum as a means of getting sales on the Real Genius DVD.

Ok, fine, it worked.
posted by hadashi at 4:49 PM on June 7, 2002


Dissent: First you say "This news is nothing *but* good. " I suggest a way in which it might be a mixed blessing. Then you switch to "seems quite well worth the risk to me." I don't know whether it's worth the risk or not (and neither do you) but it is definitely not "nothing but good." If these things are promulgated we WILL see a grievous misuse one day.
posted by anser at 4:52 PM on June 7, 2002


Technology can never be defined as good or bad. Only children see the world in good or evil.
posted by stbalbach at 5:24 PM on June 7, 2002


Umm, what about clouds?
posted by BentPenguin at 6:52 PM on June 7, 2002


thermal imaging?
posted by clavdivs at 7:18 PM on June 7, 2002


I don't quite understand anser's assertion regarding these weapons that "we will see a grievous misuse one day" .

The only negative I can see is the potential of destabilization, and I think in light of modern technology that potential is vastly outweighed by the possible benefits of a working anti-missile system. Any destabilizing factor of such a system would be it's very existence - and if it can be built, eventually it will be. All it will take is for one nation to believe the advantage of a missile defense will outweigh the drawbacks. Anyone want to bet Pakistan or India wouldn't very much like to have such a system in place right at this moment?

In terms of actual misuse, there already exist a plethora of military weapons that are perfectly capable of destroying a civilian jetliner or a tanker. Many of these weapons are already in the hands of people who have shown themselves completely willing to use them indiscriminately. If a plane is destroyed in midair, is it a bigger tragedy that it was blasted with a laser, or if it was hit with a stinger missile?

And I always felt it was cruel for God to tell Kent to stop touching himself. That poor guy certainly wasn't going to find release elsewhere.
posted by John Smallberries at 8:18 PM on June 7, 2002


"What about clouds?"

Clouds are good. Except when they're bad.
posted by kfury at 8:33 PM on June 7, 2002


anser - if you are concerned about accidental civilian deaths, you should be wildly in favor of the ABL. It's of minimal use against things other than missiles and satellites, since it has greatly reduced range at lower altitudes. You need to have line of sight to what you want to hit, which makes it much harder to misidentify targets. The beam travels at the speed of light, which makes it hard to hit something other than what you're aiming at. It's not good against ICBMs because they can be launched from beyond the range of the ABL, which makes destabilization concerns much less valid. It's wildly expensive, and so unlikely to proliferate to more questionable countries.

It's hard to think of a more civilian-friendly weapon.

(oh... and the ABL and the missiles it targets are above essentially all clouds)
posted by jaek at 8:46 PM on June 7, 2002


I'm really glad that we are able to fund some really expensive laser lighty thingy but don't have enough money to give school districts funding to help educate handicapped kids. I think that we don't really need another destructive device to kill us. Don't we have enough?

Maybe not but it'd seem to me, as a nation, the US preoccupation with defense is just a little f**ked up. Aren't there bigger fish to fry? Possibly with a laser? Hey NASA, I having a BBQ this weekend and I'm having a really hard time getting the coals hot. Can you point that light thingy laser down here and start them for me?

We probably don't need educated gimps anyway. All we need are more westpoint graduates to help us fight the wars. Grist for the mill or meat for the grinder.
posted by MaddCutty at 10:45 PM on June 7, 2002


Let the lobbying begin I say! Inquiring minds want to know: does Photoshopping a blue sky into the rollout photo at the Boeing plant really help with sales?
posted by Dick Paris at 3:03 AM on June 8, 2002


I'm really glad that we are able to fund some really expensive laser lighty thingy but don't have enough money to give school districts funding to help educate handicapped kids

Good point, but it's also true that a 500 megaton bomb falling on George Washington Elementary tends to disrupt the school day.
posted by groundhog at 3:43 AM on June 8, 2002


does Photoshopping a blue sky into the rollout photo at the Boeing plant really help with sales?

Geez, that was incompetently done. If they'd done it right you'd never even notice.
posted by kindall at 6:03 AM on June 8, 2002


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