"That you may ruminate"

…On Lasers.

Posted by Steve on August 16, 2008

Boeing put out a highly uninformative press release on Wednesday regarding the first full systems test of their Advanced Tactical Laser project for the U.S. Department of Defense. Basically, an updated version of the Vietnam War-era AC-130 that uses a megawatt-range laser instead of a 105-mm howitzer.

It isn’t clear to me how a giant laser mounted on an airplane’s going to be a useful weapon, since it seems like being on as inherently jittery a firing platform as a plane is going to interfere with the precision that’s part of the reason for developing this system, but it’s definitely a cool weapon. It’s a friggin laser beam!

Lasers… is there anything they can’t do? I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a fiber optic cable, but each fiber is no thicker than the lead for an automatic pencil. There’s a laser shooting down each fiber. A laser no bigger than automatic pencil lead, and it’s transmitting phone conversations and the internet. Then there’s laser eye surgery. I remember a newspaper ad in Atlanta: you could get laser eye surgery for like $600 an eye. Lasers help you see! Lasers have industrial application: you can weld with them, and you can cut metal with them. And now… you can assassinate tanks with them. Lasers are just cool.

They’re also entertaining, as anyone who’s ever been to a laser show can attest.

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