Let’s start with some background first.
Jack Burton sent me a link to this website. With $699.99 US you, too, could have owned a handheld laser powerful enough to burn a hole through a plastic cup, or to put a dot on a cloud or tree miles away.
One of the lasers was used a few weeks ago to illuminate the cockpit of a commercial airplane at takeoff. Nothing happened except for an annoyed cockpit crew, and the plane continued on to its destination without incident. The Homeland Security guys felt compelled to issue a warning about it because they’d be in trouble if something did happen and they hadn’t said anything about it.
Now Prof. Reynolds has a post up talking about the commercial plane, and I’m waiting for an instalanche. (Probably won’t happen.)
As you might guess from my previous posts, I’m very skeptical about a terrorist using a laser to good effect. There seem to be so many problems with developing and fielding a working laser that even the US military doesn’t have one in its arsenal yet. But that doesn’t mean that some experimentation isn’t going on.
The go-to guy for info on the possibility for laser weapons (or even for new developments in military gear) is Murdoc Online. Case in point is this post from last year, where Murdoc points out that the Taipei Times is warning about a laser threat. I don’t think it’s any more credible than Murdoc did at the time.
Murdoc also let us know about an experimental laser system that’s mounted on a Humvee. The idea being to use the laser to destroy roadside bombs. I have no idea if it actually worked as advertised or if it’s something that didn’t pan out. Since I haven’t seen any press releases from the companies which make laser gear trumpeting how the US government is sending them large orders, I’d have to say that it probably is something that won’t be showing up any time soon.
Murdoc also has a post where he talks about simple, cheap laser defense. In all fairness the contact lenses mentioned only work against a specific frequency of laser light, but they would work.
So there you have it. Some idiot decides to use his souped-up laser pointer as a prank and Homeland Security warns of terrorists with Star Wars weapons. I suppose the prankster is happy. After all, even though no one knows who he is, he’s still kinda famous now.