Laser Laser, Burning Bright

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.

Anglosphere Challenge Review

I posted this review of Jim Bennett’s new book, The Anglosphere Challenge, on Amazon.

Janus-Faced Book Studies the Past to Illuminate the Future

James Bennett popularized the term “Anglosphere”, which refers to those communities which speak English and share in the cultural practices and institutions inherited from England, e.g. common law, parliamentary democracy, highly developed civil society, private rather than communal notions of property, entrepreneurial rather than state-led economic development, relative openness to innovation and to immigration. These characteristics have been developing in the English-speaking world for at least a millennium. Bennett draws on the work of Alan MacFarlane and David Hackett Fischer to demonstrate the uniqueness of the civilization which developed in England and which it passed on to its daughter polities, primarily the United States. This Anglosphere civilization has been the path-breaker for modernity, initiating modern democratic institutions and the industrial and subsequent economic revolutions. Note that Bennett does not offer this analysis in any spirit of triumphalism. This is not the old “Whig theory” of history, since Bennett correctly sees that these developments were the result of fortunate historical contingency. Bluntly, those of us who live in the Anglosphere are not better than anybody else, just luckier. Bennett predicts that the Anglosphere will continue to be the cutting edge civilization in terms of economic and political development. In particular, the existence of the Web has already created a unitary Anglophone economic and cultural space, which will develop further as the highest value-added products become increasingly information-intensive, placing a premium on linguistic and cultural commonalities. Bennett offers predictions concerning the institutional form that this new economic reality will call forth, which he labels a “network commonwealth”. Bennett believes that this future political form, and a dense and robust underlying civil society, present the best hope for coping with the hazards presented by emerging technology, and obtaining the benefits of that technology. Moreover, Bennett offers numerous, concrete policy proposals to further the development of this emerging Anglosphere network commonwealth, in the areas of trade, immigration, defense procurement and military cooperation. Bennett’s book is the result of years of reflection on these historical and contemporary issues. This short paragraph does not even scratch the surface of a book that has many novel insights and profound ideas, and which opens up numerous lines for further inquiry. Five stars is really not a sufficient rating. This is one of the three or four most important books I have read in recent years to understand the world we are living in, why it is the way it is, where we are going, and how we can create a future worth living in.

Something That I Learned From Reading Blogs

Not only are there many extremely intelligent ordinary people out there, but a lot of famous, mainstream journalists and commentators get by mainly on their rhetorical skill and lack both analytical ability and common sense.

UPDATE: Mitch raised the hair issue in the comments, and I realized that I didn’t mean to restrict what I wrote to mainstream-media people. Andrew Sullivan (not to pick on him but he’s an obvious example) fits the pattern, despite not being a MSM person and not having important hair. He writes beautifully but his analysis of matters economic (deficits bad!) and geopolitical (we’re losing!) is somewhat less acute than is his rhetoric. Some people simply write better than they think. We should always examine arguments carefully, no matter who made them or how satisfying they sound.

Chicago Boyz and Girls (Girlz?) at Play

On a recent Friday afternoon I visited Lex at his office, where we discussed the usual politics and developed a robust libertarian/conservative dinner strategy. Mrs. Lex soon joined us and we set off for the excellent Reza’s, where we met up with some blogging colleagues and a few interlopers. We ate, drank, discussed interesting things and had a good time. Here are some photos.

Thursday Night: Reconnaissance

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