I really had lofty goals of making the inaugural post on the new website something of substance. Some proud proclamation of who and what I am, a redefinition of my goals, a promise to consume a live squid upon the sale of my first book, that kind of thing. But then I was listening to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe today, and I heard about a story that totally sucked me in.
I actually wrote about this technology a while ago, but the technology has moved on and improved, as technology does, and it bears consideration again. Here’s an article from Nature.com. It’s worth a browse. Embedded in the article is a video. It’s worth a watch.
Look, lasers are awesome, let’s just get that clear. I’ve loved the idea of lasers since watching Star Wars and Star Trek as a kid (and, who am I kidding, as a grownup as well), and it tickles my past self giddy to know that the military is actually developing actual laser weapons for actual use in actual military operations. Let’s not kid ourselves, practical usage of lasers in standard military operations is probably still a ways away, but the technology is there and it’s being heavily researched and developed by the people who are qualified for this stuff (this is where I would name-drop my brother-in-law, if he were allowed to discuss these sorts of things, which he isn’t, why would you even think that, let’s just talk about something else okay??).
There are a few awesome takeaways from the article.
Number one, okay, I already covered it, but the military is making lasers for use on the battlefield, and that’s freaking awesome.
Number two, when they’re combat-ready, they are going to be insanely advantageous. A takeaway from the article says that to fire the laser long enough to disable “many” targets takes about two cups of fuel — or about $10. Compare that to upwards of $100,00 for a “cheap” missile.
Number three, things start getting fun in addition to being awesome. The laser is controlled basically by a video game controller, because why wouldn’t it be? If there’s one thing military recruits know these days, it’s shoot-’em-up video games.
But Number four is where my inner geek starts dancing an Ewok jig. Here’s a quote from the article:
The weapon’s laser beam is silent and invisible, and not all targets explode as they are destroyed, so an automated battle can be over before operators have noticed anything. “The engagements happen quickly, and unless you’re staring at a screen 24–7 you’ll never see them,” Blount says. “So we’ve built sound in for whenever we fire the laser. We plan on taking advantage of lots of Star Trek and Star Wars sound bites.”
In other words, when the actual, for real military fires this actual, for real laser, it will make PEW PEW sounds just like in the science fiction movies of my youth.
TBD is whether you’ll have to dress in white plastic as a prerequisite to firing the thing, or whether you’ll be able to hit the broad side of a star cruiser with it.
Science is fargoing awesome.
Image taken from bbs.stardestroyer.net.