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Stop Laser Weapons Now
When we created nuclear weapons, we created the means to destroy all life on Earth. I think all people, even the developers, regret that aspect of the technology. I wonder if they had it to do over, with the understanding we have now, what would happen? And what if the public at the time, both allied and axis, had understood atomic weapons before hundreds of thousands died? Well, how might things would have been different...
We (Americans, specifically, mankind more generally) now stand at a similar crossroads in history. For many years we have developed and now are about to deploy laser and other directed-energy weapons (DEWs) for military use. The R & D efforts and approximate maturities of such weapons is a matter of public common knowledge, having been widely reported on for many years by reliable conventional media. While "we" the public don't know exactly what's under development, we do know it "is" being developed. We also know that this is a profoundly powerful technology, and we should know that there have to be significant ramifications and issues regarding the use or very existence of such weapons.
I think we all understand that a laser is light--highly concentrated, highly focused. And we all know that light travels really, really fast, and it continues to travel pretty much forever and ever. It may spread and thus significantly dimish in intensity, but theoretically, continues to travel until stopped by solid matter of some sort.
Pretty much any conventional light, even high-powered spotlights, don't convey enough real energy to travel far in the atmosphere. Plus, they are wide-focus (if you please) compared to lasers, meaning the beam is much wider to start, and therefore spreads significantly as it travels outward from the source.
My point is simple: lasers suitable for destroying military targets will necessarily be of such highly-compounded power, and focused so tightly, that a beam fired into space could very well travel some enourmous distance carrying still enough energy to damage life, technologies, ecosystems, of which we can't conceive. Our DEW missfires could very conceivably interfere with chemical and physical processes that we do know, and we know many more similarly exist now in places we're long yet to discover.
In cartoon form: someone fires a military-strength laser into space. It travels 1000 years, then encounters some planet lush with a fragile, single-cell, algea-type organism. In an instant, we stun and kill all the organisms on one side of the plant. A world-wide famine ensues, with those primitive thinking creatures at the food chain top hit hardest. They then spend the next 2000 years developing the technology to hunt down and destroy whatever planet and species responsible.
This sounds purposefully silly, but to make a point: we need to have a world-wide moratorium on all Directed Energy Weapons and a thorough discussion before anyone proceeds to deploy these weapons.
I hope this doesn't sound like a paranoid kook, or too far-fetched to believe possible. I used to write rocket software, and I kind of know just a little about lasers as a side interest. I sincerely think that this may be the most important issue of our time.
Thanks for the Bandwidth, Steve.
© Steve Piper; posted 28 March 2003.
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