< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://caltechgirlsworld.mu.nu/" /> Not Exactly Rocket Science: Explain this to me....

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Explain this to me....

Using a laser pointer to show someone the stars from your deck is dumber than firing a gun straight into the air. First of all, there's no screen for the beam to bounce off, (at least there isn't unless there's a lot of air pollution...ed.) Physics, idiot.

Either that, or as I suspect, he needed a quick reason to look like a hapless pansy, since he is now charged with with "interfering with the operator of a mass transportation vehicle and making false statements to the FBI" after a Cessna pilot flying over NJ reported being blinded temporarily by a laser beam.

On Tuesday, David Banach of Parsippany, NJ was the first person charged under the PATRIOT act for shining a laser beam into the air.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a laser is not a toy. It is a LASER (think Dr. Evil, here), a focused beam of light. Yes, they are extremely useful in conjunction with PowerPoint in a large, dark room. Yes, it's a great cheap amusement for your kitties, but the laser is not a toy.

Quick physics review: light = energy = burn
Quick biology review: bright light = more energy = burned tissue

I don't care what law they charged him under, laser beams can be as dangerous as bullets when recklessly discharged.

Good thing they only sell Class I lasers to random people. I can't imagine how much damage these morons would do if we let them get their hands on a real laser.

Update: Skippy of Enjoy Every Sandwich (and others) takes even more umbrage with the idiotic Mr. Banach. In part he suggests
"Simply count the number of people on the plane and the number of people on the ground for 5 miles in every direction and charge him with that many counts of reckless endangerment. This will ensure that he serves a great deal of prison time. He'll get even more if the judge counts what a monumental dick Mr. Banach is as aggravating element during sentencing."
There's more, including some reasonable suggestions for Congress.

Shamelessy ripped off from Acidman (nice find!)

Update II: Added to today's Beltway Traffic Jam.


At Wednesday, January 05, 2005 6:09:00 PM, Blogger the Pirate said...

"Using a laser pointer to show someone the stars from your deck is dumber than firing a gun straight into the air. First of all, there's no screen for the beam to bounce off..."

I beg to differ, when I worked at camp (and other friends who have worked at other camps) have effectively used green lasers (& the 10,000ft range they have plus the beam is visible the whole distance) to point out constillations, stars, and/or planets to groups of kids. They were great and made it far easier to show a group where things are in the sky.

At Thursday, January 06, 2005 6:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Using a laser pointer to show someone the stars from your deck is dumber than firing a gun straight into the air. First of all, there's no screen for the beam to bounce off"

Yup, for astro education we now rely almost universally on the green later pointers for direction viewers' attention to particular objects in the sky. In the "old days" we used million-candlepower handheld deer spotters fitted with sheet metal sleeves over the ends (to cut down on stray light going the wrong direction), resulting in very incoherent beams of white light that appeared to stop about 10 feet off the ground, and had an apparent diameter bigger than some whole constellations. The green laser pointers have the advantages that 1) the wavelength is about at the peak sensitivity of the human eye, 2) the coherent light results in a beam which evidently disappears at infinity and 3) the beam is so narrow that one can point out individual *stars*. There's plenty of dust in the air for the beam to scatter off, rendering it visible from the ground for a radius of 20 to 30 feet from the laser-bearer.

However... all that said, now we're a bit worried here about a project we're working on that's to debut this fall, where we're going to shine a considerably more powerful laser (1500W pulsed, as opposed to the 0.5 mW in the typical laser pointer) down the telescope and aim it all at the Moon with the goal of measuring the Earth-Moon distance to the unheard of precision of ±1 mm to do some interesting tests of general relativity and look for the effect of any hypothetical "dark energy" in certain cosmological models on distance scales a little closer to home. We have to get FAA clearance to do this, but the chance that one of us humble operators might get labeled a terrorist....

Amok, amok, amok. No, they said, we're not going to use the Patriot Act for prosecution of persons under domestic law enforcement. It's for those towelheaded terrorists that blew up our buildings! Please. This nonsense with the guy and his laser pointer is just the tiniest tip of a pretty sizeable iceberg, and you can bet yer sweet bippie there will be more such prosecutions if/when Patriot II becomes law. I thought we might be off the hook, what with John Ashcroft's gallbladder giving him uncontrollable fits and all. However, he's about to be replaced by a certain someone who thinks that the Geneva Conventions are an "outdated relic" not applicable to the conduct of the U.S. military in this most unconventional time of war.

Heavens help us...



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