You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003


Down this tiled corridor, light does muscular, noisy work. Lasers dig dirt and weld metal. They pound aircraft parts into shape. In Bob Yamamoto’s lab, light devours. He straps on emerald green goggles. A technician stabs a fire button and calls out the computer countdown. “Three… two… one…” Then… nothing. Just a buzz of electronics and an ephemeral glow in this darkened room at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. But inside Yamamato’s target chamber, a block of steel spits flame and molten metal. In those two seconds, 400 blasts of light poured into slabs of clear, manmade garnet. Swollen in energy, the crystal’s atoms then unleashed torrents of infrared light to ricochet 1,000 times between two mirrors and multiply, finally escaping as 400 pulses of pure, square beam.

Kilowatt for kilogram, this is the world’s most powerful solid-state laser. Its invisible beam drilled Yamamoto’s inch-thick steel plate in two seconds. Add larger crystals and it will eat steel a mile or more away. “What we’re building,” Yamamoto explains, “is a laser weapon.”

After sinking 40 years and billions of dollars into beam weapons, defense scientists are on the cusp of what could be a military revolution - warfare at the speed of light. “We’ve made a quantum leap here,” said Randy Buff, solid-state laser program manager for the US Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command. “We’re anxious to get out there and do something.”

No longer are laser guns the stuff of Hollywood and Strategic Defense Initiative fantasy. Instead of laser-guiding bullets and “smart” bombs, the Pentagon inside of a decade could be armed with a beam weapon that is near-instantaneous, gravity-free and truly surgical, focusing to such hair-splitting accuracy that it could avoid civilians while predetonating munitions miles away. [...]

-- From "Warfare at the speed of light", by Ian Hoffman Oakland Tribune (Sunday 19 October 2003). Thanks to Clayton Cramer for the link.

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