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Laser System to be Tested in Boulder, CO 318

luv_jeeps writes "Ball Aerospace is going to test fire a laser beam on Sunday night, as part of the CALIPSO project. If you live in the Colorado/Wyoming area, chances are good that you could see it. The article, a little light on details, says that the beam could be as big around as a basketball hoop."
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Laser System to be Tested in Boulder, CO

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  • Colorado? (Score:5, Funny)

    by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @05:57PM (#7655382) Journal
    Get many sharks there?
  • by atc24 ( 664947 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @05:59PM (#7655389)
    Stop humping the laser!
  • by RedHatLinux ( 453603 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @05:59PM (#7655391) Homepage
    when this laser hits a house full of popcorn and totally ends the evil professor's dream of a super weapon.

    Yeah I actually did watch a Val Kilmer film, But I was young so please forgive me :)

  • Caution (Score:5, Funny)

    by corrie ( 111769 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:00PM (#7655401)
    From the article:

    "The company has taken special precautions to protect aircraft and birds that might fly into the beam."

    I hope all those ducks got the memo.
  • yeah, sure (Score:4, Funny)

    by arabagast ( 462679 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:01PM (#7655407) Homepage
    "If you see a piercing green light shooting into the sky Sunday night, it's not aliens, it's the work of scientists at Ball Aerospace.".. That`s what they want us to believe! Do not go with strange green men into theyr flying saucers on sunday - they are NOT going to give you candy as they surely will tell you .
  • by Dark Lord Seth ( 584963 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:01PM (#7655409) Journal
    The article, a little light on details, says that ...

    Oh, the humanity!!!

    PS, Slahdot is fucked. "Score: -5, Bad Pun" is being parsed as no topic at all.

  • by Zork the Almighty ( 599344 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:02PM (#7655413) Journal
    British secret agent in Denver!Witnesses say he drives a cool car with lots of gadgets. Single women beware!
  • Did Lazlo figure out that this could be used as a weapon?

    If so, was it figured out in enough time to provide for the evil Professor's house to be employed in a scheme to re-direct the beam AND make a bunch of popcorn for all the neighborhood children?
  • tape it please (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:04PM (#7655426)
    will some kind person in Colorado video tape this event and put up a torrent for it.

    Please :)
  • by e_lehman ( 143896 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:04PM (#7655428)
    The article, a little light on details...

    Hehehehehe! Hoo-whee! You guys really crack me up...

  • by insmod_ex ( 724714 ) <mallratssuck&tomchu,com> on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:04PM (#7655431) Homepage
    ...sixteen people reported blind by staring at the laser. Theyll be pulling a SCO and suing the United States for making Colorado a state and thus allowing the laser test to go on. Anyone up for a game of laser tag? :D
  • S. Boom (Score:3, Interesting)

    by soloport ( 312487 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:05PM (#7655437) Homepage
    Wonder what kind of sound effects it will produce. If the beam is as wide as a basketball hoop, and if the intensity heats/displaces the air in the space through which it travels... Could we expect a sonic boom when the thing is suddenly shut off?!

    This is, after all, what one hears when a lightning bolt strikes.
    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:56PM (#7655724)
      This is, after all, what one hears when a lightning bolt strikes.

      The "common laser pointer" they talk about is one milliwatt(mW). That means their laser is 40W, common in industrial laser applications.

      A lightning bolt contains roughly enough power to light an entire city for a second or two; it's about a million volts, and about 10,000 amps on average. That's a -trillion- watts. We're talking a MINOR difference in scale here, my friend. A lightning bolt makes a noise because it turns the air around it into superhot plasma, along with any moisture(which expands thousands of times its original volume when vaporized).

      If the satellite were to receive that much energy, it'd explode instantaneously, and no, you -wouldn't- hear it, it's in SPACE, there's no AIR, so there's no SOUND- just wanted to get that straightened out, since you seem to have slept through most of your high school and college science classes.

      I cannot -believe- the parent got modded up...

      • by soloport ( 312487 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @08:12PM (#7656192) Homepage
        So this [] must be pure science fiction? And this [] research is also fiction, then? If not, then laser energy can superheat air and cause sound problems. Why would it be so ridiculous for me to think a laser the size of a basketball hoop might not have the same effect? (Of course, if I had RTFA more carefully, I might have seen the energy reference -- you're right, it's small-scale.)

        Why does air have to be turned into "superhot plasma" to make a sonic boom? A supersonic jet doesn't superheat air, per se, it displaces it. A nighthawk doesn't superheat the air, but produces a sonic boom with its tailfeathers.

        And since when did anyone say anything about outer space? The event is happening in Colorado. (Not far from outer space, actually, but...)

        And you don't have to be a jerk about how incredibly knowledgeable you are -- we get it without the barbs.
      • You are right on the chances of problems being nil, but I wonder why they would have to take such precautions to protect airplanes and birds if the beam really was 40W spread around a basketball hoop sized cross section? Daylight is more powerful than this.
      • Surely a bolt of lightning has the power of 1.21 GW [].
      • by jelle ( 14827 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @09:02PM (#7656453) Homepage
        "it'd explode instantaneously, and no, you -wouldn't- hear it, it's in SPACE, there's no AIR, so there's no SOUND-"

        Actually, if you would be looking at the satellite in space and see it explode, you would very much hear it. While it is true that the near absence of air means that a person would not hear any sound from a shockware that travels through the air, but from the explosion that person would very well hear the many high-velocity particles ticking, and thunking against his/her vessel. If you have experienced any explosions of significance, or have enough imagination, you will know what kind of rain of particles I'm talking about. Just a week ago, astronauts were shaken up by a sound that probably was produced by such a space particle []. So you would hear the explosion in space, just differently than on earth.

        Now about the no air - no sound thing: Things like "there is no sound in space" that they teach kids in high school are ususally oversimplified or just plain wrong []. Did you know that black holes [] actually emit sounds?

  • by John Seminal ( 698722 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:10PM (#7655464) Journal
    Okay a question, not too related to what is happening in Colorado, but it made me wonder. What is the differance between a Laser and Phaser?
    • by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:14PM (#7655487) Journal
      The one that begins with the letter L is real.

      The other is from a fiction TV show.
      • by EverDense ( 575518 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:34PM (#7655593) Homepage
        Maybe not. This article is fairly old, I wonder how much further along they are:

        Phaser []

        A ray gun that can stop people in their tracks without harming them may sound like science fiction, but some experts believe it could soon be reality.

        The gun is designed to zap its victim with an electric current, using a laser to carry the charge along a beam of ultraviolet light.

        The light particles, called photons, would create a path through the air that will be capable of conducting electricity up to a distance of about 100 metres (330 feet).

        When the current hits someone, it would interfere with the tiny electrical charges that control the victim's muscles, making movement impossible.

        Vital organs protected

        But vital organs like the heart and diaphram would not be affected because they are protected by a greater thickness of body tissue.

        Corinne Podger of BBC Science: "The stuff of science fiction". Weapons that freeze muscles are already on sale in the United States, but in order to work they have to be held against the victim's skin. They also have to be recharged after each use.

        Apart from having a considerable range, the new 'freeze ray gun' could in theory be fired around corners if mirrors were used. It could also have a constant power source.

        Talks in California

        The gun is the brainchild of American inventor, Eric Herr, vice-president of HSV technologies. Scientists from the UK's Defence Evaluation Research Agency have already been to California to discuss it with him.

        No details of the discussions have been disclosed, but a spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defence said the weapon's potential uses were being considered.

        So far, Mr Herr's ray gun remains just an idea. He has taken out a patent on the device, but has yet to raise the $500,000 needed to build a full working prototype.

        'Ideal weapon'

        Initially, the 'freeze ray' could be the size of a small suitcase, but might eventually be reduced to something more like a flashlight.

        Mr Herr believes it could be an ideal weapon for peace-keeping forces, or police facing violent criminals.

        But already the project has its critics. They argue that such a laser would be impractical in many situations, and could easily damage the sight of innocent by-standers.

        Link to HSV Tech []
        • NOT a phaser (Score:3, Informative)

          by Galvatron ( 115029 ) *
          If you actually read that article, you notice that the only time they use the word "phaser" is in the headline. It is also variously referred to as a "freeze gun" and a "ray gun." In actual point of fact, all it is is a taser gun, but instead of shooting darts attached to wires, it uses a laser to make an ionized pathway in the air.

          There is still no such thing as a phaser, the word has no definition, beyond that found in Star Trek. This device may mimic one of the effects of the fictional weapon, but th

          • Well, if they get it to work and then get it small enough to be marketable, and then finally bring the thing to market using the term "Phaser" then I guess that's all it would take right?

            And of course a large wad of cash to defend their choice of names from the army of Paramount lawyers who would soon descend on them....
    • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @11:39PM (#7657188) Homepage
      Laser stands for:
      Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

      Maser stands for:
      Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

      Phaser stands for:
      Plaid Hippopatamus Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Rotund-mammals.

      That's why phasers are so powerful, imagine being bombarded with billions and billions of plaid hippopotami!

  • by The Spanish Ninja ( 726892 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:18PM (#7655502)
    It'd be interesting to see some technical specs on this giant laser, to see how similar it is to the cutting laser I used to work on. I bet that baby takes about 12 hours to warm up. Anyone know what the frequency on the green beam is? C'mon people, get technical! Also, all you people in that area: take pictures!
    • Specs (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's really just 157 pocket-lazers tied togeather with duct tape and flipped on at once.
    • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @10:44PM (#7656918) Journal
      From this NASA page [], the CALIPSO laser is identified as a Nd:YAG, diode-pumped, Q-switched laser. The repetition rate is 20 Hz, and the operating wavelengths are 1064 nm (infrared) and the frequency-doubled 532 nm (visible, green.)

      There's a PDF here [] that describes the prototype laser as delivering 110 mJ per pulse. At 20 pulses per second, that's about 2 watts average power--but of course the peak power in each (short) pulse will be much higher.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:18PM (#7655504) Homepage Journal
    This test in Colorado points a laser from the ground to the sky. The deployment is a satellite platform to measure the atmosphere. Will the deployed laser be pointed at the surface? Will their autoshutoff radar detectors protect us from the sweep of its beam?
  • See Infrared? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hungus ( 585181 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:22PM (#7655526) Journal
    First the laser isn't going to scatter that much and second it is infrared making it a bit hard to see with the naked eye.

    from the post
    "If you live in the Colorado/Wyoming area, chances are good that you could see it."

    from the data on the sat:
    "Part of NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program, Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO), is a mission dedicated to studying the impact that clouds and aerosols have on the Earth's radiation balance."
  • Boulder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jarrik ( 728375 )
    I have a friend that lives in boulder, I just called him on the phone and he knows the area it will be shooting out of when I mentioned Ball Aerospace. He said he will try to snap some pics of it. Ill let you know if he was successfull.
  • LASER ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zeux ( 129034 ) * on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:25PM (#7655553)
    Hu ? I though that lasers were invisible because they are made of photons that all goes in the same direction...

    That's why you can use powder or smoke (which is composed of tiny piece of material) to actually see them (by reflection of the photons on the particle).

    If it's a real laser can someone tell me why we should see it ?

    I know that the atmosphere is polluted, but not THAT much, is it ?
    • It's all about wavelength. If it is in the visible spectrum (which it seems it is very close, as someone mentioned infrared, thus, near infrared), chances are you could. Your video camera definately can, though.

    • Re:LASER ? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dyslexicon ( 639846 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @07:06PM (#7655792)

      you're thinking of red lasers. Red light passes through air much better than the higher frequencies (blue, green, yellow, etc). A great example of this is the color of the sky. Light from the sun passing through the atmosphere has its blue components scattered much more readily than the lower freqency components, so you see the sky as being blue. When the sun is rising/setting you see the sky as red because red light isn't scattered well the red light that reaches your eyes is much more intense

      so, why are these people using green light that they know will be scattered? Because that's exactly what tells us stuff about the atmosphere!how much was scattered at position x compared to position y? how much was scattered at time t1 as compared to time t2?

      The pollution causes more light to be scattered, for sure, but that's not WHY you see the light. Rest easy :)

      • Thank you for this clear post.

        I do have my logical answer now.
      • Re:LASER ? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Merk ( 25521 )

        Dude, get your facts straight.

        The Tyndall effect or Raleigh scattering shows that small particles scatter higher frequency (blue) light more than lower frequency (red) light. Both "pass through" air just fine because they're not absorbed, but the lower-frequency light is scattered less easily. At sunrise/sunset, there is much more air (and also more dust) for the sun to go through, so more light is scattered, so more of the red light is scattered, so the sky appears redder.

        As for why light is scatt

    • I know that the atmosphere is polluted, but not THAT much, is it ?

      You've never been to Denver, have you?

  • I was always under the impression that a laser beam could not be seen..? Am I wrong here? Is the laser sufficiently powerful enough to actually produce a beam of light in air?
    • Re:See it? (Score:2, Informative)

      by p3tersen ( 227521 )
      ~200 W of green light is far, far more than powerful enough to see the backscattered light with the naked eye. Even in a relatively clean laboratory, a 1 W green beam produces enough light to easily see the beam path, along with bright 'flashes' whenever a largish dust particle drifts through. Remember that green laser light is right in the 'sweet spot' as far as human vision is concerned, which is why green laser pointers look so much brighter for the same power.
  • by The Spanish Ninja ( 726892 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:28PM (#7655569)
    And our top story this hour, the RIAA has commandeered Aerospace's big laser and has started frying mp3 downloaders. When reached for comment, they told us "The lawsuits just weren't inspiring the right kind of fear."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:33PM (#7655588)
    While they don't say exactly how powerful this laser is (laser pointers vary, typically 1-5 mW), so it could range from 40-200 watts. That's a lot of laser power. Scatter from dust particles is enough to be hazardous to the eyes when you're dealing with that much laser power.

  • by michiel.h ( 570138 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:38PM (#7655620) Journal
    A basketballhoop? That's what? (1/15)*Volkswagen Beetle?

    I'm Dutch. We play soccer, not basketball.
    Insensitive clods.
  • by Sebby ( 238625 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @06:40PM (#7655632)
    because of the 'CO' at the end, I thought it was another SCO story, and I read it as:

    "Laser System to be Tested on SCO'

    ... and immediately thought WooHoo!!!

  • I wonder if it'll look anything like the Nagul King's beacon in the Return of the King trailer?
  • namely at the Documenta 6, developped by Baumann and to be seen here [].

    Another occasion when art was faster than science ? Well, not really.

  • ACK! (Score:2, Funny)

    by mog007 ( 677810 )
    When this thing hits the moon and destroys it, don't say I didn't warn everybody!

    Or the sun! It could cause it to go nova!

    I need to upgrade my tin foil hat... it isn't strong enough to resist "lasers" yet.
  • 2 cool lasers... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Sunday December 07, 2003 @07:30PM (#7655975)
    ...I remember were (1) the excimer laser that was tested in the first star wars attempts, reagan era - they rolled a clip on the CBS evening news that showed a Titan II boilerplate launch vehicle on a pad, they fire the excimer at it, the middle third of this (100 ft tall, 10 ft diam) sucker disappears and the top 3rd of the Titan falls down on the bottom third.


    Then there's (2) the shuttle-based LIDAR, which actually shoots a laser from the open shuttle bay to the ground, and ranges the distance to the ground, to sub-meter accuracy / 1-10 cm precision. This means a pretty darn bright laser is shot at the ground and typically ranges the tallest thing it finds - they hope for canopy for land cover work, but in an open area, it might be you. NASA usually told people it was "like radar" which it is in its methods...

    but it uses laser light.

    So somewhere tucked into the mission materials for the shuttle flights that contained it is a cute little disclaimer telling you that yes, it is a laser and yes, it could conceivably pass right over you and yes, if you looked up right into the path of the lidar you could get hurt - so FER CHRISSAKE DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE SHUTTLE BAY LASER AS IT PASSES DIRECTLY OVERHEAD or words to that effect. But they put them somewhere where it was legally required, buit they did not pass out press materials that said a giant space laser might be shot at your house sometime in the next two weeks... they traded full disclosure for widespread panic.

    That plus the innumerable people who would JUST HAFTA go outside armed with jpass and JUST HAFTA look right up the barrel... like looking in the garden hose to find out why the water ain't coming out. Here's your sign.
  • here, you can see how the laser glanced off its target, without a scratch:

    first laser test []

  • by ikewillis ( 586793 ) on Monday December 08, 2003 @12:11AM (#7657310) Homepage
    ...which is some 50 miles north of Boulder. Although there's supposedly a snowstorm coming night, right now there are no clouds in the sky whatsoever. Regardless, at present the beam is not visible, and I have heard the same thing from some Denver residents as well.

Would you people stop playing these stupid games?!?!?!!!!