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US Navy Breaks Laser Record

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the it's-nice-to-see-val-kilmer-finding-work dept.

Shark 294

ectotherm writes "The US Navy has broken the existing record for the power of a laser. Their new free-electron laser can burn through 20 feet of steel per second. 'Next up for the tech: additional weaponization. The Navy just awarded Boeing a contract worth up to $163 million to take that technology and package it as a 100 kW weapons system, one that the Navy hopes to use not only to destroy things but for on-ship communications, tracking and detection, too — using a fraction of the energy such applications use now, plus with more accuracy.' Now all we need to do is upgrade the sharks..."

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ouch (0, Troll)

rodneylee (1639303) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253482)

Someone needs to take there toys away from them and stop the nonsensitive before they start testing it on us, which we all know they will, heck disband all military we really just need a small group to protect the environment and or a army that create Harmony between nations.

Re:ouch (3, Insightful)

AGMW (594303) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253508)

... we really just need a small group to protect the environment and or a army that create Harmony between nations.

Sure, I'll vote for that as long as it's my army!

Re:ouch (4, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253592)

yea right.

What planet do you live on? But the humans of earth are a jealous lot, full of hate and mistrust, and belief that their way is the only way to live, and that all other ways must be eliminated.

Before you go spouting off stupid again why don't you take a look at the shear number of fanatics in the world(christian, muslim, jewish, whale watcher, environmentalist, whatever) and decide if your small army will work againist people who don't believe in reason and are willing to fight to the death for their illogic.

Re:ouch (0, Troll)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253892)

the humans of earth are a jealous lot, full of hate and mistrust, and belief that their way is the only way to live, and that all other ways must be eliminated

Suddenly the foreign policy and economically destructive wars perpetuated by the United States make sense.

Honestly I think the comment "we really just need a small group to protect the environment and or a army that create Harmony between nations" needs a hell of a lot more clarification but the truth is that the United States is not paying for a defensive military.

And like previous nations the end result of feeding a perpetual offensive war state will eventually have a serious economic impact on the ordinary citizens who are simply trying to make a living to the point where not only are the wars unsustainable but the entire military, government and economic structure of the nation will crumble. See the history of France with their perpetual wars and borrowing of capital to fuel the American Revolution because "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" that resulted in the French Revolution and several people losing their heads.

Our militarily enforced foreign policy is like nailing together a fine curio cabinet with 8 penny framing nails and a 20 pound sledge hammer. The end product is something nobody wants.

Re:ouch (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253962)

"It's all very well to laugh at the military, but when one considers the meaning of life, it is a struggle between alternative viewpoints of life itself. And without the ability to defend one's own viewpoint against other perhaps more aggressive ideologies, then reasonableness and moderation could quite simply disappear. That is why we will always need an army, and may God strike me down if it were to be otherwi..." ZAP!

Re:ouch (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253614)

"stop the nonsensitive" eh?

I disagree, I think we have to stop the overly-sensative!

Re:ouch (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253636)

Or even sensitive. Lol, I don't know why I even bother to preview when I miss simple stuff like that...

Re:ouch (1)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253836)

Someone needs to take there toys away from them and stop the nonsensitive before they start testing it on us, which we all know they will, heck disband all military we really just need a small group to protect the environment and or a army that create Harmony between nations.

I'm pretty sure this was a joke.

20 feet of steel, not 200. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253486)

The article says 20, and I even have doubts about that.

Who needs to burn through 20 feet of steel? Or even 2 feet of steel?

They want 2000 though (4, Informative)

Woogiemonger (628172) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253510)

Who needs to burn through 20 feet of steel? Or even 2 feet of steel?

What's even more crazy is that their ultimate goal is to reach a megawatt of power and burn through *2000* feet of steel per second. I'd imagine seeing a phalanx of tanks, and with one 3 second FWOOOONG! from the laser, our military crosscuts through them all in one sweep. Here's the Wired article I'm referring to: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/unexpectedly-navys-superlaser-blasts-away-a-record [wired.com]

Re:They want 2000 though (3, Informative)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253546)

The "20 feet of steel per second" number is similar to Slashdots car analogies - a way to make an otherwise difficult to understand number more human friendly. It's probably just the time it took to burn though, say, 1/4" of steel scaled up how much it could cut through in a second, if they could operate it continuously (which presumably they can't).

The goal of this thing certainly isn't cutting though many feet of steel - it's for shooting down missiles.

Re:They want 2000 though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253588)

I would say that this classifies as more than needed to take down missiles. This is a more weaponized version without any doubt.

Re:They want 2000 though (2)

Woogiemonger (628172) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253684)

The "20 feet of steel per second" number is similar to Slashdots car analogies - a way to make an otherwise difficult to understand number more human friendly. It's probably just the time it took to burn though, say, 1/4" of steel scaled up how much it could cut through in a second, if they could operate it continuously (which presumably they can't).

The goal of this thing certainly isn't cutting though many feet of steel - it's for shooting down missiles.

With 20 ft per second I can maybe agree (that translates to a quarter an inch of steel per millisecond on a stationary target), but when they hit 2000, it's quacking like the duck that it is.

Re:They want 2000 though (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253608)

>>>Who needs to burn through 20 feet of steel?

The Navy is they are trying to "laser" a hole in an enemy ship and make it sink. Certainly more efficient than the old method of using a torpedo or missile.

Re:They want 2000 though (2)

Zorpheus (857617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253946)

That is not so useful to fire on one ship from another since you cannot shoot over the horizon. Missiles can sink your ship before you get in range. Unless you get down all of them with the laser, of course.

Re:They want 2000 though (4, Informative)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253648)

I interned in the instrumentation and control group of the Jefferson Lab FEL the summer I graduated from high school. My main project was working with the optics guys to write some spot-size detection software in C. Until my current job, it was definitely the most fun I've ever had in my life that didn't involve rafting. Of course, back in 2002, they had just started the 10kW upgarde project from 1kW, so a little over 10 years to get it working at 10x that capacity is pretty sweet.

the project website for all the real, nerdy, details is here [jlab.org] if anyone is interested.

Megawatt laser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253662)

What's even more crazy is that their ultimate goal is to reach a megawatt of power and burn through *2000* feet of steel per second.

Heck, I'd just be happy to get my plasma rifle in the 40-watt range :)

Re:20 feet of steel, not 200. (3, Informative)

maroberts (15852) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253528)

Who needs to burn through 20 feet of steel? Or even 2 feet of steel?

Well, not so much 20 feet of steel directly, but there's a lot to be said for a weapon that could punch through 1-2 feet of layered tank armour, or melt a substantial hole in a warship. While many warships are not heavily armored nowadays, there are still exceptions.

Re:20 feet of steel, not 200. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253586)

I assume that much power is nice if you're hitting your target for less then the full second, i.e. even a glancing hit will go right thru a ship or whatever.

Re:20 feet of steel, not 200. (2)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253688)

Who needs to burn through 20 feet of steel? Or even 2 feet of steel?

Remember that laser illuminance falls off quite rapidly with distance, especially in humid or dusty conditions. Having the power to burn through 20 feet of steel in perfect conditions at a relatively close range means you'll probably be able to still knock down that missile that's miles away in bad conditions.

There's also the factor of being able to keep the laser in one spot long enough to do damage. 1 second is a very long time to keep a beam in one spot so you need enough power that even a fraction of a second can do considerable damage.

Re:20 feet of steel, not 200. (4, Informative)

arielCo (995647) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253760)

Well, you may drive at 60 miles/hour and not mean to drive for 60 miles. In this case, it could cut through 1/2" steel plating in 1/2 inch / (20 ft/second) = 2 milliseconds [google.com] . Does that make sense?

US Navy Breaks Laser Record (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253488)

Fricken' sharks not impressed.

Re:US Navy Breaks Laser Record (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253536)

Fricken' sharks not impressed.

Fricken' sharks are checking in for an upgrade...

NOT 200 feet/sec (-1, Flamebait)

Twide (1142927) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253498)

20 feet of steel per second....Please check facts.. especially the ones from FOX...

volume (2)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253516)

what diameter is the beam? volume/sec more important IMO

Re:volume (2)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253604)

what diameter is the beam? volume/sec more important IMO

I dunno, if it slices a jet/tank/ICBM/ship in half I'm probably not going to care too much about the size of the gap.

Re:volume (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253706)

I doubt there are too many places an ICBM travelling at Mach 1 can sustain even a 1/2" hole bored thru it without either somthing vital (fuel, wiring, electronics, warhead) being hit, or just simply losing control aerodynamically and breaking up a la Columbia (Space Shuttle) with a hole in the wing.

Re:volume (5, Informative)

Dr. Grabow (949057) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253884)

Mach 1 is about 340 m/s. At that speed the Navy could send up a fighter and throw a rope around it. ICBM reentry speeds are usually over 4,000 m/s, with in-flight speeds of over 6,000 m/s. Or about Mach 16. A different magnitude of problem...

Meh...Wake me when (0)

UDChris (242204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253504)

They manage to scale the frickin' lasers down to frickin' shark-size.

Re:Why scale down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253534)

They manage to scale the frickin' lasers down to frickin' shark-size.

Wake me when they scale frickin' sharks up to frickin' laser-size.

Re:Why scale down? (2)

UDChris (242204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253556)

Wrong science. This is physics, not biology. Unless you are talking about ill-tempered robotic sharks with frickin' laser beams...

20 feeet, not 200 (4, Informative)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253512)

The article said it can burn thru 20 feet of steel per second, not 200 per the slashdot version.

Even the 20 feet is likely misleading since I doubt it can sustain that power output for more than a fraction of a second, and anyways if you really were borign thru multiple feet of steel then all your vaporized steel in the borehole you were creating would get in the way of the laser.

Still very impressive though. I'd love to see the face of the first crackpot dictator whose ICBMs are shot down by one of these.

Re:20 feeet, not 200 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253574)

Summaries are intentionally misleading and made that way by the editors. It encourages people to "participate" in a discussion and is for keeping mindshare with people people who are somehow not discouraged by repeated editorial manipulation.

Single fox news link posted to the front page? Seriously could have gotten a better source.

Re:20 feeet, not 200 (0)

TiberiusMonkey (1603977) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253590)

...or the crazy glint on the face of first crackpot president, that decides to point it at whichever country the USA has decided is the bad guy next time around. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Re:20 feeet, not 200 (-1, Troll)

GNious (953874) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253626)

Will be a while before the next Bush family member is put forward as candidate.

Re:20 feeet, not 200 (-1, Troll)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253904)

And when it finally happens and they push the button they are going to be surprised to discover that the earth is not flat as their holy book suggests. So in a way religious ignorance may save the day.

Re:20 feeet, not 200 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253642)

If you set aside the politics and simply examine the extent of U.S. military activity, it is pretty hard to argue that they are working very much at destroying things.

(I'm not arguing that they do not destroy things, simply that they don't usually do anything resembling exercising their full capability)

Re:20 feeet, not 200 (1)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253918)

If the United States military exercised their full capability everyone on the planet would be dead multiple times over and a significant percentage of all human civilization infrastructure would be destroyed.

Re:20 feeet, not 200 (3, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253716)

I'd love to see the face of the first crackpot dictator whose ICBMs are shot down by one of these.

Currently, no dictator at the crackpot level has an ICBM. Emphasis on the C.

Re:20 feeet, not 200 (4, Informative)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253812)

This is very interesting and I think the point is not to shoot down ICBMs but to shoot down anti-ship missiles. Right now, there are simply no way to stop a recent missile before it gets to the ship. Aircraft carriers are currently little more than overpriced targets. This kind of research is vital to the navy.

Re:20 feeet, not 200 (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253978)

I wonder if this announcement has anything to do with the recent Chinese parade showing off their new anti-aircraft carrier missile?

Re:20 feeet, not 200 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253898)

What I was reading earlier about this free electron laser weapon is that it can essentially be left on so long as power is supplied. What I'm not sure is what '20 feet of steel per second' means. I doubt they mean drilling into a 20-foot deep plate, given that slag and vapor would make that difficult, so maybe they mean cutting a 20-foot long line across a plate of steel?

An order of magnitude (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253518)

Hey Editors, were you asleep the day they taught reading comprehension? The FA says 20 feet per second, not 200. An order of magnitude is one hell of an error. You guys are pathetic. How about you slow down and practice a little quality control?

Re:An order of magnitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253564)

Hey Editors, were you asleep the day they taught reading comprehension? The FA says 20 feet per second, not 200. An order of magnitude is one hell of an error. You guys are pathetic. How about you slow down and practice a little quality control?

To be asleep, one first needs the ability to be awake.

20, not 200 (1)

Broofa (541944) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253520)

From the article: producing a supercharged electron beam that can burn through 20 feet of steel per second"

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/02/18/navy-breaks-world-record-futuristic-laser-getting-real/#ixzz1EPpwfpx0 [foxnews.com]

Re:20, not 200 (1)

Stele (9443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253772)

Fox News has a science tech section? You just blew my mind!

Re:20, not 200 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253862)

They have to know who to brand as heretics, right?

Not lasing yet (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253522)

This 500kV test was of just the accelerator (i.e. the bit the produces the electron beam part of a Free Electron Beam laser), not the FEL itself. It's this electron beam that is purported to do the extraordinary steel-cutting, not the laser beam. There is no mention of whether this was a momentary or sustained electron beam output. A 500kV accelerator on it's own isn't all that impressive, but once they package it into a small volume (room rather than building), and actually use it to lase, then that will be very impressive indeed.

Damn it (1)

Semptimilius (917640) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253540)

Just when I installed my new 200' thick steel bunker doors on my ocean-side villain headquarters.

Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (2)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253554)

Naval artillery and missiles can shoot over the horizon. Lasers have to be in line of sight.

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253598)

No! they'll just burn a hole thru the horizon and get you on the other side :)

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (4, Insightful)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253622)

Who needs range when your "missile" is travelling at the speed of light?

Anyways, for a laser mounted on a Navy warship, say 10m above sea level, the horizon is over 10km away, so even an incoming sea skipping exocet missile coming in at 300 m/s is over 30 sec away.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizon [wikipedia.org]

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253944)

Would that be the exocet missile with the fresh coat of Krylon metallic chrome paint on the nose cone? :P

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (2)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253630)

But naval warfare is well suited to the sharks that you mount your lasers on

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (4, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253638)

These laser systems are being developed to shoot down incoming artillery and missiles. That's why the US Navy is commissioning companies to develop small enough systems to be fit in destroyers. That way, the US carrier group employs these destroyers to protect the carrier group from airborne threats while the carrier, with their fighters and bombers, occupy themselves with attacking stuff over the horizon.

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253652)

good you have the basics, now go back and learn which horizon your shooting over and how one shoots over the horizon to begin with.

There is plenty of time for a laser to hit naval artillery and missiles while they are flying over the horizon and the target they are attacking

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253710)

Or put a mirror in space...

While been mocked in many movies the idea is sound. If it can keep its energy level up long enough. You could litterally vaporize a target from Kansas and hit it in Korea.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090056/
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089886/

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253824)

I may be off base here, but I'm pretty sure building a mirror that reflects an energy beam that can burn through 20ft of steel per second is impossible. Or rather, impossible with today's technology. Or do you think a mirror-coated ICBM would be invulnerable to said laser? Think a little!

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253656)

What makes you think that they're just for attacking? One of the nice things about lasers is that they can be aimed very quickly. With enough energy, you can vaporise incoming artillery shells. And if you can vaporise any incoming cruise or ballistic weapons, you can get very close to the enemy...

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253992)

So you have an incoming ballistic projectile coming at you and you shoot it with you laser.. You now have a molten superheated projectile of the exact same mass and velocity coming at you.. It is very convinient to be able to detonate warheads before impact, but the enemy will stil have old-fashioned mass-based weapons to shoot you with.

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253660)

They have these things called air planes now.

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253670)

Then again, defensive lasers could shoot down incoming enemy artillery and missiles.

Also, notice the sentence "the Navy just awarded Boeing a contract worth up to $163 million to take that technology and package it as a 100 kW weapons system."

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253678)

Of course, such a device would still be quite useful at shooting down such missiles.

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253682)

Lasers are unavoidable and impossible to counter - the best you can do is get more hull plating everywhere. They just about never miss, either, especially on large targets.

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253714)

Lasers are unavoidable and impossible to counter - the best you can do is get more hull plating everywhere.

Yeah - either that or just shoot the frickin' shark.

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (5, Insightful)

fish waffle (179067) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253882)

...impossible to counter?

Umm, what if the enemy launched 1000 fake missiles at the same time---how many simultaneous targets can it destroy? What if they launched a series of missiles from beyond the horizon, how long can you keep using your laser? What if they launched torpedos instead, or at the same time, does your laser also work underwater? What if they launched highly reflective chaff with their missiles, would your laser be able to find the target and would it have full energy? What if they launched a whole lot of small missiles rather than one big one? What if their missiles incorporated radar invisibility, so you don't see it with the auto-aiming mechanism? What if they just launched chunks of metal that didn't care if they had a pin-sized hole in them? What if they made missiles that looked like missiles, but actually had the explosive part offset somehow, so your super-accurate laser kept burning holes in irrelevant areas?

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253950)

Lasers are unavoidable and impossible to counter

I checked and the local Ace Hardware is mysteriously out of Krylon metallic chrome spray paint.

Re:Serious range disadvantage for naval warfare. (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253712)

Naval artillery and missiles can shoot over the horizon. Lasers have to be in line of sight.

True, which is why you make them orbital lasers.

Even better is if you make them orbital mind-control lasers! [wikia.com]

But, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253572)

Can it pop pocorn?

Laser launchers? (3, Interesting)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253578)

Everybody's complaining about the weaponization of this, and I agree they don't need any more toys, but I think this is a good thing because it's a great step towards laser launching systems and away from chemical rockets.

The military may have done it but it also could be adapted to commercial usages.

Heck one thing I can think of is dismantling large ships in boneyards. This would be good for any sort of metal recycling in fact.

Re:Laser launchers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253664)

Which is a ridiculously expensive idea, lasers cost $10,000's per kW of output. Launching rockets requires many GW of power (space shuttle main engines are about 9GW each, close to 50GW total on a spaceshuttle). So if you have a spare few hundred billion lying around for such an endeavour then be my guest.

Rockets or light gas guns will always beat laser.

Real Genius (3, Insightful)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253582)

Over 20 comments before someone mentions Real Genius? This was like the plot of the movie itself.

Re:Real Genius (2)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253724)

Over 20 comments before someone mentions Real Genius? This was like the plot of the movie itself.

I thought the plot was about nerds getting laid! The laser part was just a way to move the plot along...

Re:Real Genius (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253838)

The plot was stupid.

They created an incredibly expensive weapon that could only be used to very accurately kill single person per shot, but through several layers of armor.

The only possible effect of such a weapon on the nature of warfare would be to change war from a bloody activity in which thousands or millions of commoners sacrifice their lives for the goals of a few powerful elite, to one in which the powerful elite are the targets: A B-1 bomber with a single-shot laser is not exactly the kind of equipment whose expense is justified against infantry.

It's hard to believe that peace lovers would be opposed to the very kind of weapon that would reduce the bloodshed and put pressure on the very causes of wars...

Re:Real Genius (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35254008)

Your complaints are stupid. The opening scene showed that the laser was a secret project without any oversight -- hidden from the president and any anyone outside their group -- and when one member of the group in charge decided he couldn't be party to this type of activity, the group ordered his execution (via a thin euphemism). It wasn't that a laser couldn't be used for a reduction in losses, it was that they were obviously going to use it to take out whomever they wanted.

TFA has no clue what it's talking about (0)

johndoe42 (179131) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253602)

What is this thing supposed to be? TFA is rather clear on the point that it's "a new type of laser". But it also says (as though it's obvious) that "the more power one puts into a laser accelerator, the more powerful and precise the light beam that comes out on the other end". I don't know exactly what a "laser accelerator" is, so I don't really know whether pumping more power in makes the other end more precise.

Of course, even if FoxNews.com can't explain how it works, it was a dramatic "supercharged electron beam that can burn through 20 feet of steel per second". Well, FoxNews.com, WTF is it? A laser or an electron beam? (Hint: a laser shoots light not electrons.)

I think it's really a Free-electron laser [wikipedia.org] , in which you inject electrons into a tube and laser light comes out the other end. So TFA has it completely backwards.

Re:TFA has no clue what it's talking about (4, Informative)

ulski (1173329) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253740)

There some more information to be found here: http://www.jlab.org/FEL/ [jlab.org] You could also watch the video http://www.jlab.org/FEL/Movie28.mov [jlab.org] , but that was a bit disappointing (no KABOOM).

Re:TFA has no clue what it's talking about (-1, Troll)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253770)

Remember, this is the news channel that doesn't understand how a pie chart works (or simply cannot add to 100).

http://ebroodle.typepad.com/ebroodle/2009/11/republican-pie-chart-fail.html [typepad.com]

You expect them to understand anything more complex than an abacus?

I'm getting (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253640)

A Real Genius moment here. Why would the U.S. Navy need a LASED stream of electrons that can cut through 20 feet of steel?

Re:I'm getting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253722)

Ok, I can use this to destroy satellites in orbit that are watching my lair.

Board? (1)

Curialis (218588) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253726)

Yes, the more important question is can it pound a nail through a 6 inch board...oh wait , that wasn't with the laser...

Re:Board? (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253762)

Great quote! That movie was a trip. And how they used the flying laser was priceless.

Re:I'm getting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253858)

Those 17-year old Somali pirates better not mess with us.

The Next Step? (1)

Lord Agni (643860) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253658)

Sharks that can carry those frikkin lasers.

20 feet of steel? (3, Funny)

Chelloveck (14643) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253686)

What's that expressed as houses of popcorn?

Re:20 feet of steel? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253774)

I need to know what it is in horses per submarine, just to get it in terms I can understand.

Re:20 feet of steel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35253796)

whoosh!

Re:20 feet of steel? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253942)

I'm not sure you understand what "whoosh" means.

What's the Blooming Problem? (2)

Aaron_Pike (528044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253690)

I didn't see any data about blooming or effective range. Any ideas? Is there a physicist in the house?

Re:What's the Blooming Problem? (2)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253988)

As an initial estimate, I'd say loses its effectiveness somewhere between 20 feet and infinity. I realize you were looking for something more precise than this, but it's all I have right now.

It's possible that anyone with the data to give you a more precise answer would have to kill you if he told you.

What about mirrors? (1)

jurgenaut (910416) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253694)

If lasers ever become a serious threat against naval vessels, you could attach mirrors to divert the beams. At least around vital areas. Like those Schürzen the germans attached to their early panzer models (prior to tigers and panthers) to take the edge off of russian anti-tank rifles (and allegedly hollow-charge ordnance like bazooka rounds).

Is it the right security tool? (1)

Max_W (812974) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253744)

Would this tool help to prevent an event similar to 9/11 or metro explosions?

Would not a co-development be a better choice?

um... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253786)

Anyone else a bit concerned about something like this in orbit? There wouldn't be any place on earth safe from it.

Re:um... (0)

McTickles (1812316) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253972)

Everyone is concerned about the americans; most of them are very ripe for the psych ward.

So yes such a contraption in orbit would actually give them total dominion over the world, which is of course what they would like; it would also violate an amazin amount of international laws but we all know what they do to international laws, they just sit on them and call them irrelevant.

And you know what we are going to do about it if it happens? NOTHING, we are just once again going to bend over for the US and take it up the back passage, in
the name of the "almighty" dollar (which nowadays is really a joke, if possible avoid getting paid in dollars, it is Monopoly money, it is basically worthless)

Re:um... (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253986)

There is already no place on Earth that couldn't be completely destroyed by a determined military attack in a matter of hours. What's your point?

Pew, pew, pew... (1)

ivaldes3 (175216) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253846)

Pew, pew, pewwww... Luke, I am your Father.

WTF? (5, Insightful)

syncrotic (828809) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253848)

Wow, that was one of the worst articles I've ever read.

"To create incredible power requires incredible energy. After all, the more power one puts into a laser accelerator, the more powerful and precise the light beam that comes out on the other end."

So to "create power" requires energy. Uh, ok... I'm with you, sort of.

"Scientists there, in coordination with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), injected a sustained 500 kilovolts (KV) of juice into a prototype accelerator where the existing limit had been 320 kV..."

OK, so they "injected" 500kV of "juice." Fuck you, fox news.

"According to ONR officials, that laser beam will eventually perform at a staggering âoemegawatt class,â a measure of the laser's strength. Right now, the accelerator at Jefferson Lab is performing at just 14 Kilowatts."

So wait, the power output of this thing is actually 14kW, and the goal of the program is to reach 1MW. But apparently they were at 10kW four years ago... so what's this article actually about? The fact that they increased the voltage to 500kV from the previous 320kV? Why does that matter?

"Today, Neil and others have shown that they have the ability to harness super-conducting electron power."

Oh ok, I guess the big development here is that they're using superconductors... or something. It's tough to tell, because "super-conducting electron power" is a series of words that, when strung together, don't mean a fucking thing.

"Clearly, the day's events were a feather in everyoneâ(TM)s cap."

Clearly.

Re:WTF? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254002)

So wait, the power output of this thing is actually 14kW, and the goal of the program is to reach 1MW. But apparently they were at 10kW four years ago... so what's this article actually about? The fact that they increased the voltage to 500kV from the previous 320kV? Why does that matter?

It matters because the Navy is cutting Boeing a check for $163 million. And if they did so without declaring some sort of technological milestone (particularly in todays economy), people would be pissed.

For most people who work with lasers... (1)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253930)

That's 80 dBm.

Egomania at its best (0)

McTickles (1812316) | more than 3 years ago | (#35253936)

The US is world champion of egomania and shows it again...

They simply cannot resist building war toys, it is just an addiction to them.
They want to feel safe? perhaps stop brandishing weapons and bragging would help gain them some sympathy around the world.
What are they possibly going to use it for? another war to "liberate" another third world country and give them an occasion to finally use their very expensive and overpowered deadly contraptions ?

Americans, man, I sure wish they'd snap out of their addiction to war, money and egocentrism, they could actually be decent people...

Eventually they'll come out of it, I think, but will it be of their own volition or will it be forced by some other nation that has had it with their tantrums?

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