Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Hi, Im Troy McClure. You may remember me from such educational videos as "don't point lasers at airplanes"

Laser Pointer

Seems that Sky & Telescope have written an article on the do's & dont's of pointing lasers in the sky. This of course, referring to the "terrorist threat" we are now seeing form the humble laser pointer. An excerpt that shows how FUD works at it's best:

A recent addition to the backyard astronomer's toolkit has been flagged as a potential weapon in the terrorist's arsenal. The humble laser pointer, used by thousands of skygazers to show beginners the way to stars and constellations, is coming under fire from US federal and state authorities following several recent incidents in which laser beams have "painted" aircraft in flight.

In the most notorious case, on January 4, 2005, a New Jersey man was arrested after allegedly shining a laser at a small passenger jet on approach to a nearby airport. The suspect claims he had been showing his daughter around the night sky, using his laser pointer to direct her gaze at particular stars and planets. Now he faces a possible jail term and six-figure fine. The incident sparked a media frenzy, with many articles appearing alongside other news from the War on Terror.

This sort of thing really makes me question peoples intelligence. How people just swallow the tripe without using common sense I will never know. Anyway, just for all the clueless masses out there, some obvious don'ts for laser pointing:

  • Laser pointers are designed to illuminate inanimate objects. Never shine a laser pointer toward any person, aircraft, or other vehicle. Never look directly into the beam of a laser pointer of any type.

  • Do not allow children to use a pointer unsupervised. Laser pointers are not toys. If your telescope is equipped with a laser pointer that has a "constant-on" setting, do not leave the instrument unattended with the laser switched on.

  • Do not aim a laser pointer toward mirrors or other shiny surfaces. The reflected beam may inadvertently strike someone in the eye.

  • Do not aim a laser pointer skyward if you hear or see an aircraft of any kind flying overhead.

  • Be aware of irresponsible uses of pointers so that the psychological effect will be minimized if you happen to be illuminated by one.

  • Do not purchase a laser pointer if it does not have a "caution" or "danger" sticker on it identifying its class. Report suspicious devices to the authorities.


At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also question the ability of a standard pointing laser to effectively 'paint' a target the way military lasers do. I'm no expert, but to me it seems a more powerful beam is required to mark an airplane.


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