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Battlefield Lasers 688

KeyShark writes: "An article on FoxNews describes how front-line troops soon will be protected by battlefield lasers designed to shoot down rockets, artillery shells and even mortars."
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Battlefield Lasers

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  • Not too hard. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by man_ls ( 248470 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @07:53PM (#2662518)
    Sounds like they put a fire-finder radar tracking station onto a laser. They've had the ability to plot trajectory and such of incoming shells for quite a while, but now they'll be able to do something about it other than leave.

    Unfortunately, I have suspicions if this will ever make it to deployment. The U.S. also has an anti-satellite laser weapon that has been tested and confirmed to work by overloading the circuits -- and it was nixed because of the poltical tension it would create.
    • Re:Not too hard. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, it's an amazingly difficult control systems problem, especially if you have no advanced warning, as in these cases. The rockets that they downed were Katyushas, which are really simple, THICK metal tubes full of explosives. I saw the video of the tests back in July--the thing is really impressive. The laser itself in invisible and the source looks like one of those World War II signaling lamps on ships. If you look at the video of the Katyushas, you just see it flying along, it gets red, then poof!
      As far as deployment goes, Israel has been pressuring the US for the last several months to at least put up a few stations in northern Israel--it's that effective. The main problem right now is that it's just not mobile, and it's not battle hardened. In other words, taking it out would be easy. But, eventually given enough money and time, they'll get this on the back of a truck, and then you're in business.
    • Re:Not too hard. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Lobsang ( 255003 )
      Not too hard?

      I think it may be impossible. You're forgetting:

      1) Decoys
      2) More decoys
      3) Even more decoys
      4) Foliage
      5) Line of sight
      6) Rain
      7) Fog
      8) Snow

      Am i forgetting something here?
      • Re:Not too hard. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Knobby ( 71829 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:09PM (#2662915)

        Am i forgetting something here?

        Yep.. You're missing density variations and laser induced heating of the local atmosphere. Both of which will degrade the power of your beam, and complicate aiming the device. The Air Forces Airborne laser program attempted to solve these using a pair of low power lasers to sample the atmosphere and track the object. Given the information from the low power lasers, the optics for the primary laser could be corrected to hit the target. I'm not sure they ever got the system to work, but I seem to recall the power of the beam to be roughly equivilent to 30 ocyacetylin (sp?) torches focused on a single point.. There was a lot of speculation in the articles I read, suggesting that the laser power would be attenuated by some staggering amount by the atmosphere, and the chances for success were considered minimal by some of the scientists working on the project..

    • The U.S. also has an anti-satellite laser weapon that has been tested and confirmed to work by overloading the circuits -- and it was nixed because of the poltical tension it would create.

      The coming space-weapons arms race with China will probably make political tensions irrelevant.

  • hard part (Score:4, Funny)

    by simetra ( 155655 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @07:54PM (#2662527) Homepage Journal
    The hard part will be making the lasers make a cool zapping noise like on Star Wars.
  • by rebelcool ( 247749 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @07:55PM (#2662535)
    I know the airborne laser (uses the same chemical type laser) was capable of shooting down rockets by weakening the metal skins, which the forces of flight would thus rupture and cause the thing to fly apart, but are artillery shells really that delicate?
    • For artillery shells without an explosive payload, I would imagine if you could melt the tip, it would throw off the aerodynamics to throw the shell off course. That is assuming, of course, that you didn't vaporize it.

      And for ones with an explosive payload, the obvious would happen in flight. :)
    • As an ex artillery guy, I can speak from experience.
      A standard 155mm HE round weighs in at 103lbs. The shell itself is nothing but steel with a grid-like pattern etched on the inside (for shrapnel).
      The thickness varies from about 1/2" to 3/4" thick (at the bottom next to the propellant). Other than that, they're just filled with gunpowder.
      At the tip is a fuse (there are too many types to list), and just below that is a small bag of quick burning powder to kick things off.
      If this laser is heating things up as hot as they say, that baby is going to blow pretty quick no matter where it's hit.

      I have collection of shrapnel I picked up at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, that's where I got a look at the innards.

      As a side note, by themselves they're not all that fragile. I dropped one on my foot (almost everyone does at some point), and apart from the two seconds of deafening silence following, we loaded it up and it was 12 miles away in a few seconds. Then I proceeded to scream like a bitch. Big toe was smashed something awful.

  • by chancycat ( 104884 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @07:56PM (#2662546) Journal
    Think about it:

    Eash of our troups has a pen laser and two house cats.

    1) Release cats between you and the enemy.

    2) Direct cats toward enemy trenches with pen light. Watch enemy freak out.

  • by Nindalf ( 526257 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @07:56PM (#2662549)
    Revolutionary new developments in extremely shiny rockets, artillery shells, and even mortars.
    • Mirror coating, etc. doesn't make a difference. Try holding a match to the mirror, and you'll find to your surprise that the mirror gets warm. That's because oxidation is releasing lots of energy all over the place. A laser is a way of releasing lots of energy to a single spot. Tom Clancy said mirror coating or spinning a missile in front of a laser would be like having a ballerina pirrouete in front of a shotgun. Besides, in the battle between bigger armor and bigger guns, the guns always win eventually.
      • Tom Clancy said...

        Citing Tom Clancy as an authority on millitary affairs is like citing the late Stephen King as an expert in criminology.

        Maj. Kong
        • I used him as a source for what I considered a funny analogy. Surely you agree he can write a funny analogy? The quote actually was made by him in an interview with some MIT folks and pentagon folks durring which they tried to describe how Star Wars would work. He, just like slashdot readers, assumed he was smarter than the scientists employed to make the weapons, so he asked why not just cover sattelites and ICBMS with mirrors. They then explained that they were hoping to deliver at a minimum two sticks of dynamite, which would be able to burn through existing systems, and (here's the important part) completely destroy the delicate bits. That includes Sattelite solar panels and all the sensor systems on missiles. Again, Clancy was smart, and referenced the then emerging technology of GPS...could you mess that up if you had no sensors? No, the panel replied, but by the mid-nineties, their laser technology and computer control should let them deliver considerably more energy, and enable slagging (melting) missile bits far more robust than the sensors. To that, Clancy replied with the quote about a ballerina.
          Also, I reccomend you read the book series Guided Tour of...(Carrier, Armored Cav, Fighter wing, Airborne, etc.) If Stephen King spent a big chunk of his life writing criminology texts, interviewing homicide detectives, and researching enough to write non-fiction analysis and case profiles, then sure, I would use him as a reference. However, in this case, despite what I consider Clancy's adequate qualification, I just used his color commentary.
      • by Nindalf ( 526257 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:20PM (#2662961)
        Mirror coating, etc. doesn't make a difference.

        To be blunt, this is wrong. I do agree, however, that just polishing up a stainless steel shell until you can shave in front of it probably won't make enough difference. Most mirrors don't reflect nearly enough light.

        On the other hand, such powerful lasers are hard to make and very expensive. It would be tempting to make them just barely strong enough to work against existing designs which have no defense against such countermeasures. If a spinning (or randomly tumbling), mirrored shell, can cut down the rate of heating by something like 30%, and there's some extra heat-shielding inside, it might be enough to survive.

        All kidding aside, you also can't rule out, as I said, revolutionary new developments in mirrored armor. I mean, if there was no way to deflect the beam, there would be no way to generate or aim it!

        BTW, Tom Clancy is a novelist, not a physicist. His entire livelihood is sounding plausible about things he doesn't really understand.

        Besides, in the battle between bigger armor and bigger guns, the guns always win eventually.

        Ah, but which is which? This is an odd historical precedent to apply in favor of a defense mechanism.
        • "All kidding aside, you also can't rule out, as I said, revolutionary new developments in mirrored armour. I mean, if there was no way to deflect the beam, there would be no way to generate or aim it! "

          Exactly. You don't polish steel, you give is a coating which does not absorb the wavelengths the other guys are using [make it the colour of the beam].
          • Or you make it so extreme heat doesn't generally cause a catastrophic failure [HE is already like this].
          • Or you start applying stealth technology to the projectiles so they can't be tracked.
          • Or you give your troops Rosco Model 4500 Foggers [] to disperse the defensive beams [plus, it'll make the war-time photography look so cool!]
    • Revolutionary new developments in extremely shiny rockets, artillery shells, and even mortars.

      Don't forget smoke screens.
  • by djrogers ( 153854 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @07:59PM (#2662575)
    All I asked for were some frickin' laser beams!
  • by hether ( 101201 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @07:59PM (#2662576)
    Military Lasers High and Low
    Battle lasers are rapidly moving from the realm of theory into operational reality

    The Airforce Association
  • says (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hether ( 101201 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:02PM (#2662593)

    that "These lasers also have a drawback--their energy comes from large tanks of industrial chemicals, which have to be mixed until they glow, like an outsize high-school science project. And they are so bulky that one weapon fills a large aircraft, or a small building. "

    Does this jive with the fox news article?
    • Yes, though foxnews says there's an experimental solid-state laser that looks promising. With that, it would cost 25 cents per shot, and fit on a Humvee.
    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @11:06PM (#2663324) Journal
      "These lasers also have a drawback--their energy comes from large tanks of industrial chemicals, which have to be mixed until they glow, like an outsize high-school science project. And they are so bulky that one weapon fills a large aircraft, or a small building. "

      Does this jive with the fox news article?

      Yes. But it doesn't tell the whole story.

      The lasers they're talking about are spinoffs of the Star Wars missile defense system. They had to get a LOT of energy into a beam quickly, to shoot down missiles while still in space, or to bounce off a mirror in space to get them on their way up. One shot, one dead nuke, so cost wasn't much of an object.

      Neither was portability: You had either a fortified underground bunker as big as you wanted, or a satellite in zero-G.

      So they did something very strong, effective, big, and expensive.

      But lasers are EASY. Excluding superradiants (which are easier, if you've got the materials) all you need is a couple of well-alligned mirrors, one of 'em slightly leaky, with an "inverted population amplification light amplification medium" between them.

      For "inverted population light amplification medium" read "smoke from a fire".

      The medium must have the following characteristics:

      It has a state transistion (an "excited state", a "ground state" or less-excited state, and an allowed transition between them) with an energy difference corresponding to a usefully energetic photon.

      It must have significantly more of its atoms or molecules in the more-excited state than in the less-excited state. (This is the "inverted population" part.)

      It must have ENOUGH of a surplus of more-excited particles to produce a usable amount of power if you extracted the energy difference by de-exciting enough that you're down to 50/50 (or de-exciting them all if there's a further transition that drains the less-excited state).

      It must be transparent and reasonably uniform (i.e. non-distorting) at the light frequency corresponding to the state transition.

      When you burn darn near ANYTHING the resulting molecules start out excited. If they meet the other criteria you've got a suitable medium for a chemically-pumped laser.

      Burn a suitable fuel in a long, thin, rocket flame and run the exhaust at right angles between the pair of mirrors. You'll have a laser beam coming out as long as the flame lasts. Chose the right material and a large fraction of what would have been the heat of combustion ends up in the laser beam.

      Now there are some fancy and deadly fuels (fluorine comes to mind) that make an exhaust where the bulk of the energy can be extracted by a single transition. This is nice and efficient. And you don't want to be ANYWHERE NEAR them when in use, due to the toxic nature of the exhaust. So if you're going to be shooting down a nuke from a fort in the desert they're fine.

      But there are LOTS of others that are simpler, and might be more suitable for a battlefield.

      I expect that eventually we'll see a chemically-pumped laser rifle or pistol, about the same size as a normal rifle or pistol, with an optical cavity where the barrel would be, powered by cartridges of solid fuel that are fed by a mechanism similar to the one that feeds cartridges consisting of case/primer/powder/bullet.

  • >>The laser weapons vaporize metal.

    OK, I fire it at your depleted uranium artillery shell. Vaporized uranium on the battlefield. Voila! How's that for environmental cleanup?
  • by biotechnician ( 538912 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:07PM (#2662622)
    Since like all technology this will disseminate to the other countries in the globe, this also means a major change in air power. Manuverablility means practically nill at the speed of light. Large aircraft equiped with lasers would in addition to destroying missles would also be able to destroy all aircraft, even if the enemy aircraft are super manuverable, stealthy, super expensive F-22 jets. In fact the developement of powerful lasers will strongly reduce the importance aircraft, all you need to do is see the aircraft and you can kill it.
  • by mbessey ( 304651 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:07PM (#2662626) Homepage Journal
    ...of specifically the solid-state high-power laser, take a look at Lawrence Livermore's page on the project: []

  • by joshjs ( 533522 ) <.joshjs. .at.> on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:14PM (#2662664) Homepage

    What's to stop them from using these things on people? They have amazingly accurate targeting systems and they're cheap to fire (article says 25 cents (maybe dollars, I forget...) per shot.

    So what's to keep the defense dept. from using these things for assassinations, or ground warfare?

    Would that be cruel and unusual?

    Here's a question: is there a "right of the people" to keep and bear these? The idea doesn't sound assuring, I must say: what kind of signature would it leave. Bullets can be tracked, but this -- would there even be a body left?

    I'm not trying to complain or predict horrors, because I'm all about the advance of tech. I just want to know a little more about this kind of thing.

    Also: it's eerie that the article only mentions uses of these for defense, and not for attack, covert (which I think is a promising potential use for this technology) or otherwise. Just considering it's a time of "war" and all.
    • by Anonymous DWord ( 466154 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:26PM (#2662730) Homepage
      There's an international treaty that the US has actually signed (wonder of wonders!) against using lasers on people. I tend to doubt it'll be followed in practice though, when "our" forces are involved.
    • Here's a six year old report [] on blinding weapons of the US military.
    • As far as it being 'cruel'... if such lasers are powerful enough to destroy solid metal shells, they are probably powerful enough to kill instantaneously or fairly close to instantaneously. Compare to the rather gruesome and slowly fatal wounds gunshots produce... obviously, I'm no expert on these lasers but I'd think (offhand) they might be vastly more 'humane' than most current battlefield technologies. [Please take 'humane', in context, of course... nothing 'humane' about shooting anyone with anything more powerful than a Super Soaker.]
    • So what's to keep the defense dept. from using these things for assassinations, or ground warfare?

      Simple... they don't work that well. The best they can do is heat up thin metal rocket skins and make them burst because of the pressurized fuel inside... most rockets are so weak structurally that they would collapse if you drained the fuel out of them.

      These lasers are too weak to do much damage. The worst they can do to people is use laser light to blind people... which is pretty bad, but it ain't no death star.
    • Honestly, I'm not sure that on the battlefield per se this would be terribly effective. The thing is, bullets cause huge amounts of collateral damage, make organs bleed, bounce around, create big exit holes, etc. Bullets are very good at wounding and killing. Is a bulky, truck mounted laser any more effective against personnel than a 50 mm automatic cannon on a truck which can mow people down? I doubt it. And you can keep firing the cannon, you don't need a huge generator to keep it going. Just doesn't seem like a cost effective way to kill ground troops.

      Against tanks and vehicles, perhaps this would be effective... though those are slow enough in general that a guided rocket or smart bomb is probably just as effective. And they are big and much better armored than a small incoming Katyusha rocket, so I don't know how well that would work at this point.

      Planes are not that much unlike missiles and artillery shells in that they are big things flying through the sky at high speeds with lots of fuel in them. I would think that planes would be susceptible to this class of laser weapons too, as a result, and avoid the complexities of defeating chaff, ECM and jamming systems.

      Also, if this actually works for shooting down these small projectiles, is there any fundamental reason a later iteration of this technology couldn't be used to defend from ICBMs - I suppose you would need a lot more range to get high enough to hit them while it still mattered. Perhaps better than the missile defense program missiles that don't seem to work really well in the real world.

      The "plane-mounted assasination" might be effective though. If we can hit a rocket from the ground, we can probably hit a person from a plane with the same laser. And it might not be efficient against large numbers of ground troops, but if you want to knock out one guy with minimal or no collateral damage that would result from shooting missiles or rockets at him, this would possibly be effective. Although I may be wrong about the "no collateral damage" thing... refracted laser light all over the place could definitely at least blind a lot of people.

    • Unless you're referring to distant technology, virtually all of these are unlikely.

      article says 25 cents (maybe dollars, I forget...) per shot.

      It is cheaper to shoot a rifle. Plus these laser weapons are pathetically weak compared to a rifle. These weapons were designed for use on weak rockets and missiles travelling at high speeds in the air. The laser is only capable of heating and weakening the metal skin, which flight forces would tear a hole in, thus rupturing and destroying the missile. In an earlier post I questioned exactly how well these lasers would work on the much thicker and stronger skins of artillery shells.

      To use one of these on a human is stupid and ineffective. Sure, it'll burn you..but why not just shoot the guy? More damaging and a quicker death.

      As for the 'people' to get one, find me someone who can actually afford something like this. These weapons are enormous (they're TRYING to fit one on an 18 wheeler) and cost millions.

      These lasers are useful city defenders against things like SCUDs. Not something Joe Q. Gunowner will own.

    • An excellent point to bring up.

      Considering these offensive possibilities is the only way I've found to make any sense of missile defense: why some people are trying so hard to make it, why others are so opposed to it.

      In its proposed use, it's obviously stupid: it does a very poor job of defending against a very unlikely attack. Maybe its supporters are just trying to make more money for weapons producers -- actually, I'm sure they are -- but maybe there's more to it.

      But then why do all these other countries get so bothered about it? If it's doomed to fail -- there seems to be concensus on that from all nonpartial observers -- then why not just let the US fail at it?

      So here's where this theory comes in: missile defense provides a reason to do research and implementation of military systems in space, with high accuracy lasers and all that. It doesn't have to work, because it will never be tested in a realistic way, and the staged tests will just be faked (like all the tests so far).

      Once you have high-precision and powerful lasers in space, you have a hell of a lot of power. Spy satellites already have impressive accuracy. It's entirely possible to create an offensive weapon that could kill anyone that's out in the open (given a certain amount of intelligence -- supposing biometrics don't get too good, so they could identify us from space).

      Of course this would scare the hell out of all the other countries -- enemies and allies alike. It's no secret that the US is a fickle lover. One day you're our best friend -- Noriega, for example -- the next you're in jail. Or just dead.

  • Old way:

    Shell comes down, buries in dirt, explodes. Shrapnel flies everywhere, but mostly up. Maybe shell has an altitude based fuse, so it explodes in the air. Shrapnel flies everywhere.

    New way:

    Shell comes down, gets zapped by laser. Shrapnel flies everywhere.

    Still, you have supersonic, ballistic shrapnel, and still, you have it landing full-speed on the target.

    • Still, you have supersonic, ballistic shrapnel, and still, you have it landing full-speed on the target.

      If the shell is directed at an even marginally hardened target, you'd much rather have a bunch of tiny, dispersed bits of metal (burning off their momentum agaist air resistance with their much greater overall surface area) than a massive, explosively-armed charge burying itself into your position, then detonating.

    • There is also a system that uses radio signals to detonate the proximity fuzes at a distance from the friendly lines. .h tm

      "The Shortstop Electronic Protection System (SEPS) is an RF Proximity Fuze counter measure. The Shortstop battlefield electronic countermeasures system is capable of prematurely detonating incoming artillery and mortar rounds. It counters the threat of RF Proximity Fuzed munitions by causing them to prefunction, to protect friendly ground troops, vehicles, structures, and other equipment under fire."

      Shortstop is already in service.

      There are already radar systems to track rounds down to a 60mm mortar shell.
  • Get real (Score:2, Interesting)

    by writertype ( 541679 )
    I can buy an automated projectile system to shoot down guided missiles, but a laser? To shoot down artillery shells? Can you imagine the engineering required to lock onto said shell and the laser power to detonate it? What about smoke or other haze?

    And let's not even consider making this a "personal" means of defense.

    Sounds like the old warbirds over at Fox are lobbying for a larger military budget.

  • MIRACL (Score:5, Funny)

    by sheetsda ( 230887 ) <> on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:50PM (#2662827)
    The granddaddy of all the laser weapons is the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser, known as MIRACL, which fills a large building and its surroundings at the test site.

    Nice acronym. Now every time I see a picture of someone standing in a beam of divine light from the sky I'm going to get a mental picture of him bursting into flames and melting.

  • is some really big cats, so they can get some exercise [] (US Patent 5,443,036)
  • by HongPong ( 226840 ) < minus author> on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:52PM (#2662842) Homepage
    Next thing you know the goddamn hippies are going to demand we only set them on 'stun.' Bastards!
  • by Sleepy ( 4551 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:01PM (#2662876) Homepage
    This wasn't news, it was a *commercial*.

    It's pretty simple:
    1) a chunk of your tax dollars goes to pork-barrel arms projects (that don't work).
    2) Said arms dealer profits.
    3) Arms dealer "lobbies" for more congressional pork.

    In the "old days" of the early 90's, #3 meant simply bribing the congressmen via his campaign "war chest". While that made effective lobbying, today we have Rupert Murdoch's lobbying group, "Fox" television. It's sad to have seen the name of a once-great US media company bought out by a "naturalized" foreigner whose intentions are simply to influence American politics.

    In other words, this is a LOBBYING EFFORT to raise taxes for yet another military boondoggle. It's just pretend news.

    Congress is already leery of "star wars" (the SDI kind), seeing how there is so much pressure to deploy the damn thing, when star wars misses 3 out of 6 targets in *lab* conditions.

    Now they want the same unproven technology on the ground. Fox runs nothing but editorials against "government pork" and "big government" EXCEPT when it serves the war hawks or their stock portfolio.

    Remember, these are the same maggots who ran "investigative reporting" how the USA supposedly never landed on the moon. Note this story ran JUST BEFORE renewed calls in Congress to both cut NASA funding (to make them less effective), AND to privatize NASA altogether.

    George Orwell was wrong. In the future we will be controlled by mindless, hypnosis-inducing corporate-sponsored "information", news, etc.
  • futurism (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xah ( 448501 )
    The article focuses to its detriment on lasers as a defensive armament. They are more likely to be used offensively, if history is any judge.

    If the article is right, and the energy supply for these lasers continue to be expensive, bulky chemicals, we may see a return to the battlefields of the 19th century, when artillery, and not air power, was most critical to warfare. Supply lines would become more important than they are today. Battlefield tactics would have to change.

    Why wouldn't they mount lasers on aircraft? Maybe the chemicals are too heavy?

  • great - if only the leonids were over afghanistan... then perhaps we could lure OBL out of his tent/cave, and zap him like in weird science...

    now I'm hungry for some popcorn.... yum.
  • I've read most of the posts, and so far I haven't seen even one that both takes this seriously, and believes it will work. Maybe all weapons proposals should have to go through Slashdot first.
  • This whole thing is so fantastically Real Genius [].

    God: Think about it, Kent. What use is a phase conjugate tracking mirror? A big mirror needs a big beam.

    Kent: I... I overheard Dr. Hathaway talking about a test out in the desert.

    God: Good. Now, I want you to think about what you've done. And for the last time, stop touching yourself!

  • by Remote ( 140616 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:41PM (#2663045) Homepage
    Ok, the system was reported to be able to melt down Katyushas. My bet would be that those were painted gray or olive green. What if one chrome-plates the damn thing? Would that make the rocket (or a shell, or a racing pigeon!) laser-proof? Would someone in the know tell me why this wouldnt be a protection?
  • by moonboy ( 2512 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @10:04PM (#2663116) Homepage

    Is anyone else wondering why we are spending so much money on the missile defense system? This seems to have solved the problem of missile defense much more elegantly (and more cost effectively?) Maybe I'm missing something.

  • Laser, check...
    Water cooling [], check...
    Meth Fuel cell [], check...
    Ginger platform [], check...
    Power Glove [], check...

    Now I need an autocannon, more legos, and I'm set
  • Just a quick question... how much interference does our atmosphere create for these lasers? Now the reason I ask is that everyone is talking about how this is the basis of the starwars project and all. But what would the difference in intensity of the beam would a laser at sea level and a laser at geosynchronous orbit? eh, food for though...

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake