Another Boing! Boing! -ism

Another typical Boing! Boing!-ism, this time trying to sarcastically dismiss the risks of shining laser pointers at commercial aircraft,

Sky and Telescope article on laser-pointer etiquette

Marc Laidlaw points out this article from Sky and Telescope that has good information about the deadly laser pointers that terrorists have been using to knock aircraft filled with women and children right out of the sky. Oh, when will the horror end?

According to engineer Samuel M. Goldwasser, who maintains an extensive Web site about lasers called Sam’s Laser FAQ, if you were to look directly into a laser-pointer beam from a mile away, it would appear as bright as a 100-watt bulb seen at a distance of less than 100 feet. Most people would find such a bright light very uncomfortable and would instinctively blink and/or turn away.


Sky and Telescope, which is the source of the quote, is not nearly as cavalier as Mark Frauenfelder is . Just two paragraphs later, Sky and Telescope notes the very real dangers posed even by the sort of laser pointers used by amateur astronomers,

Direct viewing of a laser-pointer beam, even briefly and at a distance of a kilometer or two, has the potential to cause temporary flashblindness — the same effect you get right after a flash photo is taken — or afterimages. These effects last anywhere from seconds to minutes. Glare, which is a reduction or loss of central vision, lasts only as long as exposure to the beam. All these effects could be disastrous if they struck a person operating machinery, driving a car or truck, or flying a plane. Fortunately, there have been no reports of laser-related accidents of this type so far.

The danger here is, in other word, very real despite what Fraunfelder would apparently like his readers to believe.


Some Pointers on the Use of Laser Pointers. Richard Tresch Fienberg, Sky and Telescope, Undated.

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