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The Informed Citizen
Friday, December 31, 2004

As the old year passes away,there are reports of commercial pilots being "attacked" by green lasers-"shot" into their cockpit windows.

There have been incidents in several states-including my home state,New Jersey,where the pilot of a Lear jet was "lasered" just after takeoff.

These events are potentially very serious: a laser,hitting just right, could blind a pilot momentarily,and could trigger a devastating air crash. Terrorists have reportedly considered using such a method to kill travelers,disrupt air travel,and cause widespread panic....but,in this case,I'm inclined to suspect another cause.

These "laser attacks" coincide,time-wise,with school holiday vacations: a period in which bored pre-teens ,and/or their somewhat older siblings,are "at liberty" and apt to engage in what my parents would call "tomfoolery".

This is the group most likely to engage in mindless acts of destruction : school vandalism,fires set in vacant lots,windows shot out with BB guns,graffiti,and,in our brave new 21st Century,
"messing around" with green lasers.

The lasers in question are YAG laser pointers.They are advertised as being 5 watt (the most powerful you can buy without an FCC permit),but are typically 1.5 to 2.5 watts in actual output.On a very clear night,they can project a thin green beam for quite a distance-as much as 2 miles.

Backyard astronomy buffs use them to point out various constellations...or so they say.I would guess they are more likely used to play "light saber" games with fellow buffs: an adult version of "messing around".

The gadgets sell for $60 to $600,and are widely available "on the net".Most are made in the Orient,and quality ranges from good to awful.(The "good" quality units probably won't burn up in your hand after a few minutes use.)

Some of the distributors-perhaps mindful of lawsuits-issue "boiler plate warnings" to prospective buyers. "This is not a toy. Children should be strictly supervised. Eye damage can occur.(Yadda,yadda,yadda.)"

As might be expected,pre-teens think they are "neat": sort of a "super flashlight".Hand a youngster a flashlight,and he/she will turn it on immediately;then rush outside to play flashlight tag,or pester the neighbors' dog,or shake up the young couple in the parked car, "light sabers".

Hand a youngster a green laser,and much the same thing will occur...only this time,once Junior has seen how far that cool green beam will reach,the "natural target" is apt to be an airplane.

Progress: It's wonderful.........I guess !


A Parsippany,NJ man was arrested in connection with Green Laser activities in NJ.He was not a terrorist. He was apparently just an overgrown kid.

The suspect's intellectual capacity may,perhaps,be judged by allegations he lasered a police helicopter while it was searching for him...
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