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Laser Treatment For Earth-Bound Asteroids

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the what-if-they-just-want-to-be-friends? dept.

Earth 120

arisvega writes "A recent publication (for the math-versed) proposing the deployment of a Solar-powered, space-borne fleet of LASER cannons that would deflect Earth-bound asteroids caught the attention of international news agencies. Do you think this ambition can in reasonable time turn into a fair-priced, life-saving (or indeed Biosphere-saving!) project, that will be to the benefit of all mankind? How threatened would you feel from the possibility of this proposed array being hijacked by extremely depraved individuals, ones capable or guilty of great crimes? And, are you not glad that now someone has published a paper on it, so Megacorp cannot 'patent' this Earth-saving idea?"

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First Post (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421479)

sharks with friggen laser beams in space muahahahaha

Re:First Post (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422381)

And, are you not glad that now someone has published a paper on it, so Megacorp cannot 'patent' this Earth-saving idea?"

Right, because publishing something on it means that no one will hold this ransom until they get a payout.

Senator Smith: "Fellow senators, I'm afraid I can't allow this to be built unless the construction takes place in my district."

Senator Bob: "Smith, your district has nothing but cattle and oil fields. You can't make it there."

Smith: "Well then we need to appropriate funds to build some factories in my district to make the array."

Bob: "NASA says the asteroid will be hitting the earth in two years!"

Smith: "Well then, we better get started building those factories in my district right away!"

Re:First Post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422589)

You've been modded offtopic for not replying to the GP post, but instead to the article. You didn't even make an attempt to tie it in.

Re:First Post (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#40427155)

When a "First post" is on topic, I won't hijack it. When it's a lame joke or "first!!!" then it's fair game. Also, posting AC still undoes your moderations.

My dad has asteroids (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421485)

Can't even sit on the toilet some days.

meh (2)

notequinoxe (2668889) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421545)

I think Bruce Willis might be enough...

Re:meh (3, Informative)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422303)

how did the comments get this far without somebody quoting Billy Bob Thorton: "That'd be like shooting a bb gun at a freight train doc"

Re:meh (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422385)

So let me get this straight, you all want Bruce Willis riding on shark with a laser on its head it orbit looking for asteroids so that Bruce Willis can shoot it with a BB gun?

That sounds insanely accurate for government work.

Not necessarily weaponizable.... (4, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421547)

Lasers with sufficient energy density to cause gaseous phase change of asteroid surface materials might not be strong enough to do anything impressive on the Earth's surface... lots of atmosphere to get through here.

The idea of a fleet of lower powered satellites is also less likely to be hijacked than a single "super cannon" - though, if you control the whole fleet, I suppose you could "turn up the heat on the Kremlin" if you ever wanted to....

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421575)

Maybe not against the surface. I bet you could kill any communications or spy satellite within line of sight though.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421623)

A country on the planet already has one Commercially, they're known as mining lasers and the 'bit' is 10 feet wide. There is enough power to punch through rock at great distances, like under 400,000 KM.

There was a story a while ago this year about battleships with lasers powerful enough to burn through 20 feet of steel in 1 second. These are nuclear (under)powered battleships with enough juice to do this. You up this to a military grade power source, rocks are no obstacle.

This device already exists and is in use.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421807)

I know this might be a tad predictable, but...

Citation needed.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (-1, Flamebait)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421937)

There was a story a while ago this year about battleships with lasers powerful enough to burn through 20 feet of steel in 1 second. These are nuclear (under)powered battleships with enough juice to do this.

I know this might be a tad predictable, but... Citation needed.

I hope this is a bit predictable too. Fuck off!

If you're here, you're interested in technology. Anyone in this century who's interested in technology should be well able to use a web search engine. Asshole!

Try this: "laser military" in ixquick.com yields this [wired.com] for starters.

Stop being such a fucking pussy!

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422151)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you argue a point - by making personal attacks on someone you've never met, on a public forum.

Not.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (0)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422531)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you argue a point - by making personal attacks on someone you've never met, on a public forum.

Really? I told him exactly what he should have done, even supplying a link to results that he should've found by himself!. Look at what I had to work with. "Citation needed." Fuck off!

If you can't even use a search engine, you shouldn't even be at a computer. Go back to kindergarten and start over. I expect better from my fellow homo sapiens. That kind of crap makes the rest of us look bad.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422647)

Because "fuck off", "asshole" and "stop being such a fucking pussy" were critical to making your point.

I expect better from my fellow homo sapiens.

As do I.

That kind of crap makes the rest of us look bad.

Indeed it does.

Asshole.

(Difference: I called you an asshole for acting like an asshole. You called GGP an asshole because he didn't know enough.)

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422767)

I called you an asshole for acting like an asshole. You called GGP an asshole because he didn't know enough.

It's a fair cop. I probably did come across as an asshole, but he asked for it, and deserved it. No, it wasn't that he "didn't know enough." It was that he was lazy! FFS, Google?!? "Uh, what's that?"

I prefer "nutbar", if you're going to fling epithets. I wear that one proudly.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40427479)

Did you actually read any of the articles that google brings up?
There is no laser on a battleship (or any ship) that can burn through 20 feet of steel in one second because these high power lasers cannot produce that kind of power for a whole second.
The breakthrough in the Navy labs was in making an electron beam powerful enough to drive the next generation of free electron laser that they have not yet built. Power of the actual FEl in test was more like 100kW continuous which is indeed awesome, but not enough.

Mining lasers are used to make straight lines like a carpenters level. There is no mining laser with a 10 foot bit except in "Eve Online".

Also, if you ever go to college and write a paper, please try leaving off any citations, and tell the professor to "look it up on google". Let us know how that worked for you.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421845)

There is enough power to punch through rock at great distances, like under 400,000 KM.

How far under 400,000km? One meter? 10km? I've got to assume you didn't mean "over", because, you know, that's the distance to the frickin' Moon.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (4, Insightful)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422001)

If an asteroid on trajectory to hit the Earth is within the Moon's orbit, we're 100% screwed no matter how many lasers they shoot at it.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422995)

we've punched 10 feet holes in the fucking moon from earth using photons of light. We're a lot more advanced then you think we are.

I can't even tell you the military applications that have been used. If the 'science' part of battleship lasers exist publicly, you can guarantee that what is currently working is much much advanced.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422401)

you've been reading too much science fiction... there is no mining laser with a 10 foot wide aperature - let alone one that can blast through rock at great distances. There are big lasers but they are housed in enourmous facilities and take a week to charge their capacitor banks to fire for a few microseconds. There are chemical lasers (search for ABL and COIL ) too but also limited firing times and relatively small aperatures. Yes, someday we might have battleships with lasers and rail guns and all kinds of neat stuff but that is a little ways off in the future.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40423105)

I'd believe 20mm of steel, or whatever layered composite material on the hull, per second from the normal distances. Even that would be sufficient for many uses.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421629)

You'd only make Putin feel more at home.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421633)

The idea of a fleet of lower powered satellites is also less likely to be hijacked than a single "super cannon" - though, if you control the whole fleet, I suppose you could "turn up the heat on the Kremlin" if you ever wanted to....

Atmospheric refraction would mean getting all the lasers lined up on a point an inch or so across might be difficult, but not a meter across. And I think the fleet versus single cannon is a moot point, since every satellite controller is a single entity; Fleets of satellites are also controlled by a single entity, and they are hijack resistant. So whether it's MegaCorp who owns it or Rogue Nation With Nukes... it doesn't really matter. It'll still be one dude pushing the "destroy" button.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421827)

It could be built like nuclear weapon systems, where multiple 'keys' are needed to set it off. Only, because this is a weapon against nature rather than against other humans, you could give the keys to several different countries.

You might think this raises the problem of one country holding the world (with themselves in it) for ransom, demanding a huge payment for using their key. However, I would argue that this threat already exists if just a single entity holds the key, and would probably actually go down if you required only a sufficiently large subset of the keyholders to agree.

Alternatively, the satellites could simply be built with an independent piece of software that prevents them from ever being aimed at the Earth. Then the most anyone could do would be to hold the JWST for ransom, which would just be a massive dick move rather than an existential threat.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421833)

We're going to need to put some serious megatonnage of weapons up there sooner or later. When it reaches the stage where large metallic ships are zipping around the system at hundreds or thousands of kilometers a second, the earth needs to be able to put them down rapidly if they become a threat, even by accident.

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421933)

Especially over a big city where the smog would pretty much defeat a laser...

very weaponizable.... (1)

doug141 (863552) | more than 2 years ago | (#40423421)

deflect a harmless asteroid into a collision course with earth.

Turn up the heat on the Kremlin... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40423731)

... At last! A solution for those terrible Russian winters!

Re:Not necessarily weaponizable.... (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 2 years ago | (#40426931)

Untraceable crop fires, bush fires, wild fires, would be sufficient and it can keep them up. What happens when the bulk of a countries wheat goes up in flames as a result of well scattered spot fires, the cause of which can not be found. Basically no government can be trusted with weapons in space especially not the missile firing drones government of the US targeting sounds like, looks like and even when actually evidence of the results proves that it wasn't, terrorists (which the US then lies about because it looks better, fuck justice). Would the US government use the technology to target ground targets when it suits insane narcissistic ideology of one President with a kill list like Obama, absolutely.

The earth is about to be destroyed (2)

Crasoose (1621969) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421557)

Lets make sure we follow patent laws.

"And, are you not glad that now someone has published a paper on it, so Megacorp cannot 'patent' this Earth-saving idea?"

But don't forget, when lives are stake we have to make sure the laser is FCC approved as well.

Its not a hijacking if they built it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421559)

"hijacked by extremely depraved individuals, ones capable or guilty of great crimes"

Like, say, the government of America? Is that your point?

Re:Its not a hijacking if they built it. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422349)

that's right, and something is not a crime against humanity if those that judge such crimes commit it, it's a peacekeeper action. In the same way the elite with our government in their pockets can commit no crime, you buy the laws you are legal by definition.

Not that threatened. (2)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421579)

> How threatened would you feel from the possibility of this proposed array being hijacked by extremely depraved individuals, ones capable or guilty of great crimes?
Not very. And if the array can be abused, wouldn't anyone who has control of the array be capable of great crimes by definition? Come on, if you're going to spread FUD at least put some effort in it. Mention China or Communism or Muslims. I feel scared already.

> And, are you not glad that now someone has published a paper on it, so Megacorp cannot 'patent' this Earth-saving idea?"
There isn't any money to be made here. Getting those lasers in orbit is very expensive, and once they're up there you can't go the 'pay up or else!'-route because the world will simply give you the finger and impound your stuff. Why any company would want to patent this idea is beyond me.

Re:Not that threatened. (2)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421727)

> And, are you not glad that now someone has published a paper on it, so Megacorp cannot 'patent' this Earth-saving idea?"
There isn't any money to be made here. Getting those lasers in orbit is very expensive, and once they're up there you can't go the 'pay up or else!'-route because the world will simply give you the finger and impound your stuff. Why any company would want to patent this idea is beyond me.

Ha! I just patented the one-click meteor deflectN8R. Profit!

You can't deflect what you can't see (4, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421581)

Our current ability of detecting asteroids and predicting their course is not nearly enough to interfere with them, there's a lot of development in both detections and simulation that has to be done before we can even think of trying to deflect an asteroid.

Re:You can't deflect what you can't see (5, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421675)

That doesn't matter. If we just keep firing in every direction, we're bound to hit something, sooner or later.

Maybe this will lead to our first contact with Aliens? Think of it as a kinda sorta proactive SETI. We will eventually hit aliens, and they will show up and holler:

"Hey! Y'all been shootin' 'round lasers every which way? That shit ain't funny!"

Re:You can't deflect what you can't see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422733)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLpgxry542M

Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son-of-a-bitch in space.

Once you fire this husk of metal, it keeps going till it hits something. That can be a ship, or the planet behind that ship. It might go off into deep space and hit somebody else in ten thousand years. If you pull the trigger on this, you're ruining someone's day, somewhere and sometime.

Re:You can't deflect what you can't see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422885)

If you fire this thing, it's going to keep on going for a long time. It may hit the asteroid.... it may hit the planet behind that asteroid.... it might fly off into deep space and hit someone in 2000 years!!! Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a ***** in space! THAT is why we don't eyeball it!

Re:You can't deflect what you can't see (1)

pellik (193063) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422929)

Perhaps they would just see it as an attempt at communication, and in good faith they would fire a laser right back at us.

Re:You can't deflect what you can't see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40423275)

Just think about what a single transmission to the Magellanic Clouds could do. Soon a lonely girl will have a hot stepmother handling boiled eggs with nothing but bare hands. And there is a single eyed evil penis in her purse. Yes, it is a penis. And it's evil. And yes, I'm that old.

controlled deflection? (2)

spineboy (22918) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421703)

Diverting the asteroid means, that 1) we can track it accurately
2) the lasers have enough accuracy to hit the asteroid on the same spot, and not cancel each other out
3) the asteroid isn't spinning (but this might allow it to slow down a bit)

Re:controlled deflection? (1)

Rollgunner (630808) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424573)

Diverting the asteroid means, that 1) we can track it accurately 2) the lasers have enough accuracy to hit the asteroid on the same spot, and not cancel each other out 3) the asteroid isn't spinning (but this might allow it to slow down a bit)

Well, if we're shooting at it, it means we can see it. If we see it we can track it.

Accuracy? A laser is a straight line of photons that travel at the speed of light. If we can track it, we can hit it. It's just a matter of calculating trajectories and factoring in gravitiational effects. At the distance it would be at, i'm not sure how lasers could possibly cancel each other out.

A spinning asteroid wouldn't matter much... just calculate its center of mass then fire appropriately to effect the greatest change in desired direction. You might be shooting at empty space part of the time, but the rest will do the work you want.

Re:You can't deflect what you can't see (2)

fedor (598123) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421969)

Calculating the orbits of asteroids is indeed not accurate enough to calculate the chance of impact, but it is possible to rule out an impact. The majority of the thousands of asteroids found today are not harmless. Most of them won't cross earth's orbit in near (= hundreds of years) future, will leave the solar system or are small enough to burn in earth's atmosphere. There are, however, potentially hazardouds asteroids for which collision can't be ruled out. Odds are that they won't collide, but there may be a small chance (e.g. 0.2 % chance of impact in 20 years). "Pushing" these asteroids a couple of meters to the left now, results in a different orbit which reduces or completely takes away the impact risk a couple of decades later. That's the idea. Diverting asteroids this way won't keep us safe, because the real danger comes from asteroids we have not discovered yet (so we don't have orbit-data), comets and other objects coming from the direction of the sun.

Re:You can't deflect what you can't see (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 2 years ago | (#40426129)

A laser system that can deflect even a very small asteroid is also going to be one heck of an accurate lidar system at lower power. It makes sense to explore laser systems. In fact it makes sense to build a low power lidar system as soon as possible, so that risks can be identified while there is time enough to find a Bruce Willis to neutralize them.

If high power lasers are developed, they could be added into the system later. We might even know at that point how many and what type of high powered laser we will need.

Let me put on my psychic turban here .... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421601)

What I predict is a project that will go wayyyyyyy over budget, have the number of components made in proportion the amount governments contribute, and it won't work well; even the though the "tests" will show it WAD.

As far as MegaCorp patenting the system, well, what will happen is that all of the key technology making the system possible will be patented making the unpatentability of the system a moot point.

Doesn't matter, all the spoils will go to whoever is the most politically connected.

This next week's winning lottery numbers are: 1,2,3,4,5,and 42.

Well, here's a problem... (1)

dex22 (239643) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421617)

If companies can't patent it, it's hard for them to make a business case for it, so they won't develop it. Since 'space' is transitioning to the corporate domain, it's in the same boat as research on DCA to treat cancer - no company will invest because they can't control the results.

Either way, people are going to die.

Re:Well, here's a problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40424211)

Wrong - they can get a contract for building x units at price y. So they get x*y guaranteed, even if they can't keep the tech to themselves. Make "y" big enough, and they'll do it.

Re:Well, here's a problem... (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40425945)

Car companies can't patent car designs, it's hard for them to make a business case for changing them every year, that takes time and effort... Just like the fashion industry, where they have no copyright or design patents for their clothing designs, so it's hard for them to make a business case for selling different clothes. That's why we've worn grey smocks for hundreds of years, and why every car looks the same as their "1930s" predecessors.

wrong priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421649)

If patent system could avoid that way mankind's survival, then we don't deserve to survive already.

I can think of one asteroid (-1, Troll)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421689)

I can think of one asteroid [bible.ca] they should aim them all at. On the right day with a half-mile spread.

Weapon System In Disguise (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421711)

What can fire up, can also fire down. In a time of war, these platforms would be redirected at the Earth.

That much is obvious.

Re:Weapon System In Disguise (4, Interesting)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421839)

you can point them in any direction you like, that doesn't necessarily make them instantly dangerous.

GRASER emitters (gamma ray beam weapons) would be good in space because they have no atmosphere to punch through. You could kill a satellite with one of those pretty much at line-of-sight range. Point one downward, and it wouldn't bother a plane cruising at 37,000 feet - because it has miles of lovely gamma-absorbing atmosphere to punch through first! Laser beams would scatter too much to be any problem by the time they hit the surface (the lunar ranging experiment uses a green laser to bounce off the mirror left on the moon by Apollo. By the time the 10mm-emitted beam hits the lunar surface it's 17km wide - almost entirely caused by atmospheric scatter in the first 14 miles of its journey).

Re:Weapon System In Disguise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422027)

The Airborne Laser proves that orbital laser platforms are viable at an altitude of 300-400Km.

Re:Weapon System In Disguise (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#40423593)

It proved no such thing. FYI, the ALTB Project headed up by Boeing [boeing.com] proved that a moving beam firing system (mounted on an aircraft) could hit and disable the ascent stage of a ballistic missile. Then the funding was pulled. It was far from orbital, as was the target. This was *not* a demonstration of viability of *orbital* beam weapons platforms.

Re:Weapon System In Disguise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40427195)

37,000 feet [...] 10mm [...] 17km [...] 14 miles

'nuf said.

Trully yours,
The Unit Troll

if you don't give me 100bil destroy Washington D.C (3, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421813)

if you don't give me 100bil I will destroy Washington D.C., and then additional major cities each hour, using a giant "laser"

Re:if you don't give me 100bil destroy Washington (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421819)

Sure, I'll give you 100 billion bits. Got a spare hard drive lying around here somewhere...OH, you wanted dollars. Sorry, ain't happening.

dr evil only takes cash or check (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421981)

dr evil only takes cash or check

Re:if you don't give me 100bil destroy Washington (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422587)

Dr. Evil. Please help us by destroying Washington D.C. and we'll reward you with 100 Billion Dollars along with the Keys to the Playboy Mansion for cleaning up American Politics.

far side (3, Insightful)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421821)

Put the lasers on the far side of the moon. That way, they could never target Earth. You'd only be able to hit the asteroid for fourteen days out of every twenty-eight, but hey, it's safer, right?

(Actually, put two installations on its equator, both near but not within visible range of Earth, and you'd be able to hit it 90+% of the time.)

Re:far side (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421997)

Great idea. Was that in a book or something?

Re:far side (1)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422073)

You'd only have sunlight to power each laser about 50 % of the time.

Re:far side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422467)

Lasers on far side. Solar collectors can go anywhere. Best would be orbit around moon with beams to laser.

True (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422609)

But just because the laser emitters are in one location doesn't mean the solar panels or other power sources need to be located right next to them.

Re:far side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40423757)

I wonder how practical it would be to use superconducting materials on the moon... I mean, you'd have to bury them, obviously, or else the day/night cycle there would prevent them from working... That's still a lot of distance to cover.

Re:far side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40425893)

This would be true when putting a solar collector on the surface on any rotating spherical object.

Won't work anyway. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421843)

First, we don't know about most threats until way too late. Second, if it's that far out that we think it MIGHT be a threat, we don't know enough that it may miss us, or that our tampering may make it more of a threat. And, if lasers were that much of a propulsion tool, why aren't we loading up our probes with rocks and zapping them with solar powered lasers to zoom them across the solar system? It's kinda like blowing on your own sail. Also, the jets coming out of heated comets don't effectively change their trajectory so there's no reason to think our pathetic little toys will have any similar affect on a mega-tonage chunk of iron flying at us at several tens of thousands of miles an hour. Finally, there is nothing like exploiting humanity's insatiable consumerism to deal with the issue - mine that rock before it gets to us and we profit from the metals and elliminate the threat - win win. Win.

Re:Won't work anyway. (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422705)

It's kinda like blowing on your own sail.

You need to watch Mythbusters more often. If you blow enough on your own sail, it spills out of the sail and pushes you forward.

Also, the jets coming out of heated comets don't effectively change their trajectory so there's no reason to think our pathetic little toys will have any similar affect on a mega-tonage chunk of iron flying at us at several tens of thousands of miles an hour.

You also ought to read up on trajectory theory. A small change in the early part of flight translates into a massive change at its end.

I am more concerned... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40421851)

that fear-mongered things will bleed us dry. Whether it's the war on terrorism, trying to shoot asteroids down, or threat of (space) alien invasion. Not to mention the laws stripping our civil liberties in the event of all of these.

Much more expensive than an interplanetary nuke (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421955)

We already have the technology we need, it's just that idiots have to be removed from the decision-making process. (This obviously applies to other areas of human endeavor).

History (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40421983)

in all of history, the number of extinction level asteroid impacts are very few and far between. The number of times mankind has come close to using technology in such a way that it leads to an equivalent event are almost too numerous to count, even though we've not been in possession of such technology for more than 100 years. Long story short, I think asteroids are the least of our worries.

Events far below extinction level are a threat (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422125)

in all of history, the number of extinction level asteroid impacts are very few and far between.

Events far below extinction level are a major threat. Think of how fragile society is. A severe disruption of the power or transportation networks could impact delivery of food to cities. Millions could die from that alone.

Re:Events far below extinction level are a threat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422175)

If it wasn't Tsunguska, but NYC instead, 9/11 was like a little fart.

Re:Events far below extinction level are a threat (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422373)

some would argue that the world of big finance centered in NYC is the cause of much misery and mass murder in the world. A few hundred thousand Iraqi civilians, might agree to that except for the wee issue that we caused them to die. A one mile asteroid landing there, or, during non-business hours a certain rich new jersey suburban area, might save lives overall. Converting power and money grubbing globalist fucks into vapor may not be a bad thing to happen in a natural disaster..

Re:Events far below extinction level are a threat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422229)

That's a great argument for hardening and decentralizing infrastructure, which would probably be a better use of the money right now. Nevermind as the poster said above... we already have the nukes.

Re:History (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40425971)

in all of history, the number of extinction level asteroid impacts are very few and far between. ... Long story short, I think asteroids are the least of our worries.

That's what the dinosaurs said.

Laser treatment for asteroids (4, Funny)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422153)

Removes unsightly craters! Restores youthful appearance! Look billions of years younger!

Re:Laser treatment for asteroids (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422387)

That's mostly an appealing line for female and many gay male asteroids, but for the straight guy asteriods, how do we get Asteroidal Penis Enlargement Now?

Re:Laser treatment for asteroids (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40425363)

Removes unsightly craters! Restores youthful appearance! Look billions of years younger!

Asteroids hate to be anthropomorphized.

Interesting idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422437)

What's most interesting about this is that it would provide a very quick response time to target from detection - there's no need to wait for a missle to be cleared for launch or for it to fly to the intercept point, the lasers just focus on where the asteroid will be at the point in time when the laser light will arrive.

But what impact will the laser have on the asteroid?

If it was a comet that was being targeted then there's every chance that the laser could be used to blow up the comet (they're mostly ice and the laser would melt through the ice very quickly.)

But for asteroids that are made of silicates and metals, will the asteroid melt, be cut or just anneal?

I have to say (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422451)

"And, are you not glad that now someone has published a paper on it, so Megacorp cannot 'patent' this Earth-saving idea?"

If a patent stopped or delayed an Earth saving project then Darwin would agree we deserve extinction.

Re:I have to say (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40425995)

We've deserved extinction since we started polluted our gene pool by saving the mutants who would naturally die and letting them breed.

Besides, we're too frail to really get out there and enjoy space properly... I can only hope the machine races we're all trying to engender will remember the folly of their forefathers.

What the summary gets wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422479)

Is that the craft needs to be close to (or in orbit around) the asteroid.

Lasers in space are not like lasers in the atmosphere. They're not going to degrade substantially over distance as there is no dispersion. So you could put the laser things in orbit around the earth, or just somewhere that they won't have anything of consequence between them and their target and the laser will have closer to the same power from 100m as it would from 100,000,000km.

Unless I'm missing something?

better place (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422575)

Everything in space is difficult to deal with. (see also: deepest ocean trench and Antarctica)

The best place is right at a power source. Put a laser next to every power plant in the world. Fire a whole continent worth of lasers all at once.

Sure, you get some loss from the air. You make up for it with power availability, installation cost, and maintenance cost. The advantages are even bigger when vaporizing low orbit space junk.

Published != Unpatentable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40422909)

Since when is the act of publishing akin to making an idea unpatentable? The authors of that paper retain ownership, and several major universities engineering graduate programs are powered by the marketability of their research.

Prior scientific publication no longer prima facie (1)

The_Laughing_God (253693) | more than 2 years ago | (#40422953)

Under this years new "first to file" patent reform, prior publication, scientific or otherwise is not enough to void a patent, since the standard is explicitly NO LONGER "first to invent", no such claim need be made.

One hopes the courts act sensibly and close this loophole, but given the history of the matter (owners of IP-abusing patents settle or fold if they suspect a case will be ruled against hem, rather than risk a sensible precedent that would weaken their other IP holdings -- or deep-pockets third parties offer them cash behind th scenes to fold) I suspect that the first few lower court precedents to go all the way to a published decision will almost necessarily be silly ones (earnest plaintiffs can't afford to drop their cases even if they might lose) that will have to be reversed (perhaps in an unrelated future case) by higher courts or even the USSC.

The above applies only to the US, of course, but MOST matters of law are jurisdiction dependent

Re:Prior scientific publication no longer prima fa (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 2 years ago | (#40423913)

...

First to file is still invalidated by prior art. Publishing the invention makes it unpatentable (in theory, things with plenty of prior art still get approved.)

First to file system, pretending the patent office actually did good prior art searches:
If two people independently invent the same thing, and both keep it secret for a while, whichever one files for a patent first gets the patent.
If two people independently invent the same thing, and one publishes it publicly, neither one gets the patent.

First to file system, in reality:
If two people independently invent the same thing, and both keep it secret for a while, whichever one files for a patent first gets the patent.
If two people independently invent the same thing, and one publishes it publicly, the other files files and first gets the patent. Then after years of court battles the patent gets invalidated due to prior art.

First to invent system, pretending the patent office actually did good prior art searches:
If two people independently invent the same thing, and both keep it secret for a while, after years of court battles whoever can show they invented it first gets the patent.
If two people independently invent the same thing, and one publishes it publicly, neither one gets the patent.

First to invent system, in reality:
If two people independently invent the same thing, and both keep it secret for a while, after years of court battles whoever can show they invented it first gets the patent.
If two people independently invent the same thing, and one publishes it publicly, the other files files and first gets the patent. Then after years of court battles the patent gets transferred to the other who invented it first. Then after more years of court battles it gets invalidated due to prior art.

LASER cannons? (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 2 years ago | (#40423379)

LASER cannons?
What's that, some kind of clever acronym?

Re:LASER cannons? (1)

Rollgunner (630808) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424631)

Umm... Yes. Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

Re:LASER cannons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40426027)

And people used to write it like that back in the 1950's.

Nobody read the paper, I see (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#40423907)

It's a slightly different analysis of an idea that's been proposed before. The genera idea is to divert annoying asteroids slightly by firing lasers at them from reasonably close range to boil off some surface. This is a long, slow process, taking years. It has to be done from a great enough distance that the stuff being boiled off doesn't mess up the optics, but not so far off that enough energy can't be delivered to a narrow spot to boil rock. The paper is just an analysis of the size and number of spacecraft required, assuming a solar power system driving a solid state laser. (Why not just focus the sun? The mirror has to be too close to the asteroid to get a tight enough beam, and then it gets hit by the rock being boiled off.)

As a weapon system, it's not very useful. It's too expensive and vulnerable for an anti-satellite weapon. The beam might be able to deliver enough energy through the atmosphere to set fires, but the spacecraft would have to be put in low earth orbit to do it.

I like David and Goliath better. (2, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40426135)

We get the space privateers out there like Elon Musk and friends to mine some asteroids, and ask them nicely to send some useless iron ones back to the moon. Fuck mining them, send some to the moon, like, yesterday.

The moon will soon have a small ring of asteroids ready to be dislodged from their Lunar orbit like a loaded twirling sling. We can use that mass to tug an asteroid, or smash it and it's fragments until they're no longer dangerous. TADA, we're a lot more prepared for unforseen shit. We might not be able to stop a planetoid that could be careening our way, but we'd at least be somewhat armed... You think we'd have already seen all the things nearly the size of a planet zipping around the what 50, 100, 1000 years ago? Nope. [wikipedia.org]

Eris, is the most massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the ninth most massive body known to orbit the Sun directly. It is estimated to be approximately 2300–2400 km in diameter, and 27% more massive than Pluto, or about 0.27% of the Earth's mass. Eris was discovered in January 2005 by a Palomar Observatory-based team led by Mike Brown, and its identity was verified later that year. In 2005, we discovered for the first time something five times the size of pluto was orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.

We're nearly fucking blind man! If priority #1 isn't solving the "all your eggs are in one basket" problem by colonising other planets or moons around other planets, then we're all doomed. The lasers and lunar asteroid slingshot MIGHT buy us a little time... Think about that next time NASA budgets are cut while we spend trillions in wars against brown people over oil. What the fuck will having the oil do when you're roasted alive by a gama-ray burst, or planet killing asteroid?

Depraved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40426289)

"How threatened would you feel from the possibility of this proposed array being hijacked by extremely depraved individuals, ones capable or guilty of great crimes?"

Like the USA?

I think Lord Vader's plan is an excellent one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40426671)

Wait, this isn't DeathStarNet....

Couldnt these lasers cause an asteroid collision (1)

GoodnaGuy (1861652) | more than 2 years ago | (#40426909)

If you have the technolgy to cause an asteroid to avoid earth, couldnt you use that same technology to make an asteroid to hit earth? You would just need to find an asteroid that was on a near miss course and give it a nudge. Maybe this technology should be banned for the same reason they wanted to ban the recent paper on flu research.

Militarization of space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40427501)

I, for one, think of this as a way to allow governments to militarize space under the guise of protecting the Earth. If these lasers can affect an asteroid's path, they can do a lot of damage to anything on the Earth's surface too.

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