Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bizarre News Of The Day

Image credit: SZ Wholesale

I don't often cover stuff like this, because it's usually covered so well elsewhere. However, there's a technological angle to this one. Apparently, someone shone lasers of some kind on some aircraft landing at our local airport last night:

Four planes were targeted with a laser beam Friday night while heading into Sea-Tac Airport for a landing, according to airport officials.

Airport spokesman Perry Cooper said the pilots of the planes reported seeing a flash of bright red beam while preparing to land. All four were hit within a 15-minute period, beginning at 8:30 p.m.

4 More Sea-Tac Flights Targeted With Laser

This is the sort of beam that's used in those laser pointers that you see just about everywhere. There's an example of such a pointer in this article's picture. I received one once as swag from some technical conference I attended several years ago. They're everywhere, unfortunately.

My guess is that someone in the area think's it's great fun to play laser tag with aircraft. If you happen to be or know such a person, then I'll just pass on a couple of thoughts.

First, these pointers carry a warning that quite explicitly says they can cause vision loss if they're shined into someone's eyes. That's particularly true for someone whose sight is night-adapted. Even if the laser isn't aimed at the cockpit, that's not to say the beam can't be reflected in that direction. Blinding someone who's trying to land an airplane is such an obviously dangerous thing to do that you'd think that would be enough to prevent anyone from trying it.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of people running around who really are that stupid, so here's a second thought. According to the article:

It is a federal offense to shine a laser at a flying airplane.

4 More Sea-Tac Flights Targeted With Laser

Which ought to be enough to deter all but the terminally stupid.


One Fly said...

This was going on a few years ago. It was green lasers then as they were much more powerful.

Cujo359 said...

Earlier this year, people were using green lasers. You can get pointers in that color, too. Unfortunately, either can cause vision problems if they hit a person's eye.

Dana Hunter said...

Alas, the abundance of terminally stupid people ensures many more stories like this, and would even if shining a laser merited the death penalty. Too bad some mad scientist can't design a little item that would follow the laser beam back down and cause something nasty to happen to the merry prankster... that would be amusing, and likely an effective deterrent.

Cujo359 said...

They'd never be able to get such a thing past the corporate lawyers, and that's probably a good thing. Even assuming the device that detects the nature of the target, and thus the intent, is completely accurate, there's something to be said for people being allowed freedom to do what they want, and to accept the consequences.