Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ahh, missile defense

At the suggestion of my colleague, I want to draw your attention to a very interesting and fun article in today's New York Times (free reg. required). It's about an antimissile laser system developed jointly by the US and Israel. The system works, basically, but is hugely expensive and so large in physical size that deployment is a nightmare. The article is really worth reading, just for the paragraph that begins: "As often happens in the federal development of death rays, parts failed and costs soared."

4 comments:

DM said...

I gotta start writing some applications for federal death ray funding.

BhpG said...

Shoulda gone with potroasts...

Doug Natelson said...

"Vhat is this 'po-tro-asts'?" For those readers who didn't go to grad school with me, this is a reference to our qualifying exam at Stanford in fall of 1993. Bob Laughlin had written a question on the exam making fun of the Star Wars weapons concept of "Brilliant Pebbles" (basically having a zillion little kinetic kill weapons in low orbit to take out incoming ICBMs). Laughlin openly thought this was a stupid idea, and had a problem on the exam about how orbital decay because of residual atmosphere at the relevant height would mean you'd have to keep launching these things all the time. For extra fun, and in reference to a previous qual exam question about cooking times for pot roast, Laughlin had written his problem about "Brilliant Potroasts", posing the idea of using beef roasts as kinetic kill weapons. The unintentionally funny part was how the Russian emigre grad students had no idea what "potroast" meant.... The very annoying part was how the statement of the problem had two typos (100 km instead of 100 mi for the orbit, and an incorrect version of the rocket equation). For more about this exam, look here.

Pepe Fanjul said...

For those readers who didn't go to grad school with me, this is a reference to our qualifying exam at Stanford in fall of 1993.