Archive for January 12th, 2005

Latest Laser Sightings

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The rash of laser attacks on private and commercial
airline pilots threatens to escalate into a media-driven panic on the
level of Mad Cow Disease or the Beltway Sniper.  Over 30 new incidents
have been reported just in the last week.

We have been dubious, to say the least, since the first
reports
several
months ago.  Most of the laser pointers we have seen were pretty
wimpy, even at short range. The idea that one of these innocuous devices,
available for $5.99 at the local 7-11, could be hand-held, pointed at
the sky, and have any discernable effect on an object several miles away
and moving at hundreds of miles an hour seemed improbable to the point
of rediculousness.

Just goes to show how much we know. According to todays
Boston Globe
,
the devices in question are considerably more powerful than those we
are familiar with. For example, the device that David Branch, the guy
who got arrested in Jersey, is described as follows.

The laser pointer, which sells for $119, is the most powerful that can
be used in a public place without government regulation, according to
Bigha, the company that manufactures it.

It produces a bright green beam that can be seen up to 25,000 feet away,
and is used by bird watchers, astronomers, and lecturers to point out
faraway objects.

Although many professors swear by laser pointers, we have shied away
from them after receiving one as an end-of-semester from a particularly
demonic class a couple of years ago and promptly suffered temporary blindness
after shining it into our eyes trying to get it to turn on.

Finally, honest to God we are not making this up, listening to the Celtics
game on the radio tonight we heard that the game was suspended while
security guards searched the stands for a patron who had SHINED A LASER
POINTER IN THE EYES OF A PLAYER TRYING TO SHOOT FREE THROWS. This opens
a pandora’s box of potential hazards. Lasers in the eyes of a goalie
trying to stop a penaly shot? A placekicker trying to make a game winning
field goal? Drivers on the Interstates? Blinded meter maids trying to
read meters and write tickets? This laser stuff is a slippery slope….

article from the Boston Globe

 

InVested Energy

3

To
the consternation of some of the smartest engineers on the planet, as
well as billions of electronic consumers the world over,
battery technology has not been advancing nearly as rapidly as the development
of faster, more powerful devices.

The latest issue of MacAddict contained a review of something called
the "Solar
SeV Finetex Shell
," which seems to be a $474 high-tech jacket,
with 30 dedicated pockets for everything from your hand warmers to a
light saber.  However,
the main distinguishing features are the solar panels on the back and
the built-in battery which can be used to recharge all of the marvelous
devices you have stored in the various pockets. In theory.

The drawbacks, unfortunately, are equally impressive. The stored energy is
available only via USB, meaning only devices which can charge up via
their USB connections can by recharged. This means no iPods, a deal breaker
in itself.  It also eliminates most digital cameras. In  addition,
the battery takes 3 to 4 hours in direct sunlight to charge up via the solar panels (detachable,
at least) and this is the ONLY way to charge it up. Finally, fully charging
a device from the battery can take three to five hours.

As usual, the egregious shortcomings set our mind to work thinking of
what a product like this COULD offer.  Battery technology being
what it is, having an effective 48-72 hour portable energy supply means
carrying around 8-12 pounds of extra weight.  What better way to
easily and comfortably distribute that weight than weave it into a stylish
outerwear garment, like this jacket, or better yet a Matrixian leather
trench coat. 6 or 8 individual cells could be distributed throughout
the fabric and connected in a smart storage and discharge system.

Now,
in order to be practical, the built-in battery needs to be rechargeable
via multiple modes. Solar power is groovy, but impractical in the real
world unless you are hiking the Andes during the dry season or crossing
the Kalahari. At the very least, the jack needs to be rechargeable via
wall socket (85-225 volts) and cigarette lighters. We have tons of unmetered
and unused energy in our environment – let’s use it!

On the output side, it shouldn’t be too hard to at least add Firewire
charging, which would include ‘Pods and cameras. Stain resistant and
waterproof would be nice.

Veering more into sci-fi territory an anti-theft instantaneous total discharge would be fun but probably unduly dangerous given the possibility of self-shocking.

How much would people pay for technicolor coat like this? If it had
the features we mentioned and could really keep all our devices running
for a day or two, quite a bit. Any high-tech haberdashers out there?

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