Friday, August 21, 2009

Synthesizing bromide in an argon matrix

Twenty-five years after his first attempt to test an air-based chemical laser ended in spectacular failure, it appears Dr. Jerry Hathaway's pet project is finally nearing success.

On Thursday, reported that Boeing piloted a modified 747-400 aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base and successfully fired a high-energy laser over the California desert. It was the military's first attempt since the original test destroyed Hathaway's home and equipment. 

"This was a significant test of the Airborne Laser's capabilities, demonstrating that the system has truly moved from the drawing board to reality," Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems told the Web site in this exclusive story.

First developed in 1985, the laser will again be tested in a missile shoot-down demonstration in coming weeks, building toward "lethal capabilities."

Hathaway, a long-time Pacific Tech professor, was unavailable for comment Thursday. Although Boeing officials could not comment due to the classified nature of the project, it is widely known that he has devoted his career to the Airborne Laser (ABL) project. 

His initial research famously ended when students Mitch Taylor and Christopher Knight learned of the military-based nature of their work, and sabotaged the first test by changing the coordinates of the laser's target.

Instead of zapping its intended target -- a JFK-esque motorcade -- the laser beam cooked a gigantic ball of popcorn strategically placed by the saboteurs in Hathaway's house. Heated by the laser, the kernels produced such vast amounts of popcorn that the Jiffy Pop shattered windows and unearthed the dwelling from its foundation.

The on-board laser then overheated and burned. Overall, the pratfall set the missile defense program back decades and destroyed Hathaway's academic reputation. 

Dr. Meredith, the dean of Pacific Tech, and a local congressmen rebuked Hathaway because he had misled students regarding the intent of their laser research, as well as administrators regarding his close ties to military officials.

Taylor went on to work as an earth-based engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In a twist, Knight immediately became a fighter pilot known as "Ice" at the prestigious Top Gun Academy outside San Diego.

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At 6:32 PM, Blogger Smokey Robinson (aka Matt) said...

Dr. Hathaway is going to hear all about this. You know, you'll rue the day!

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Sharon said...

You totally had me on that. I was like, really? That was real? I thought I heard something about that laser popcorn thing, but I thought it was fiction ...


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