Beam me up… how many lasers would it take to take down the moon

XKCD‘s Randall Munroe is, I reckon, the smartest guy on the Internet. Hands down. His What If Blog continues apace, and continues to blow my mind with its diversity.

If you want your mind blown – check out this comic called “Drag” from a couple of weeks ago.

Today he’s hypothetically putting a laser dot on the moon – turns out it’s pretty difficult, and doing it properly will have some deadly results…

Make sure you find out what led to this point…

Ok, let’s mount a megawatt laser on every square meter of the surface of Asia. Powering this array of 50 trillion lasers would use up Earth’s oil reserves in approximately two minutes, but for those two minutes, the Moon would look like this:

a field of megawatt lasers covering asia fires at the moon

The Moon shines as brightly as the midmorning sun, and by the end of the two minutes, the lunar regolith is heated to a glow.

a man in a hat suggests trying more power.

Ok, let’s step even more firmly outside the realm of plausibility.

The most powerful laser on Earth is the confinement beam at the National Ignition Facility, a fusion research laboratory. It’s an ultraviolet laser with an output of 500 terawatts. However, it only fires in single pulses lasting a few nanoseconds, so the total energy delivered is about equivalent to a quarter-cup of gasoline.

Let’s imagine we somehow found a way to power and fire it continuously, gave one to everyone, and pointed them all at the Moon. Unfortunately, the laser energy flow would turn the atmosphere to plasma, instantly igniting the Earth’s surface and killing us all.

Also, check out what happens if the population of the world rocks up at Rhode Island and all jump at the same time.

Also, just for fun… there’s a really small paragraph of text on the XKCD home page that reads:

We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves.
The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm constantly finds Jesus.
This is not the algorithm. This is close.

Here’s the fun answer about why it’s there.

Cut price lasers will burn a hole in your pocket… and your leg

Not all technology belongs in the hands of consumers. And selling these to the general public for a relatively low price just sounds like a bad idea. But hey. Lasers. No, let me say that again right. LASERS. Lasers that burn stuff. Yeah. That’s right. And they’re shaped like lightsabers.

Standard warnings about not letting children near them obviously apply…

It’s called the “Spyder Pro Arctic Laser,” which even sounds like a weapon from a Bond movie.

Details, from the website:

The Artic emits a 445nm cool blue, ultra high power 1W beam which appears up to 4000% brighter than the Sonar’s 405nm violet beam. This direct blue laser diode is the result of the evolution of laser technology. Less than one year ago, this laser would have cost thousands of dollars to build. Don’t let the Arctic name fool you, this laser possesses the most burning capabilities of any portable laser in existence. That’s why it’s also the most dangerous laser ever created.

In recognizing and mastering the power of direct blue diodes, the Wicked Lasers’ Arctic shall become the standard by which all other blue lasers are judged.

Warning: Extremely dangerous is an understatement to the power of 1W of laser power. It will blind permanently and instantly and set fire quickly to skin and other body parts, use with extreme caution and only when using the included eye protection. Customers will be required to completely read and agree to our Class IV Laser Hazard Acknowledgment Form.

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