Laser Pointers Are a Very Big Problem for Aircraft, Apparently

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released two videos that together form a cautionary tale about the dangers of sending your laser pointers to the sky.

Apparently, there were 2,836 "laser events" logged with the Federal Aviation Administration. That's nearly double the number of "laser events" from 2009. In the video above, you can see how a person with a laser pointer was tracked down and arrested. Can you imagine what that would be like? Shine a pointer into the sky and minutes later, you're carted off by the cops! In the video below, the FBI tells the story of how it happens and even drags the poor guy who got nailed to the microphone.

There is a real safety issue here, it seems. When you aim a laser pointer very far away, the cone of light it emits grows with distance. So, by the time it reaches a helicopter or plane, it can light up the cockpit and blind the pilots.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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