From the desk of guest blogger Jeff Hecht:
Are laser developers too enthusiastic for their own good? Top Pentagon officials think so, veteran laser researcher Martin Stickley of the University of Central Florida told the Directed Energy Professional Society meeting in Newton.
Before finishing a tour as a DARPA program manager two years ago, Stickley asked 10 senior Pentagon officials why high-energy lasers hadn't made it to the battlefield. "Lack of credibility" came near the top of his list of problems. "Laser zealots were at least an order of magnitude worse than the usual technology optimists," one official told Stickley, rating the exaggeration factor as 400 percent for lasers and 20 percent for other technologies.
Stickley spoke with authority--he's been around since the very early days of military laser research, and built the Air Force's first laser back in 1960, using Theodore Maiman's ruby-laser design. We've learned a lot about lasers since then, and today's plans for solid-state laser weapons described in my July feature sound more credible than those of decades ago -- but how will they sound in 2060?
(Note- Stickley is a consultant, listing his affiliation as CREOL, the College of Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida)
-- Jeff Hecht
Sally Adee, formerly an associate editor at IEEE Spectrum, is now a technology features editor at New Scientist, in London. She says it was an honor to write her last feature for Spectrum about the European Space Agency’s Loredana Bessone, a woman she considers a role model. “One day, I’m going to hit her up at ESA to start training me as an astronaut,” she says with a wink. “Right after I get sick of playing roller derby in London.”