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Laser Powered Paper Plane Takes Flight 206

RobertTaylor writes: "Ananova is reporting that Japanese scientists have developed a laser powered paper plane. A blast of light from a commercial laser heats up a droplet of acrylic polymer or water on its surface which acts as fuel. Full story here" Nature also has a story on this advance.
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Laser Powered Paper Plane Takes Flight

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  • How big (surface area of wings perhaps?) do you reckon such a plane would have to be to actually support such a commercial laser for its drive?

    I guess such things (plus their power sources) would be quite heavy and it would be impractical, but kind of nifty.
  • by shogun ( 657 ) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:14PM (#3677410)
    using the laser to power its direction by, for instance, blasting off parts of the wings.

    Dont some airlines already do that though? Ie just dropping bits of its wings during flights. I wouldn't call it revolutionary, except in using a laser to do it rather than metal fatigue.
    • Dont some airlines already do that though? Ie just dropping bits of its
      wings during flights.

      No, no. It's luggage you're thinking of.
      • by Soulslayer ( 21435 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @04:34AM (#3678132) Homepage
        My Uncle used to design automated systems used for package and luggage sorting at various institutions. Often he was called in to observe and suggest solutions to previously installed systems. Here are some of the things he encountered in airport luggage handling systems:

        1) A second terminal was added to a small airport and they needed to find a way to send bags to the correct terminal with minimal effort and cost. So a couple of maintainence staff scavenged a large piece of aircraft aluminum (essentially it was part of an airplane wing) and mounted it onto a swing arm so that it would divert luggage down one ramp or another as they approached.

        In order to sort the luggage what they did was put a scanner ahead of the fork if a bag destined for a different terminal than the current path allowed headed down the ramp; the wing would swing to the other side of the conveyor.Well the problem was the staff had mistimed the gate. So a package would happily wander down the conveyor till it hit the sensor. The senor read the package's destination as the package continued along till about the time it came even with the tip of the wing being used a diverter. The wing would then finally move, late, crushing the bag against the far wall. When the next package came down destined for the now blocked path the wing would move freeing the first package (now headed down the wrong ramp) and crush the new package.

        Changing the timing of the gate was a simple fix, but it was scary how long it had lasted before anyone bothered to get look into it.

        2) Another example was at a modern large city airport. They had installed a super deluxe expensive baggage handling system with the usual barcode reading sorting machines to ensure luggage arrived at the correct gate.

        My Uncle was called in to survey the problem that the airport was having(what the problem was they were being rather cagey about). When he arrived they lead him to the baggage sorting area where the system was currently turned off.

        The airport rep handed my Uncle and his co-workers hardhats (never a good sign) and hit the start switch for the system. Klaxons and flashing lights then ensued. As the observers raised their eyebrows in question and concern, the first pieces of baggage started moving along on the upper wall conveyor heading for the gravity fed ramps to the individual gates.

        As the baggage reached its designated gate a big push plate at the top of each ramp would shove the packages down the ramp. At first everything seems to be operating smoothly. But the force needed to propel a 50lb suitcase off a ledge and down a ramp is not the same as that needed for a 5lb vanity case. And in short order baggage was soaring through the air; sometimes clear passed the end of the baggage catches at the end of the ramps. Often bags tumbled even further off course.

        Through all of this baggage handlers in hardhats are running across the open space of the sorting room in a crouched position trying not to get pummeled by ballistic luggage.

        My Uncles company wrote up a proposal to fix the problem but the airport decided that it was too expensive and left the system as is. I never found out what airport it was, but my Uncle said that as of a few years ago the system was still operating the same way.

        No wonder luggage gets destroyed or "lost" so frequently.
    • Planes drop bits of their wing during flights? That is some scary shit! I hope I never see a plane do that, especially if I am on it. Does that really happen?
    • Which fucked up moderators thought this was funny?
    • I can see it now... "Go left! No right! No LEFT! Aw crap, no more wings left..."
  • it's going down...
    And it is made of aluminum foil, not paper...
    • Hit in the ass by a laser
      Livin' it up when I'm goin' down
      Hit in the ass by a laser
      Lovin' it up 'til I hit the ground
      - Aerosmith

    • The definition of flying accepted by most pilo ts, including myself is that flying involves the production of lift.

      Lift is produced (this is simplified, but run with this for now) by pressure diffential--lower pressure above the wing or rotor.

      By this definition, airplanes, gliders, and helicopters fly. Rocket ships do not--they are simply thrusted into space. Hot-air Balloons are likewise held up by the conversion of chemical potential energy to heat.

      Paper airplanes fly if their wings produce a reasonable amount of lift. Most do, and I suspect that our Japanese plane produces quite a bit in order to stay airborne. A crumpled up piece of paper produces next to zero lift.. it's ability to sail through the air is, again, based on thrust.. the conversion of chemical energy (hamburgers) into kinetic energy via your arm. it will otherwise more or less follow a classic newtonian parabola.

      - certified flight instructor / instrument instructor / multiengine instructor / airline transport pilot

  • If they scaled this up to a practical size, I wonder how difficult it would be to have a ground based laser tracking the liquid supply and pulsing a beam to continue the flight?
    • I think that the idea of laser propulsion is that the laser isn't based on the craft, but used as a remote power source.
      • The problem with remote poser is, unless you are going to pepper the flight paths with lasers, or throw up some laser satellites, you are going to have some seriously limmited range. Think about it, the earth is round, once you fly over the horizon, you can no longer be hit by the laser.

        I really don't think that the amount of power needed to activate a chain of extremely high powered laser's from say LAX to Midway, would be all that more efficent, let alone for intercontenental flights. And I really don't see the other nations of the world liking someone putting a high powered laser into space.

        And lastly, the plane was made out of aluminum foil, I'm guessing for two reason's, one, it's rather light weight, and two, it won't burn when hit with the laser. How much of the acrylic polymer feul is going to be needed to power an actual plane, and how big of a laser is going to be needed to get this thing to lift off. You'll note that the picture shows the plane just launching off of the pedistool, then falling.

    • I can only _assume_ that was the point, but they are engineers...
  • by Galahad2 ( 517736 ) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:20PM (#3677428) Homepage
    I remember a while back reading about a laser powered metal disk that was going to possibly be an alternative to space travel. A laser on the ground would shoot at the center of the craft, which (being a mirror on the bottom) would reflect the light to the sides. The air would get so hot that it would "ignite" and force the craft up a few inches. The great thing about this is that the energy to get into orbit doesn't need to be carried by the craft, rather simply kept on land.

    Here's [spacedaily.com] a link to an article about it.
    • "The great thing about this is that the energy to get into orbit doesn't need to be carried by the craft, rather simply kept on land."
      which is a very good thing, considering the amount of energy it takes for those laser blasts just to raise that small tin can up a few deca-meters.
    • I remember a while back reading about a laser powered metal disk that was going to possibly be an alternative to space travel.

      Instead of using our working technology to get into space, lets use a metal disk and try to get into space!

    • by Erotomek ( 584106 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @04:55AM (#3678165) Homepage

      A laser on the ground would shoot at the center of the craft, which (being a mirror on the bottom) would reflect the light to the sides. The air would get so hot that it would "ignite" and force the craft up a few inches.

      Why does it remind me that kind of travel method when in cartoons someone gets a pin in the ass which gives him perpetual energy and he goes up until he gets the pin out of his ass?

    • Well there was something similar, using a ground laser to bring up a rocket. The rocket has mounted solid burner on the back. (Like the modern booster which are used on the space shuttle or the ariane 5). Solid burner has a far better efficiency ratio than the convetional gas one based on hydrogen. However normally the problem with solid burner is that they aren't control able. A solid booster is ignited once, and then burns until it's empty so it can't be used to steer or stabilize. Thats a main reason why both space shuttles and arianes only use solid burner for extra burt, and rely basicly on the gas one, which can be turned on and off.

      Now the idea is to mount a different kind of solid burner on the rocket, one that is self distinquishing, meaning as soon you take away a heat source it distinquishes. Now on ground you have a huge laser with a far edged focus, which can be used to burn the solid fuel, this laser can be turned on and off, and used to steer the rocket up into orbit.
      • A solid booster is ignited once, and then burns until it's empty so it can't be used to steer or stabilize.

        Actually you can steer with a solid burner. The nozzles on the shuttle motors have a flex bearing which is a bunch of layers of rubber and metal sanwiched together. The nozzle can then be pointed in different directions. So you can use it to both steer and stabalize. You just can't turn it off once it is on.

        Yes, I spent a year as a contractor at Thiokol. Yes, the tour was very cool. It was even better than the Mercedes Benz tour.

    • And in space you can use photons instead of reaction mass. Yes, photons _do_ have an impulse. This would work like sailing on top of the laser beam. Got to get rid of the heat though, preferably as radiation directed towards the beam.
    • ...back around 1988. Everyone called him "Leik the Flake". He was my Prof for "Theory of Propulsion", and all he talked about were 'lightcraft', which was all well and good, except we didn't learn much about such 'ancient' technologies as piston and jet engines. He managed to get a lot of grant money though, since these were the SDI years and his research involved ultra-high power lasers tracking hypersonic targets (just for different purposes). Of course, if the guy turns out to be a visionary, I'll be ahead of the curve on all this new-fangled laser rocket science!
    • Something doesn't sound quite right...

      -snip-
      >alternative to space travel
      -snip-
      >The air would get so hot that it would "ignite"
      -snip-

      How does firing a laser to ignite the *air* keep you going once you leave our atmosphere? (Which is sort of required to consider this "space travel".)

      OK, so maybe it moves you fast enough to escape our gravity and just keep going. But then what?

      Unless you're packing something else along, this is a one-way ticket straight off to who-knows-where. Any volunteers? :)
  • by Saoshyant ( 584551 ) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:20PM (#3677431)
    I'm pretty sure I've heard about using lasers to power spacecraft. The idea is that, rather than having spacecraft lug around a S%$tload of expensive fuel, keep the fuel back here on earth, and beam a laser at the craft. The craft harvests the energy in the laser, probably using photovoltaic cell technology. The beatiful part is that the craft will never outrun the power source.
    • rather than having spacecraft lug around a S%$tload of expensive fuel, keep the fuel back here on earth, and beam a laser at the craft.

      Well... almost.

      You can make an airplane that works this way: it sucks in cool air, a laser provides power to heat the air, the hot air jets out the back of the airplane engine and makes the plane go. The plane pushes itself along using air. We can call the air "reaction mass".

      If you want to power a spacecraft with lasers, you need to do pretty much the same thing. However, in space you cannot suck in cool air, so you need to carry some other sort of reaction mass to jet out the back of the rocket. The laser provides energy to accelerate the reaction mass.

      But the best, most practical application of lasers to transportation would be to make a vehicle that goes to space, using the airplane trick to get the vehicle started and then switching over at some point to more conventional rockets. As long as the laser is working and you can suck in cool air, you can jet out hot air and get some lift. This would mean your vehicle can carry less fuel and still reach orbit.

      None of these will happen this year or next year.

      steveha
      • Well... almost. ( sorry couldn't resist )

        Anyways, a space vehicle can actually be propelled by light alone (no reaction mass needed - Solar sail [nasa.gov]).

        This is due to the fact that light actually exerts pressure on any surface it shines on (altough very little) - thus, the idea is to deploy a big sail in a spaceship (in space, not inside the atmosphere) and use the pressure of solar radiation to propel it.

        Due to the fact that the pressure per unit of area is proportional to the intensity of the light (Formulas for the mathematical inclined [byu.edu]), a (really powerfull) laser can be used to provide a significant boost to said solar sail, with a much smaller decrease of the radiation intensity versus distance than the one you get from the sun's radiation (ie when the ship gets to Pluto, the Sun's radiation is very weak, while the laser's is still strong).

        • Didn't see this information on the site, but it is important to this line of research: the proposed solar sail, in it's current state, would never survive our solar system. If a hole the size of a quarter were punched in the sail by debris, the sail would collapse. Last I read, they were looking into using the NASA equivalant of tin foil (what is it with them and tin foil?).
      • > However, in space you cannot suck in cool air, so you need to carry some other sort of reaction mass to jet out the back of the rocket. The laser provides energy to accelerate the reaction mass.

        Not so. In space, you can set up a huge 'solar' sail and the impact of the photons from the laser provides the thrust without requiring the vehicle to lose mass. The problem is keeping a coherent enough beam back home to provide thrust at light-minute ranges.

        Fictional applications of this include the "Crazy Eddie Drive" from The Mote in God's Eye, and the beam rider ships in Tron.

      • If you want to power a spacecraft with lasers, you need to do pretty much the same thing. However, in space you cannot suck in cool air, so you need to carry some other sort of reaction mass to jet out the back of the rocket. The laser provides energy to accelerate the reaction mass.

        He's probably thinking about a light pressure drive, where you basically use a big damn sheet of mirrored plastic and just shine a laser at it, using the miniscule pressure of the photons (but you make it up in volume! volume! volume!) to push the ship.
    • The idea is that, rather than having spacecraft lug around a S%$tload of expensive fuel, keep the fuel back here on earth, and beam a laser at the craft. The craft harvests the energy in the laser, probably using photovoltaic cell technology. The beatiful part is that the craft will never outrun the power source.

      That's actually nothing new. You beam a laser at the craft, the craft harvests the energy in the laser, and accelerates in millions of different directions. The beatiful part are those flashes of light. It's nothing new, every sci-fi movie has lots of it.

    • The general use of lasers for interstellar flight is nothing even vaguely close to this... most proposals for a large space based laser platform powering a spaceship involve the use of light sails - superlight materials spanning a thousand kilometers or so to capture light and use the photon impulse to gain momentum.

      Go read some of Robert Forward's books (Indistinguishable from Magic is more science than SF; Dragonfly is more SF than science) for some examples of solar/light sails and possible usage. A terawatt microwave laser could push a 16 gram lightsail craft up to ~0.3C in about a month, and using tacking you could even have it come back home instead of just having it transmit data.
  • I don't think lasers count as origami.. whatever happened to the simple fold, point at your friend across the room, poke and eye out method?
  • Does anyone else think shining a comercial strength laser at a paper plane may not be the best idea in the world? Maybe its just me...
    • On further examination this article is quite poorly titled..

      " Laser powers 'paper plane'

      Japanese scientists have developed a laser powered paper plane."

      "The tiny plane is just a few centimetres across and made from folded aluminium foil."

      Hmm... :) still an interesting thought..
  • Can you really call it a "paper" plane if it's made out of aluminium foil?

    • Yes (Score:3, Funny)

      by wadetemp ( 217315 )
      Can you really call it a "paper" plane if it's made out of aluminium foil?

      Only if it's aluminum paper.
      • Could be a bad translation. Consider the thickness of paper and the thickness of aluminum foil. Not hard to imagine it coming out as 'paper plane' when it's made out of paper-thin aluminum in the form of a paper airplane.
  • This would be a hell of a lot cooler if it were done with Radiation Pressure... Unless somebody can explain where my understanding goes awry, isn't this basically just another method of igniting normal fuels?
    • Nothing is burning or being ignited.

      The neat thing about this is that the energy souce isn't present on the craft; it exists back on the ground.
  • According to the article, this isn't laser-powered flight... it's just a a laser-powered launch. The aluminium "paper" plane glided downward after being launched.

    This is like saying that an arm-launched paper plane will someday navigate a volcano, powered only by passengers who will tear off fragments of the wing to control it's direction.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:28PM (#3677464)
    ...fanatical Muslim zealots hijacked a paper plane fully fueled with five drops of water and crashed it into a scale-model skyscraper built out of playing cards... approximately 4 people received horribly disfiguring paper cuts in the ensuing collapse of the structure.

    An army of rescue workers has descended on the scene and is engaged in what has been described as "52 pick-up, one thousand times over."

    SEC officials are looking into massive short-selling of United States Playing Card Company [usplayingcard.com] and Hammermill [hammermill.com] stock in the two days prior to the incident.
  • by Embedded Geek ( 532893 ) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:28PM (#3677465) Homepage
    ...heats up a droplet of acrylic polymer or water on its surface which acts as fuel...

    Actually, it's be reaction mass, not fuel. The water/polymer itself isn't releasing energy to propel the plane. The laser provides the energy to power a state change (liquid to gas) which pushes the sucker along.

    I think the "fuel" (liquid cessium??) in an ion engine is the same way, providing reaction mass while the real energy is from the electrical source.

    • Exactly... if the water/polymer was actually considered fuel then it wouldn't be laser-powered, it would be water-powered.
      • You know, for a few hundred dollars I'll send you the blueprints for a water powered airplane I got from an old issue of Popular Mechanics. Uses the same technology that UFOs used to build the Pyramids, as a matter of fact.

        *GRIN*

        • "Uses the same technology that UFOs used to build the Pyramids, as a matter of fact."

          I'll give you the technology right now: hype + vapor. It was also used to fuel many dot-coms.
    • Fuel is
      1. Something consumed to produce energy.

      So the water is Fuel,
      1: lazer hits water, (the lazer is already energy!)
      2: Potential level of the water rises,
      3: Water turns to vapor and
      4: pushes the plane along
      the 2->3 potential/reaction mass is the fuel being used here.
      • I guess it comes down to the chemist's definition of fuel (I'm not one, but I guess I adopted that role in my post) and the logistics (or systems engineer, maybe) definition. A chemist would define fuel as "a comsumable used in flight that contains energy". Someone concerned with logistics/systems engineering would use "fuel" as a blanket term to describe any consumable used to produce the energy - fuel, oxidizer, reaction mass, etc.

        Again, I understand where you're coming from, but it all depends on your definition, which in turn depends on your viewpoint (and, no, I'm not going to dust off my copy of Websters on this one).

        ...and I did warn everyone in the title that it was a "nit" to begin with. ;)

    • The water/polymer itself isn't releasing energy to propel the plane. [...] I think the "fuel" (liquid cessium??) in an ion engine is the same way, providing reaction mass while the real energy is from the electrical source.

      So... The fuel is simply coal in the power plant? So someone invented a coal-powered machine? So the headline should be Coal Powered Paper Plane Takes Flight? Wow, how futuristic idea! :)

  • Although none of the articles makes specific mention to this ever being used in commercial flight, I'm willing to ignore that for the sake of the following observations:

    It's unnerving enough to consider flying on a craft that being shot at. Especially in light of the comment in the article about bits of the wing being shot off to guide flight.

    But what really worries me is this quote from the nature article:
    Then, in 1997, researchers at the US Air Force Research Laboratory in California used a high-power infrared laser to propel a saucer-sized aluminium craft for a few seconds.

    Forget about the inevitable nutcase X-files type eferences; I'm not ever planning on boarding a Flying AOL disc .

    And you can quote me on that.
  • Wouldn't it be easier just to throw the paper airplane into the air?
  • "Ananova is reporting that Japanese scientists spent an afternoon making a laser-launched tin foil plane. A blast of light from a commercial laser heats up a droplet of acrylic polymer or water on its surface, which blows up and knocks the plane off the desk. Although I just told you basically the whole thing, full story here"
  • by wadetemp ( 217315 ) on Monday June 10, 2002 @11:46PM (#3677521)
    I made a laser powered paper airplane once. Actually it was made out of aluminum, not paper. Well, actually one of those little foil gum wrappers, I'm not sure if it was aluminum or not. And I guess it wasn't really a laser, I guess it was my finger flicking it... but I was holding a laser pointer in the other hand and was guiding the plane to the target using it! (And then after I made a few of those and threw them into a big pile, I made a beowulf cluster out of them just for good measure.)
    • That's nothing, I made a fuel-cell powered paper football...
    • Mine really was paper, but I used a 20 gauge shotgun as the power source. Man would that plane go. Later on I started using a .22 caliber rifle to control its flight by blasting off bits of the plane.

      Needless to say, I suspended test flights do to saftey concerns after shooting out the tire of my Nova.

    • Congratulations! You may already be entitled to taxpayers' money. Just answer these questions:

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      Would you like a tax deduction on the stamp that you are going to put on the envelope in which you are going to put this reply (civilised goverment agencies don't sent out postage paid envelopes!) and if so, please specify your name, middle name, other middle name, birth date, time, place and method, conception date (if known), method (all the details, please), mother (if available) and father (if known), gender (if determinable at current time), number of child(ren), number of children who are are annoying spoilt brats with ADD, number of annonying spoilt brats with ADD who were an accident as a result of poor quality contraception, where you bought the poor quality contraception and how much it cost you, the colo(u)r, make and year of your SUV, if you have one, otherwise how many years you have been subsiding at the minimum wage and why you didn't buy an SUV from social security money, size and bribability of the corporation, organisation or government you work for, whether or not your goverment (if you work for it) sells Uranium-235 and/or Plutonium and whether it has stocks of VX and/or Sarin, and, if so, whether it would sell them at a discount to bulk customers, whether or not such purchases can be made on an American Express card or whether we have to pay cash, if the latter, whether it should be transported in suit cases or linen bags, and, finally, your taxable income, should you have one, and if not, how much we could make by employing you in a sweat shop.

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  • Despite the fact that wadetemp posted three times before I posted this which automatically disproves my original conjecture, I'm going to ask anyway:

    Am I the only person who read the blurb and blurted out "What the flying fuck?!"?
    • Don't worry, I'm done now. I just got excited when I found out that I'm not the only person who makes paper, er, I mean aluminum foil, airplanes.
    • Oh, yeah, and I agree... definitely zerg. And also dude... you stole my idea for armies of borg pikachus (pikachi?).
  • Tokyo, Japan (Reuters)

    An experiment with using laser propulsion on aircraft saw a serious setback today.

    The experiment involves using a laser to heat up a droplet of water on the surface of the aircraft. The conversion of the water to a gas is what drives the aircraft.

    But today the prototype aircraft was destroyed.

    "We fired the laser and POOF, the airplane went up in a puff of smoke!" said the aircraft's chief designer, Takashi Yabe.

    Traditionally, lasers have been associated with shooting aircraft down, but this research is attempting to prove that they can be used to propel them as well.

    "Unfortunately, today, we managed to prove that lasers really can be used to shoot airplanes down. At least paper ones!" Yabe said.

    The researchers are all set to try again. "Whoever decided that we should use paper was obviously a moron", Yabe said, but the other researchers only nodded and Yabe turned red with embarrassment immediately after saying that.

    A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense had no comment on today's incident, but word from our sources is that the President will attempt to convince Russia and Europe to start building airplanes out of paper sometime this week.

  • talk about this technology to launch space craft. They (alien guys) sit on top of lasers, shoot it up the tail pipe, and the vaporizing block o' motor propels the craft up, up and away.

    It also talks about using something else, but don't want to give away the cool ending...;)

  • Zap... no plane... Yup.. This is what I want... to have my ass pierced by an industrial strength laser...

  • So, I'm thinking this could be used to power commercial airliners. Each city could have a laser (hereafter known as that city's "laser base,") which could be used to propel planes. And next, the secretary of defense issues a statement that there is a "credible" report that Al Quada members are trying to buy alot of metallic paint and weather balloons...
    • So, I'm thinking this could be used to power commercial airliners.

      Maybe it's just me but ...

      They are now looking at ways of using the laser to power its direction by, for instance, blasting off parts of the wings.

      I really don't know if I'd want to fly on one of these ... chunks of planes with blasted off parts just doesn't seem right ...

      • chunks of planes with blasted off parts just doesn't seem right ...

        Of course it's not right. You need to blast off pieces of aircraft left, right and centre to maintain balance and stability.



  • I have discovered that if I strap wings on my dog and shoot him with a high-powered laser, he will heat up and fly around my backyard as well.

    Cheers,
  • November 13, 2013

    Today, the new laser powered Concorde XIII crashed during it's maiden voyage over Scotland when a very large cloud came in between the ground-based laser beam power source and the craft, resulting in a total loss of propulsion. No survivors have been reported at this time.

  • Erhmm.. I quess they run out of power when this [ananova.com] shot was taken? I've made paper gliders that fly better. In preschool.
  • Submitted this article [japantimes.co.jp]when it appeared on the Japan Times [japantimes.co.jp] back in April:

    2002-04-24 04:19:23 Jet of future powered by water? (articles,science) (rejected)

    Oh well...

  • Its designers hope the plane may one day be used to monitor the climate or volcanic eruptions.

    Look, I tried that excuse in junior high and it still didn't save me from getting detention for throwing paper airplanes.
  • Umm... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The tiny plane is just a few centimetres across and made from folded aluminium foil.

    Theres something fishy about this paper plane, but I just cant put my finger on it...

    "Do you MOCK me, sir?"

    • I think they stole this whole idea from a MacGuyver episode. Blatant plagarism if I've ever seen it..you have the laser, you have the aluminum foil, only thing missing is the chewing gum and a pair of shoelaces.

      Maybe that's their next project.
      • no, no, no, no! Thele is absolutely no connect with any MacGuyvel-film, we have independitely developed this gleat piece of science and papel-lasel-plane is completly supelioul to MacGuyvel-plane! Ha-Ha-Ha! How deal Aflosheen to confuse those two with each othel!
  • I have a radiometer at home. It consists of 4 fins. One side is white and just reflects the radiation (sunlight), and the other is a special black paint that absorbs and re-radiates causing the fins to spin.
    If they coated the underside (or rear) of this plane with that stuff, wouldn't that cause the same effect and also allow for extra thrust during flight by zapping it again with more radiation?
    • DanOb, this is the FBI. We have a warrant for your arrest for trying to build a dirty bomb. We found your post on a website called Slash Dot which made mention of radiation, more radiation, "special" paint, and fins. Please come with us.
  • Research has already been done on self-powered [flypower.com] paper/balsa wood airplanes.

    These remain powered in flight. AND these are also commercially available and far cheaper than the Japanese solution.

  • This might be a bad idea, but I can see one possible commercial application of this technology. Put a GPS transceiver in my phone, use that for orbital targeting of the laser, and when I'm low on juice, just blast me some more power.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We are all discussing an article from the Japanese equivalent of The Onion?

  • According to the shot, this paper plane is more crashing than flying !
  • Just to point out the obvious, this paper plane is
    no more made from paper than your typical 747.
    In fact it's made from the same stuff as a 747 -
    aluminium. I think it would be much more fun to
    run the experiment with paper. That way it would
    be a Flaming Laser Powered Paper Plane.

  • Lightcrafts are old (Score:2, Informative)

    by BerntB ( 584621 )
    I don't get it.

    Why isn't Lightcraft Technologies [lightcraft...logies.com] discussed here?

    Look in Google groups after e.g. 'Leik Myrabo' or 'lightcraft'.

    It seems they never got enough money to get off the ground. :-(

  • If this turns into the future way of flying, I finally don't have to worry about alien invasions anymore:

    Human pilot: "I can't shake them loose, they're going too fast for us!"
    Alien pilot: "I shoot this laser straight through his ship!"
    <<<ZOT>>>
    Human pilot: "Turbospeed! Thank you, come again!" and flies off, delivering the nuke to the alien mothership.

  • by fingal ( 49160 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @05:31AM (#3678201) Homepage

    Many, many, moons ago I got a job working here [ox.ac.uk] while I was doing my A levels and one of the things that they where working on was propulsion systems for extremely high speed planes. If my memory serves me (which is not guaranteed cos I was only humble code monkey and not privee to the finer arts of engineering theory and it was a long time ago), then they where planning to use conventional propulsion methods up to their maximum effective threshold and then start spraying fuel onto the trailing edge of the wings directly, which due to the intense heat and pressure due to the (already quite unfeasibly high) speed would spontaneously ignite thereby generating more thrust without all the hassles of trying to force an extremely unpredictable fluid down a tube at high speed. Absolutely no idea of whether or not they made any progress on this or whether or not I would be prepared to fly in one if they did...

  • What is a commercial laser? Does this mean
    it's been done years ago already with communist
    lasers, but this is the first time it's been done
    with a commercial laser?

  • "Its designers hope the plane may one day be used to monitor the climate or volcanic eruptions."


    Huh? Does Japan have little teeeny volcanos?


    Exactly how does an aluminum foil origami project, launched with less energy than a finger flick, somehow scale into a volcano exploration vehicle?


    "Well, first, see, you climb up to very lip of the erupting volcano -- look out for the boiling lava! and the huge flying boulders! ...and then you fold up this tin foil, right, into an airplane -- remember to bend the tip of the nose in, you don't want to poke somebody's eye out! and now I'll hold it very still, while you aim the laser at it...you DID bring the laser, didn't you? Ahhhh DAMN DAMN DAMN!"
  • Or is the stop-action flight arc of the plane less than impressive. My dad had a book by Scientific American where they did some serious trials of planes and most of them did nearly as well at the same size, composition, and without hi-fallutin' laser propulsion.

Somebody's terminal is dropping bits. I found a pile of them over in the corner.

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