Samuel Goldwasser Fluid Mechanics, Power Systems, Electromagnetics, Photonics, Electronics

Laser expert

The Story

Studies high performance mode-locked and chirped solid state microchip lasers for millimeter wave communications, lidar/radar, and biomedical imaging. Creator of the LaserFAQ and RepairFAQ lists.

The Person

Philadelphia, PA
Research Professor
Drexel University
Last Updated
November 8, 2001

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question #255

With all that the U.S. military is doing by developing laser weapons as an anti-missile defense, I have been wondering if a laser beam could kill a person, as in the movie "Goldfinger". I used to work in a laser "job shop" where I witnessed multi-kilowatt carbon dioxide and Nd YAG lasers ignite and vaporize many materials. Some of the workers there had been seriously burned too. If a 5 kilowatt laser could blast a hole in a peice of plexiglass at fifteen feet in a few secs, (unfocused beam), what could a focused beam of much higher power do to a living organism (a person) assuming said victim couldn't escape the beam, as my ex-coworkers did? Or is there a laser powerful enough to burn a hole through someone instantly? I understand that whatever answer you give me would be theoretical, as I don't think anyone has ever been killed by a laser beam, according to the extensive research I have already done.

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