U.S. Department of Mwa Ha Ha

From time to time in the popular science press I see something about generating electricity by placing enormous solar collectors in space and beaming the power as microwaves to special receivers on earth.

One such article, “‘Drilling Up’ — Some Look to Space for Energy,” appeared recently from the Associated Press. It describes a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Defense and the island nation of Palau to demonstrate the feasibility of receiving power from an orbiting satellite. The satellite will collect solar energy during its ninety-minute orbit, storing it up in order to beam it down to a receiver on Palau as it passes overhead. It will send a million watts of power during a five-minute window.

The article touts it as a forward-thinking alternative-energy project that will benefit at first the citizens of Palau and later the world. But nowhere in the article, or indeed in other articles of this ilk, are any red flags raised about placing in the Pentagon’s hands a solar death ray that can incinerate targets from orbit.

Now I don’t wish to impugn the Pentagon’s motives. I am sure their ambitions have everything to do with altruistically improving the standard of living for every person on earth and nothing to do with a lust for high-tech war toys. But if you or I built something that could store up three hundred million joules of energy and then deliver it all in a five-minute burst to any spot on earth, you could forgive the people of the world harboring a little concern.

You’d think that science writers could follow the technological implications of the things they write about. Hell, for this story all they need to do is watch some James Bond.

From Die Another Day

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