The APS Report Weathers Its Critics

It comes as no great surprise that groups promoting the president’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) have attempted to discredit the recently published American Physical Society study Science and Technology of Directed Energy Weapons (THE SCIENTIST, May 18, 1987, p. 11). The APS study, released on April 23, 1987, addressed the scientific feasibility of a ballistic missile defense utilizing high-intensity lasers and energetic particle beams as weapons. A panel of experts on directed en

Robert Park
Sep 6, 1987

It comes as no great surprise that groups promoting the president’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) have attempted to discredit the recently published American Physical Society study Science and Technology of Directed Energy Weapons (THE SCIENTIST, May 18, 1987, p. 11). The APS study, released on April 23, 1987, addressed the scientific feasibility of a ballistic missile defense utilizing high-intensity lasers and energetic particle beams as weapons. A panel of experts on directed energy technologies concluded, after a detailed 18-month study, that the required performance levels were far beyond the capabilities of existing technologies. They estimated that at least a decade of research would be required just to decide whether such weapons would ever be feasible.

The only technical challenge to the APS report came from two SDI scientists—Lowell Wood of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and Gregory Canavan of Los Alamos National Laboratory, who had access to the report in the...

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