Lunar Lasers


Concept is this: get enough people to aim their toy red laser pointers, at the same time, at the moon, and see if together, they can paint it red. Thanks to modern web technology, ideas like this can get the audience they deserve. Yes, it’s real, and yes it’s from the states. The brains behind this particular venture belong to one Jim Downey, a writer who hopefully appreciates just how many 3D readers own red laser pointers.

Were your eyes popping out of your head at a rave when you thought of this, or is there some other explanation?
No artificial stimulus involved. I’m naturally like this. It frightens my friends a little… but they seldom get bored around me. 🙂

How many people do you think participated in your first moon attempt?
Hard to say. I had about 100,000 hits to my website that weekend, with a LOT of press attention worldwide leading up to it. Directly, I heard from about 300 people who wrote to tell me they participated, almost all of them with friends. So, the number was at least in the thousands, possibly tens of thousands or more.

What sort of feedback did u get from that attempt?
Almost everyone who wrote me said that they enjoyed it. Most folks had a little party (I had about 60 people at my business), then went out to give it a try. The most common theme was that they enjoyed doing something a little crazy at the same time as everyone else, which was my goal: a shared dream.

Heard about any other weird group laser projects since you’ve started?
A lot of people have suggested doing something like lighting up the Statue of Liberty, that sort of thing. But no one has yet organized such an activity to my knowledge.

Some of the scientific reactions to your idea?
Almost without exception they say it won’t work, but most of them find it charming and say they are going to participate nonetheless. Real scientists understand the need for this kind of intellectual play, of daring to imagine things outside the accepted bounds. I find it refreshing that they and artists have so much in common in this regard.

What motivates you to try it in the face of this?
Because the technical aspect is only a small part of the conceptual project. The whole thing is more about human hopes and dreams than it is about photons.

What are the main obstacles to painting the moon red?
Let’s see…the power of the little laser pointers…atmospheric absorbtion and disturbance… the reflectivity of the lunar surface…the glare coming off the lit portion of the moon…and aiming the little things. Yeah, I think those are the main obstacles…

Have you factored in that the man on the moon might be wearing reflective sunglasses?
Be cool if he was, it’d help the light get back to us better.

What’s next if you succeed?
No idea what’s next – whatever happens. Hell, 7 months ago I didn’t know I was going to be doing this. We’ll just have to see what odd and wonderful ideas pop into my head, and which ones strike my fancy. You can’t force creativity, and usually you can’t even control it. You just gotta roll with it, take it where it leads you.

Join in the world’s largest collaborative work of art, or at least learn a bit more about the physics of painting the moon red.
If it’s physics yer after, check this and you’ll understand finally how skateboarders manage to leap over poodles, up gutters, and onto spiral staircased handrails.
Thames Water (UK) has set up a website associated with Water Aid – and if 2 million people click on it, they’ll donate 150,000 to provide safe drinking water in Africa and Asia for 10,000 people. Only a few weeks left and 250,000 more clicks are still required to meet the target.

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