Take a second and picture everyone on the planet with a laser pointer. Everyone then takes their laser pointer and aims it at the moon. Granted, this is a crazy “What if?” scenario, but aren’t you curious what would happen? Surprisingly, science has some answers.
Possible Problems In Worldwide Laser Pointer Pointing At The Moon
The first thing that you probably thought of is that not everyone sees the moon at the same time. How will people on the other side of the planet point their lasers at the moon when they are being blinded by the sun at the moment?
The second thing that needs to be considered is whether we are going to shine the lasers at a full moon or a crescent moon.
The third thing that could be a problem is aim. Everyone being able to hit the moon at the same time would be tremendously difficult. Let’s make sure we get our eye exams first.
The fourth thing is how much power do we require for the experiment? I’m not sure what the standard laser pointer wattage is.
How The Experiment Of Pointing Lasers At The Moon Works
This is how we would address the above concerns for this experiment:
75% of the population on Earth is between 0 degrees E and 120 degrees E. Knowing this information, we should try to set up this bizarre experiment for when the moon is over the Arabian Sea.
If we choose to do this on the new moon (instead of a full moon) we will be able to see the results better. The new moon has pros and cons. On the positive side, we will be able to see better because part of the moon will be dark. The con is that it’s a smaller target. If some of us didn’t get our eye exams we might have trouble aiming our lasers.
We are going to go with the quarter moon. This allows us to compare the light effect on the dark side and the light side. We always try to get more bang for our buck in the science world.
The typical laser pointer is about 5 milliwatts. That doesn’t mean a lot to me, but experts say that it is a tight enough beam to hit the moon. They also say that it would spread out over a large area of the surface once it got to the moon. The atmosphere could also absorb and distort the light a tiny bit, but the consensus is that it would reach there.
For this this experiment to work , everyone would take aim at the moon and press the button at half an hour after midnight.
The Strange And Curious Results
Disappointment. There is no real change in the appearance on the surface of the moon. This makes a little bit of sense because you will notice that the sunlight bathes the moon in a large amount of light. In fact, it gives much more light to the moon than the laser pointers and this is why there is no noticeable change.
We Need More Power
If the experiment was repeated with more power (1 watt instead of 5 milliwatts), the disappointing results would be relatively the same. This time; however, the laser would be a green color instead. Another thing to note is that the higher watt laser is seriously dangerous and could cause blindness or skin burns. These lasers would still be too weak to see any difference from Earth. Additionally, if you were on the moon and looking at all the laser pointers, you would see less light than we see when we look at the moon.
If we used a searchlight (like on coast guard helicopters) to all point at the moon, we are making some progress. Unfortunately, it would still be really hard to see.
If we used IMAX projectors (30,000 watts), we would still barely make any visible progress.
It is only if we all got the most powerful spotlight on Earth (like the one on top of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas) and added a lens array to help it focus on the moon that is would finally be visible. Way to go everyone!
Lastly, if we used The Department of Defense megawatt lasers we would manage to match the brightness of sunlight!
If that isn’t enough weirdness for the day go and download this What If? ebook, which covers many other fantastic hypothetical questions. The interesting book also has graphics to illustrate the differences in watts.