The U.S. Navy’s recent demonstration of its new laser weapon, designed to blast enemy drones out of the sky, proves that these systems no longer solely exist in the world of science fiction. But how do these so-called directed-energy weapons work?

The idea for laser weapons has been around for at least a century; the writer H.G. Wells even imagined “heat rays” in his 1897 novel “War of the Worlds.” Lasers, though, are a demonstration of several technologies and even physics that didn’t exist or wasn’t known until the 1960s — and in some cases, later than that.

In part, the initial drive to build laser weapons wasn’t to make ray guns — it was to help people make phone calls. It wasn’t until fiber optics and cheap laser diodes became available that this technology could be used to build weapons, according to experts.”


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