The image: British defense company SAE Systems has developed a high-powered "laser distraction system" that can temporarily blind pirates or other attackers at sea, says the BBC. The laser, perched aboard a moving ship, would emit a bright green light that could be used to warn pirates that they've been spotted, or — at close range — to completely block their vision. It would work as well during the day as it would at night, while not permanently damaging the attackers' eyes (which would be illegal under United Nations protocol). While the system is still under test, it could be commercially available by the end of 2011. In 2010, 430 pirate attacks were reported worldwide, up from 406 in 2009.
The reaction: This technology will be so effective, says, says Edwin Kee at UberGizmo, that it will have pirates saying "Avast, me hearties! We will no longer be the scourge of the seven seas once this anti-pirate laser is out!" The laser is a big step up from current prevention methods, says Spencer Ackerman in Wired . Right now, if you want to avoid bad guys in the notoriously pirate-heavy Gulf of Aden, you might end up "paying Yemen's Ministry of Interior for U.S.-provided escort boats." This is "quite the alternative" to that arrangement. The image below illustrates how the pirate-fighting laser works: