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Paper planes get laser liftoff

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8:48pm, July 16, 2002

One way to make airplanes fly exceptionally far and fast may be to get rid of their fuel and engines. That may sound outlandish, but powerful lasers may one day make it possible, says Takashi Yabe of the Tokyo Institute of Technology. To demonstrate the principle, he and his colleagues have been playing with paper airplanes.

Although light exerts a slight pressure on objects (SN: 9/29/01, p. 203: After a failure, a new craft to sail), that's not the trick used in Yabe's experiments. Rather, he and his colleagues glued to the tail end of their tiny craft a small square of aluminum on which they deposited a water droplet.

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