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Science of terror: would the plot work?

ALBANY --  The big question on many people's minds: would the creation of a so-called "death ray" be possible?

The experts are saying conceptually, it is.  There are many factors to be considered though, and whether or not the suspects had everything they needed to cause calamity.

The Feds say the device used by Glendon Scott Crawford and Eric Feight was tested, and would have been an x-ray weapon, operated by remote control, mounted on a truck.

"It depends on how much radiological material they had, it depends upon the way they were going to focus the beam," said Rick Mathews, Director of the National Center for Security & Preparedness.

Scientists by and large say the device probably wouldn't work.  Igor Lednev uses laser technology in a UAlbany research lab.

"X-ray lasers are huge," Lednev said.  "They need to use some source of energy."

There is a large energy source for the lasers on campus.  He says one used for a terror plot might have to be larger.  If it were activated on Crawford and Feight's intended targets, some scientists believe a victim would have to be close to the source and be exposed for a while.

"The person wouldn't notice immediately that he or she were exposed," Lednev said.

Though these men were familiar with engineering, terror plots can be devised by anyone, Mathews said, "someone that can read, can be intelligent enough to read, understand what he or she sees, or has access to other experts who can guide them," and people who are persistent.

Mathews says people who fail first will try again.  Lednev says death could be possible but skin damage is likely, too.
 
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