Sonic Booms Redux

Well, whadya know. No sooner do we start blabbing about sonic booms as less-lethal weapons than we find two related stories in the hubbub of the headlines.124573main_JulyXpress-EC050124-24.jpgFirst, there's this Times of London article about "a luxury cruise ship" which was "attack[ed] by Somali pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenades yesterday as it rounded the Horn of Africa." Luckily, no one was hurt. The reason why:

The liner used a sonic blaster to foil the pirates. Developed by American forces to deter small boats from attacking warships, the non-lethal weapon sends out high-powered air vibrations that blow assailants off their feet. The equipment, about the size of a satellite dish, is rigged to the side of the ship.
Yarrr! Next, Aviation Week tells us that two teams are about to present their designs for supersonic aircraft that don't boom quite as bad.
The main focus of boom reduction efforts is to shape the pressure wave along the length of the aircraft so it won't coalesce into the standard sharp N-wave by the time it hits the ground. Spreading pressure over the signature's length reduces the abrupt changes at the beginning and end of the signature, which are what humans hear...[But] recent changes in NASA's priorities have set back [the sonic boom work]. The agency's plan was to build a second manned low-boom demonstrator aircraft, and it wanted to issue a request for proposals as early as last September. It would have been a follow-on to the successful Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstration aircraft that flew about two years ago.But barely two months into the July-awarded concept exploration contracts, Lisa Porter, NASA's new associate administrator for aeronautics, told the teams on Aug. 30 that there no longer was funding for a demonstrator. Team members are trying to devise cheaper alternatives for the next phase of research, but turmoil continues in the agency's aeronautics plans.
THERE'S MORE: The AP now has a story out on the sonic pirate-stopper. The author: a reporter out of Miami named John Pain.(Big ups: Xeni, who's got more on sonic booms, too)
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