Who Needs A Girlfriend When You've Got A Death-ray?
This video Eric Jacqmain made to show off the solar-powered "death ray" he built in his back garden has been on the internet for a while, but as he's only just made the pages of the Daily Mail, Fox News and Jornada Online ("rayo de la muerte") I decided to get in touch with him and see how he was coping with the fame.
Hopefully he's holding up better than his 'R5800'. Last summer Eric attached 5,800 tiny mirrors to a satellite dish he found in his friend's back garden, creating a machine that he claimed could harness "the power of 5,000 suns" and, in doing so, "obliterate anything". Unfortunately 5,800 suns must have been one sun too many, as the thing "committed suicide" by burning down a shed it was stored in last year.
VICE: Hey Eric, how's it going? Are you gonna be famous?
Eric Jacqmain: Doing OK. I have no idea if I'm going to be famous. I've been totally bombarded by comments and stuff in the last 24 hours, and I can't talk too long 'cause CBS are calling me in ten minutes. My friends are pretty excited.
OK. So why did you decide to build a death ray with the power of 5,000 suns?
My inspiration came from playing with magnifying glasses as a kid. Something about it fascinated me. I wanted to build something similar, just larger and colossally more powerful. The R5800 was actually my second death ray.
What happened to the first?
The first was about half the size and only had about 460 one-inch mirrors on it. It was capable of burning wood and paper, but not much else. I got bored of it.
OK. What's with the name? Could your 'death ray' actually kill someone/something?
The 'R' stands for 'Ray'. As for the 'death' part... nothing else really sounded good.
So could it kill?
Possibly. I suppose it could do enough bodily harm to be fatal if one were to aim it at their own head and sit still for a long time.
What would it do to their heads and how long would it take them to die?
If someone's head sat in the focal point it may take about three seconds to burn through the skin. After around ten seconds it would reach the skull, and at maybe 15 seconds the brain would be hit.
Probably not 'splat'. More like 'sizzle', then horrible seizures and brain trauma. It only puts out around 560 watts, or as someone on YouTube put it "0.56 toaster power". It's just focused into a very small, dime-sized spot.
OK, so it would just bore a hole through the head rather than cause a splatting of the brain?
Were you sad when it died? You must have spent a lot of time with it.
I'd spent an entire summer messing with it. I had pretty much burnt everything I could burn with it, though, so it was time to move on.
Didn't all that making and burning impact upon your social life?
I'm not much of a social person anyway. But I've enjoyed the attention ever since.
The next time you go to a party are all the drunk people there going to treat you like some kind of curious sun God?
I don't really go to parties. I guess I'm a bit of an introvert. I'm the 'quiet type' of person. I'm the sort of person who just watches what everybody else does.
Do you have a girlfriend?
I had a gf when I built the death ray. We split up about a month after I finished it. Long distance thing.
So what else are you into?
I think we should focus more greatly on developing technology such as this. There is no reason why every house couldn't have at least some sort of solar energy collection device. Sunlight is a massive resource that most seem to ignore.
Why do you think you're drawn to it solar energy?
Everything about it makes sense. It's like free energy.
I get that. But I mean... why does the idea of free energy interest you so much? Not in terms of efficiency or environment, but more abstractly – as opposed to sports or music or parties, or whatever.
I think that I prefer to express myself through invention rather than communication. Actually maybe 'innovation's a better word. I've never quite figured out communication. I think in exchange for being able to solve technical problems I am somewhat socially inept.
Does your ex-girlfriend know about the attention the death ray's been getting?
Probably not. Not yet.
Would you like her to?
Yeah. Not to show off, just to show her that I did have a good idea.
Would you like to get back with her? I can exploit my "position in the media" to try to hook it up somehow if you like. It's the logical "next step" for this news narrative.
I'm happy with the way things are.
That's cool. What else do you do besides innovate?
Not a whole lot.
Have you ever burned yourself on the death ray?
Not directly, but I've touched hot objects. Not fun.
That thing looks like it'd cut through a mean block of hash pretty quickly. Can you use it to cook food?
It would destroy the hash pretty quickly, but it does hotdogs about as well as a grill. Haha.
Is the death ray marketable in any sense? I think most people I know would like their own death ray. Would you be able to reduce the technology to the size of something that would fit in your hand? Would you be able to use a lighter, more powerful version of what you've designed as a kind of solar-powered gun?
Radioshack used to sell a small parabolic dish like that.
But presumably it wasn't something that could make another person not exist any more?
OK, thanks Eric. Good luck with the girls.