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Hunting down celebrities and taking their pictures—work carried out by thousands of paparazzi photographers every day—hasn't changed much over the past few years. The cameras are better and the lenses are longer. But the job still necessitates someone patiently waiting for hours outside the Bowery Hotel so that when Lindsay Lohan finally emerges, a thousand photos can be snapped of her in the six seconds it takes the actress to get from the door of the hotel to her waiting car. But technology could change the celebrity-industrial complex forever if Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has anything to do with it:

Ever since Diana, Princess of Wales, was snapped in an amorous clinch with Dodi Fayed in a yacht off the French Riviera, celebrities have been seeking ways to enjoy their holidays while avoiding the glare of the paparazzi. Even Helen Mirren's advancing years failed to stave off photographers who caught her in a bikini in Italy last year.

Now Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch, appears to have come up with a novel solution to protect his privacy. In a move that could eventually be copied by all discerning billionaires, Abramovich has installed an anti-paparazzi shield on his newest vessel, the world’s biggest and most expensive private yacht.

Abramovich's "shield" consists of infrared lasers, which pick up on the electronic light sensors emitted by a camera. It then fires off a beam of light which prevents the camera from capturing an image.

Needless to say, if the system works, paparazzi photographers (and the tabloids they sell photos to) will be forced to up the ante and come up with some sort of special laser-busting camera. (Perhaps one that's attached to an unmanned Predator aircraft that can be controlled from afar and can fly into hostile celebrity territory?) And this could turn into some unexpected good news for the nation's defense industry. With the U.S. no longer planning to a missile "shield" in Eastern Europe per an order by President Obama last week, a paparazzi arms race may be just the sort of project that will ensure that Boeing and Raytheon have plenty of work to do for many years to come.

Roman Abramovich zaps snappers with laser shield [Times UK via BI]
White House Scraps Bush's Approach to Missile Shield [NYT]