Matthews had a well-honed demonstration too, including bits where he stopped a motorcycle engine and even killed a mouse at short range with his ray. With the right funding, the scientist claimed, he could make his death ray powerful enough to destroy airplane engines mid-flight, or even "annihilate" entire armies and cities. And because headlines with the words "death ray" in them sell about a bajillion copies, publications like The New York Times, Time, Le Matin, Popular Mechanics, and Popular Science Monthly all heralded the loony Englishman as the greatest genius to have ever lived. This, in turn, drew the attention of the British military, including Sir Winston Churchill himself, who wanted to see what this war-winning weapon could do.
At this point, the death ray blew up in Matthew's face. Figuratively speaking, of course, because the laser was too weak to cause any real damage. When the army asked for a demonstration, three of its scientists were so unimpressed that they stepped in front of the beam to show how pointless it was. Furious, Matthews left England and announced his intent to sell his death ray to a foreign -- maybe even enemy -- country. But no one wanted a laser that was barely powerful enough to scan a barcode.