Friday, June 18, 2010

The advent of the Personal Defense Laser

I found this courtesy of the Wall Street Journal and Miguel Gonzalez Jr.


"May The Force, and Safety Goggles, Be With You"

"Since Luke Skywalker first picked up a light saber in 1977, we’ve dreamed of wielding the laser sword made famous in the “Star Wars” movies—“an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” And while the technology isn’t quite there yet, we’re getting closer.

For around $200, Shanghai-based WickedLasers.com will ship you its latest laser device, known as the Spyder III Pro Arctic and looking suspiciously like the beloved science-fiction weapon. Using a blue-laser diode taken from a powerful film projector, the Spyder III emits a 445-nanometer wavelength beam of up to one watt in power. Or, as the WickedLasers site explains:

“Don’t let the Arctic name fool you, this laser possesses the most burning capabilities of any portable laser in existence. That’s why it’s also the most dangerous laser ever created.”

As the article goes on to explain, the laser is a Class IV laser product, meaning that it can be dangerous.

Wicked Lasers says the Spyder III isn’t to be taken, ahem, lightly, and posts photos of two surly-looking fellows arrested for pointing lasers at aircraft. The Spyder III is a Class 4 laser, meaning it’s so strong that it can cause blindness and color-perception problems, including the inability to perceive the color green for four to six months. Also, at a thousand times stronger than sunlight on skin, it can burn skin and may even cause skin cancer.

So Wicked Lasers adds an FDA-mandated safety sticker on the device, includes a pair of safety glasses and warns that you shouldn’t make direct eye contact with the beam. Or expose it to bare skin. Or shine it at anyone. Or shine it at reflective surfaces. And don’t use it near airports, highways or construction sites. Really, they say, it should be used only by “individuals who have appropriate laser safety training and product familiarity in using Class 4 lasers.”

But other than that, they add, “As a general concept, owning a laser is pretty fun.”

And that fun is illustrated on the site, using videos that show Wicked Lasers products doing such disparate tasks as burning holes in trash bags, popping balloons, cutting electrical tape and igniting matches. Not exactly the sort of swashbuckling space adventure we imagined.

They shouldn't be marketing this as a toy, but as a non-lethal self-defense weapon. It can cause blindness and burn skin, and while they made it to be a toy, it would certainly made an adequate non-lethal defense. If they can up the power levels, it could even become a lethal weapon. This is a great advance in the creation of laser weapons (for consumers - industry and governments have access to more dangerous lasers already) , and it is being sold as a toy.