Tractor beams, the sort of thing that large spaceships use to pull in smaller spaceships in sci-fi movies, are no longer in the realm of fantasy. Yes, researchers at the Australian National University have created a device that can move small particles multiple feet using only light. Wow.
No, this observatory is not starting a war with a distant alien race. Instead, it's exciting the atoms in the upper atmosphere to create an artificial star 56 miles above Earth. And this, of course, will help it take pictures of the cosmos.
This is the Assault Intervention Device, and it doesn't want to be your friend. It just wants you to behave. If you don't? It'll fire one huge honkin' laser beam at you — we're talking one that's as thick as a CD-ROM is round.
With just the flip of a switch (and a student to lug it around), UC Berkeley's laser-scanner-studded backpack automatically creates 3D maps of the world around it. Walking down a hall? While that's going on, a digital replica of said hallway is showing up on a computer.
Remember that big scary laser the Navy showed off a few weeks ago? Well, not that ray guns and cannons are looking like they could be a real thing, the Navy wants to figure out how to guard against 'em.
Sony is working on a new type of blue-violet ultra-fast pulsed laser for optical disks, one that would be used for a new format of super-high-capacity discs. The only problem? We probably won't be using disks anymore when they get around to releasing it.
We're all familiar with tasers and pepper spray. Now, there's a new non-lethal option to get acquainted with: the "Dazer Laser." It won't leave criminals blind forever, but it will have them seeing green for the few seconds it takes police officers to go in for the tackle.
Finally, we are living in a world where gigantic lasers can shoot down planes. It's been a sci-fi dream for ages, but now, Raytheon has a functioning anti-aircraft laser that can actually take planes out of the sky.
Last month a Hong Kong company called Wicked Lasers got the attention of several websites (including ours) with its Arctic Spyder III laser, partly because the laser is small and powerful, but mainly because it looks a hell of a lot like a lightsaber. Well, it also caught the attention of the legal team at Lucasfim.
Normally, when you think about a laser (such as the one above) you picture beams of light, right? Well, no longer — researchers have developed what's called a "dark pulse" laser that uses non-light instead. With a sinister name like that, you'd think the dark pulse laser would be burning holes in tanks. In fact, it's amazingly benign.