Lasers are getting smaller and more powerful — earlier this month, we saw the first-ever atomic scale laser, and now researchers are reporting the smallest telecommunications-frequency laser ever built. The laser is one-fifteenth the size of the light waves it can produce, and it works at room temperature.
What do you call an armor-penetrating munition? MAHEM. A smokescreen that instantly closes around a tank? DRAPES. A robot that scavenges and feeds itself? EATR, of course.
At the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military's mad-science research wing, program managers must do the seemingly impossible. Not just slow down the speed of light and make fake blood. They also have to describe these pie-in-the-sky ideas to journalists, the public and Congress.
That's how you get some of the most amusing acronyms ever.
Lasers can be powerful weapons — they can take down an aircraft at long ranges and in unstable conditions, for instance. But they are hampered by power and size limits, so they’re not widely used by the military (yet).
Lockheed Martin has a solution: a fiber laser that basically works like a backward prism.
Star Trek introduced the world to a wide range of fictional technology, most of which, like beaming or warp drive, will likely remain fiction. However, a team of scientists from the University of Canada has taken the phaser, the show's famous stun-laser, out of the TV and into reality. Unfortunately, right now it only works on worms.
In a recent test at the White Sands Missile Range, a specially equipped C-130 plane fried a parked truck with a powerful laser. And while we still haven't seen evidence of the laser "defeating" a ground target, as Boeing puts it, a video of it scorching a direct hit on the hood of a truck is still pretty amazing.
NASA Goddard's Laser Ranging Facility hits the LRO in stride 28 times per second across a quarter million miles of space.
Tom Zagwodzki/Goddard Space Flight Center
Fancy yourself a sharpshooter at laser tag? The team at Goddard Space Flight Center might just have you beat. After all, since launching the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, they've been firing a laser across 250,000 miles of space, hitting the minivan-sized LRO as it orbits the moon at nearly 3,600 miles per hour. It's no lucky shot either; they do it 28 times per second.
Nanotechnology, lasers, genetics, and cancer? If there was also something about space, this story might have been a PopSci full house. Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), have figured out a way to deliver cancer-stopping RNA directly into the nucleus of a diseased cell. To get into the nucleus, the RNA is wrapped in special gold nanoshells which are then selectively opened by a laser.
People with glass desks shouldn't use mice without a dusty old mousepad–that used to be the rule, at least. Logitech announced two new mice today that work on virtually any surface, even glass. The Performance Mouse MX ($100) and Anywhere Mouse MX ($80) use a new dual-laser technology called DarkField (said in an ominous Dark Knight voice, of course) to track your movements on the shiniest, clear surfaces. Can it be true?
There's no fricking laser beams attached to sharks, but Dr. Evil might still be jealous. The U.S. Navy wants to test a high-powered laser against the threat of small boats or even jet skis carrying RPG-wielding riders.
Northrop Grumman came away with the $98-million contract for the Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) in early July. Next up: installing a prototype of the laser on a ship and testing it on a remote-controlled small boat within the next 18 months.