In a potential breakthrough for cryptography, a new laser light-scattering technique could be a fast and efficient way to generate truly random numbers, creating unknowable code formulas that will be able to thwart even the most sophisticated hackers. Led by Canadian researchers, the new method relies on the bizarre characteristics of quantum uncertainty.
It is much easier to get to Mars than to get deep inside this planet, so for all our knowledge about things like earthquakes and the magnetic field, Earth’s interior is actually very poorly understood. To study how metals interact at the prodigious pressures within, scientists squeeze small particles in the lab and heat them up — but this is an inexact science and difficult to do.
This week's step forward in conforming to the beauty standard at any cost is a laser that can turn brown eyes into blue ones. The treatment, developed by Stroma Medical's Dr. Gregg Homer, takes only 20 seconds to perform, but is irreversible. Aside from giving you the piercing stare of an Arctic wolf, the procedure could also impair your sight, experts warn. Brown eye pigment helps to prevent problems such as glare and double vision. Removing it could leave the eye with no way to control the light getting in.
NASA may be temporarily out of the manned spaceflight game, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t preparing to realize all of our most technologically compelling sci-fi fantasies. The agency’s Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) has awarded three researchers funding to study three different means of creating a tractor beam--a ray of laser light than can trap and pull objects in the opposite direction of the beam.
Another week, another scheme to clean up our bourgeoning space debris problem. This one, like many before it, calls for a powerful ground-based laser to remove orbital debris from low earth orbit. Using high-powered laser pulses fired from the ground, the system would create a small plasma jet emanating from the piece of junk itself, essentially turning each piece of debris into its own laser-powered rocket that would remove itself from orbit.
Improvised explosive devices are far and away the single biggest killer of coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the ability to identify hidden explosive threats is key to keeping soldiers safe. A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a tool that could detect roadside bombs from afar, using nothing more than a laser with an energy output of a presentation pointer.
Calling laser headlights “the next logical step” after the LED headlamp, BMW has announced that it will be rolling out laser-based illumination on its next-gen BMW i8 concept and will further develop laser headlight technology for extension across its various models. Why? It saves fuel. And presumably because laser headlights is something we’ve all secretly wanted on our European sports cars since MI6 tricked out 007’s first ride.
Researchers on two continents are reporting two big breakthroughs in quantum computing today — a quantum system built on the familiar von Neumann processor-memory architecture, and a working digital quantum simulator built on a quantum-computer platform. Although these developments are still constrained to the lab, they’re yet another sign that a quantum leap in computing may be just around the corner.
NASA is spending roughly $175 million on three new technology demonstration projects, one of which is aiming to take HD data streaming to Mars. The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will explore reliable optical communications technologies that could boost data rates between Earth and deep space by a couple of orders of magnitude.
An international team of researchers spanning Australia, North America, and Europe has created a model for a new kind of attosecond laser that should be able to film individual electrons as they participate in chemical reactions. Such high-res, high-speed data gathering has never been achieved before, and if successful the new laser system could have implications for everything from basic chemistry to complex pharmaceutical research and chemical engineering.
BAE System’s Mk 38 chain gun was already a formidable opponent: a 250millimeter cannon capable of putting 180 rounds per minute into the air from the deck of a naval ship, strongly urging those without clearance to keep a safe distance (of about 2,000 yards). But in a tip of the hat toward what the U.S. Navy considers the future of shipboard defense, BAE and Boeing have teamed up to accessorize the Mk 38 with a laser death ray. You know, just in case.
Police in England will soon deploy 3-D laser scanners to the scene of car crashes, saving time and allowing wreckage to be cleared from roadways more quickly. The 3-D accident reconstruction will also be more accurate than human-generated reports.
By Andrew Rosenblum
Posted 07.11.2011 at 10:14 am 29 Comments
On a rainy weekend last year, Patrick Priebe, a German lab technician and Iron Man fanatic who rewatches the film and its sequel every week, decided to build a compact yet powerful laser inspired by Tony Stark’s repulsor-beam weapon. In the U.S., the maximum strength for consumer laser pointers is typically five milliwatts; Priebe’s handheld laser is 1,000 milliwatts, enough to instantly blind anyone not wearing special safety glasses.
The reason most laser systems aren’t practical for jobs outside of the lab--things like missile defense or interstellar empire building--is because of their low efficiency and high maintenance. Powerful lasers are by nature big lasers requiring a lot of per unit input per unit of output, and they tend to need highly controlled conditions to function consistently and flawlessly.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.