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 RosenblumPosted 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.