back to article El Reg acquires wildly dangerous laser cannon (with lightsabre option)

Once a year, El Reg's Special Projects Bureau compiles a hardware/office supplies acquisition list for the coming 12 months, which is ceremoniously laid before management in the hope the Vulture Central coffers are particularly cornucopious. The trick is to slip in the more provocative items amid the usual litany of …


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  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    At last!

    A way to return LOHAN to the ground, if everything else fails!

  2. ratfox

    Nice lightsabres

    But do they make the NOISE?

    1. jai

      Re: Nice lightsabres

      all the best Jedi's make their own noise.

      that said, hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid!

  3. EddieD


    I want one - or two - but no matter how hard I try, I can't justify spending more on a toy light than I do on my off-road lights, no matter how fun it would be to mount one of these on my bike...Take that Mr BMW with HIDs....damn, it's tempting.

    1. MrT


      ...Powerdrive light things up off-road nicely on my bike...

      Actually, I read the headline and thought that the Vulture Bureau of Reconstruction had invested in some of that snazzy new solar-powered Playmobil Future Planet stuff. Not that I'm disappointed or anything...

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Lovely.

      forget mr BMW with HIDs, a large number of cyclists in rural areas have absolutely BLINDING lights strapped to their heads.

      Seriously - it's no fun having green spots in your vision when you're driving at night after passing one of these. If these were on cars they'd fail their MOT and/or result in roadside impoundment (There are standardsdefined for bike lights but most of the ones I encounter seem to be repurposed 3-5W MR16 Leds with no consideration for beamwidth by the users.

    3. Steven Roper
      Big Brother

      Re: Lovely.

      At least you have the option to buy them.

      Here in the People's Nanny State Republic of Ausfailia, the government, in its never-ending quest to wrap us all in the cotton wool of paranoid safety, has classed all lasers over 1 mW as controlled firearms, and it's illegal to own, sell or import them into this pathetic fucked-up cuntry (spelling slip intentional).

      Just another reason why I recommend against coming to this police state on holiday. Go to China instead. There's more to see, it's more free and you're actually allowed to own lasers there.

      1. Cheshire Cat

        Re: Lovely.

        Same here in New Zealand, due to numerous brainless jerks thinking it is fun to target aircraft on their final approach and dazzle the pilots. Probably a good thing restricting them, considering the potential for disaster caused by mindless loons.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Next year's requisition

    ... will include (rather belatedly)

    Laser warning signs (adhesive backed)

    Food for guide dog

  5. frank ly

    Is it waterproof?

    And is there an ornamental pond nearby with some large Koi in it? Start small and work your way up.

  6. jai

    i want one

    actually, i want two! i'm so jealous!!

    although, at $1200 for the kit you had, it'll be some time before i'm ready for a jedi battle...

    are these powerful enough to use as a means of lifting a craft into the sky? i seem to recall seeing something on telly... was it a James May show? where these guys in the States were pulsing a laser directly into the sky, and placing a silver bowl into the beam lifted it up into the sky

    1. Dr. Mouse

      Re: i want one

      I don't think my bride-to-be will be too impressed if I blow my bonus (earmarked for the wedding) on one of these.

      Hmm... Wife or frikin' laser?

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: i want one

        Hmm... Wife or frikin' laser?

        Depends if you try and mount it on her head in lieu of a shark?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: i want one

          Or depending on your wife, some women could be classed as sharks, let's be honest. (Not that I am making any assumptions here)

          Anon because my wife reads this and consider the icon to be "mines the coat" with quick getaway on the back.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: @Anonymous Custard: i want one

          You have a shark mounted on your wife's head?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Mephistro

          Re: i want one

          Why would anyone want to mount a shark in his wife's head???!!!

          Upon considering the matter for a few seconds, I'm getting horny. Where can you buy a shark?

      2. Robert Helpmann??

        Re: i want one

        Hmm... Wife or frikin' laser?

        Obviously, you need to buy a his-and-hers set. Either she enjoys the new toy and you are good, or she uses it on you and the problem is solved that way.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Re: i want one

        Hah, newlyweds!!! It's a wonder anyone stays married these days.

        Seriously, any man worth his salt knows that you go out and buy the laser, then give it to your best friend, who then re-gifts it as a wedding present!! You can even go for wife brownie points by offering to help with the post-wedding thank you cards (which also serves to cover up the agreement).

        Here, let me help you with the thank you salutation:

        "Dear XXXXX,

        XXXXX and I want to thank you for the thoughtful gift of the Mark 9000 HyperLaser with optional Jedi Knight package. This will definitely come in handy the you for next time my sweetie wants me to kill a spider on the ceiling, start the fireplace when I don't want to get off the couch or scorch our initials and protestation of undying love into the side of the local highway overpass. I'm actually looking forward to my honey's and my first argument, where I can add the Jedi Knight package and warn her "You can't win baby! If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine!!" In short, this gift will be at least as useful as the chafing dish we got from my in-laws or the three sterling silver tea sets that we now have to return.

        It's generosity like this that makes you like a brother to me, and I'll let you know when XXXXXX stops thinking you're an irresponsible 12-year old and is OK with you actually coming over."

        Congratulations on the now-guaranteed success of your marriage, and "with you may the Force be"!!

    2. Tim Worstal

      Re: i want one

      If you can build a pulsed laser powerful enough then you can lift an entire spaceship with one.

      Bell shaped chamber at the bottom, shine the (pulsed, this is important) laser in there and you've got lift. Once out of the atmosphere you'd need to be boiling something to continue accelerating. Caesium would do nicely.

      Not that I know anything about the science or engineering of this of course. All comes from an old Jerry Pournelle story/

      1. Christoph

        Re: i want one

        It's much more than just a Pournelle story. There's various suggestions for laser propulsion, one of the neat ones uses ice as the propellant. Blast that with a really big laser and the steam pushes your spaceship. All the big mass stays on the ground and doesn't have to be lifted. And all the complicated bits stay on the gropund where your engineers are.

        The first studies on this were by Arthur Kantrowitz. There has been some practical work on it, in particular by Jordin Kare - I asked him about it once and he told me that the system is practicable and just needs enough investment.

      2. Grey Bird

        Re: i want one

        I don't remember ever reading about laser propulsion of space ships, but there was an actual project for using nuclear explosions to launch a spacecraft.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: i want one

          Laser-powered vehicle launch:

 (launch is at 1 mintue 50 seconds).

          It reaches a height of 233 feet. The point is that the power source / fuel stays on the ground.

      3. David Given
        Thumb Up

        Re: i want one

        There's a video of a prototype laser-pumped vehicle here:

        Of course, the laser is ex-SDI antisatellite laser and is stupidly powerful (there's a scene where it rips the hell out of a paper target), and the vehicle is a tinfoil toy and gets maybe 10-15m into the air, but it does show the technique works.

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    She's not a real Jedi

    The pajama pants give it away.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: She's not a real Jedi

      They normally wear just dressing gowns...

  8. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    Where on earth can you still get a spare 500 MB drive?

    If you want one like that, maybe you can also use my 8" floppy disk (128 kB storage!!) with CP/M2.0 on it (official copy).

    1. Paul Webb

      Re: Where on earth can you still get a spare 500 MB drive?

      Gut one of these:

      Trade you for your 8"!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And I thought Q-Beam's were usefull...

    And I quote:

    ...but then at its full output of up to 1W, you certainly wouldn't want to be waving it around the boardroom anyway.

    I beg to differ.

    On a separate note, were you able to put a spot on the moon?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: And I thought Q-Beam's were usefull...

      Absolutely. The BOFH for one would love to wave one around in the boardroom.

    2. Psyx

      Re: And I thought Q-Beam's were usefull...

      "On a separate note, were you able to put a spot on the moon?"

      "The lightsabre option is great fun for kids"

      Is that really a good idea? Wouldn't it be safer to give them some explosives to play with?

      1. hplasm

        Re: Is that really a good idea?.

        You'd better be wearing hi-vis and carrying a clip board when you say that...

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: And I thought Q-Beam's were usefull...

        "Is that really a good idea? Wouldn't it be safer to give them some explosives to play with?"

        Bonfire night is coming up soon, don't worry!

  10. P. Lee

    Please don't tell me

    that you crossed the beams!

  11. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    Ok, very nice but...

    ... how long before some idiot starts flashing one of these at passing cars/ aeroplanes/ whatever?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Ok, very nice but...

      Exactly. I'm just glad that these units are priced beyond the reach of most kids. Scary stuff.

  12. Mike Brown

    not to be a killjoy, but what are the practical uses for a consumer to own one of these? apart from "holy shit, its cool" These seem incredibly dangerous.

    1. MacroRodent


      Making holograms?

      (But it is not easy. Tried it with a couple of friends and the science teacher when my high school got its first laser, and all we achieved was some clear films. More enthusiasm than knowledge we had. This was decades ago)

      1. Grey Bird

        Re: Holograms?

        I had a class where we did this in college. Made simple holograms using methods that weren't that difficult, but did require an industrial laser. (This was ~ 1991 or 1992 if I remember correctly.)

    2. Elmer Phud


      "not to be a killjoy, but what are the practical uses for a consumer to own one of these? apart from "holy shit, its cool" These seem incredibly dangerous."

      Of course they are dangerous and would have someones eye out --

      That's the point .

      (Cars are also great toys but tend to kill if pointed indiscriminately at people and operated)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OFFS!

        "(Cars are also great toys but tend to kill if pointed indiscriminately at people and operated)"

        Trouble is some lunatic or fanatic could blind half a football stand with one of these

      2. Psyx
        Thumb Up

        Re: OFFS!

        "(Cars are also great toys but tend to kill if pointed indiscriminately at people and operated)"

        I would hazard that cars have a practical value.

        I'm not sure what the honest practical value of this other, other than "Wa-hoo, this is awesome!" [which it is, but I'm not sure I want it to be available for purchase for people with sub-100 IQs!]

    3. A J Stiles

      Apart from?!

      What are you on about? "Holy shit, it's cool!" is a more than good enough reason per se to want one of these things.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The power rating of these are one reason that they are illegal to buy and sell in the UK without the correct licence, in fact anything over 1mW (it used to be 5mW) is liable to be stopped on import (if it's for resale, personal imports should still be OK), because of the frequency the green ones are particularly dangerous (more damaging than red of the same power, 200mW will cause perminent damage faster than the blink response), contary to popular belief they are not illegal to own, but do anything stupid (like shine at unprotected eyes or aircraft) you could be looking at prison.

      1. Graham Wilson

        Re: Killjoy<>Joykill?

        "contary to popular belief they are not illegal to own"

        Going from 5mW to 1mW is truly Nanny State stuff which I certainly don't agree with, but ready access to 1W devices shouldn't be possible. As with guns, lasers >200mW are potentially very dangerous and should be licenced and the licensee appropriately trained (and such lasers kept under lock and key a la armory procedures). Moreover, unlike a rifle where every round fired is the result of a deliberative action by the shooter, a laser's continuous wave output combined with that it can be swung through an arc makes it particularly dangerous.

        My concern is that now these devices are commercially available it means that those with ill intent will obtain them one way or another, and after a few people are blinded by the fuckwitted action of others--and as sure as eggs they will be, then the Nanny State will make it almost impossible for the legitimate user to gain access them.

        1. BlueGreen

          Re: Killjoy<>Joykill?

          A few months ago I was going into a small club (well, pub with dancefloor) and some diminutive twat of a bouncer had a little green laser and was now and then shinging it onto women's backs as they went in, while wearing apeish smirk. It made an amazingly bright little green dot - I would not have wanted that in my eyes even though it *probably* would not have done anything permanent. It was pretty impressive even when just scattering off clothing from a few feet away though.

          I just don't see the practical value of such a thing, unlike e.g. cars. There are too many dangerously stupid people in the world, perhaps like those who play with such lasers in the presence of children (no I don't think the shades were adequate protection, at all).

          FTR <>. I recall that the laser was 'a few watts' (no more specific details and my memory may be wrong).

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Killjoy<>Joykill?

        Prison yes - IF you can catch the bastards.

        I got flashed with a high power green laser while driving a few months back, by a wanker standing outside a pub. Cops called by about 10 different drivers. By the time they arrived he'd also targetted a few aircraft on their way into Gatwick - but he stepped into the pub and couldn't be found.

    5. hplasm

      'a consumer'

      Is that how you see yourself?

    6. NumptyScrub

      quote: "not to be a killjoy, but what are the practical uses for a consumer to own one of these? apart from "holy shit, its cool" These seem incredibly dangerous."

      So are shotguns, and they are perfectly legal to purchase and operate in the UK, if you can be bothered spending £50 on the certificate and have a nice talk with the local firearms officer about responsible use of firearms. They can be considerably cheaper than these lasers, too.

      Also, anyone with a working knowledge of physics can construct their own laser from a collection of perfectly legal components. CO2 (that demon gas) creates an infrared laser that can be easily used to ignite things at a high enough power, invisible Martian "heat-ray" style.

      So, those things considered, your point was that you think a high powered laser could potentially be dangerous, and I am assuming the unwritten portion of your thoughts was that they should therefore be regulated somehow. Might I suggest the shotgun or firearms certificate as a good starting point? That would make sure only criminals have unlicensed lasers, after all :)

      Heh... firearms certificates required for a CD-ROM, that would be classic nanny state :D

  13. James Micallef Silver badge

    "holy shit, its cool" isquite enough for me

  14. thomas newton

    @ graham marsden

    do you really think Stabby McChav is reading this, and would spend his hard-earned giro on one? they'll stick with the £5 jobbies from the local tat shop.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: @ graham marsden

      Or steal one?

  15. Pen-y-gors

    Sharks for sale


    6ft long black head shark, only $950 - I'm sure they can find that in El Reg's petty cash - although building the aquiarium may cost a bit more (anyone got any transparent aluminium?)

    1. Christoph

      Re: Sharks for sale

      How about mounting it on an Air Swimmers Remote Control Flying Shark?

      1. dogged
        Thumb Up

        Re: Sharks for sale

        That (the shark) may very well be the coolest thing ever.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Thomas Newton

    ... No they won't stick to their £5 tat. They'll be impressed that these things can pop balloons, or burn stuff, and want the higher powers. What El Reg bought was a precision machined aluminium device that is tested and comes with safety instructions and glasses. What the chavs will buy shall be cheap chinese crap off ebay with no safety and no true measurements or testing.

    There is no need for these things - anything above say 5mw should be banned outside of licensed industrial use. This comes from me as an engineer that is interested in using lasers, and the higher power ones too (free space optics), but I don't see a problem with being charged a one off cost for a license. This will dissuade idiots from buying, and give the authorities something hard to crack down against when people sell these items.

  17. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Up

    This is what I want from a tech publication

    Mindless gee-whizzery!


  18. jubtastic1
    Thumb Down

    I'm in the killjoy camp

    "You'll shoot your eye out!"

    Massive potential for accidental permenent blindness outweighs coolness of these lasers.

    1. Squeezer

      Re: I'm in the killjoy camp

      When I was at NPL to do some equipment calibration last year I was amused at a warning sign on one of their optical test benches -- "Warning -- do not look into the laser beam with your remaining eye" :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm in the killjoy camp

        These must be standard in every laser lab. My partner did a chemistry masters at Oxbridge and they had one.

        They also had a load of service technicians who had points of vision missing because they got complacent. It's very, very easy to get complacent, it's also very easy to forget that a laser will knacker your vision above only a few milliwatts.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I seriously doubt that the green laser will be flashlight-levels of illumination at 137km as stated in the article. I suspect an extra digit there. 13km I could easily believe, but being able to illuminate, say, the ISS at flashlight levels from the ground? I don't think so....

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: 137km?

      Well, I had the same thought, and double checked with the manufacturer. They say that figure is correct...

    2. A J Stiles

      Re: 137km?

      No, it's quite believable. Even a cheap "toy" 1mW red laser pointer can, with careful adjustment of the focus, produce a spot which is visible from 100 metres.

      A laser is a point source and very tightly collimated, so the beam of light is a cone -- but one with a very, very small angle (the kind of angle where you don't bother distinguishing between θ, sin θ and tan θ anymore). The energy in the beam is distributed over the cross-sectional area of the base of the cone. Which, precisely because the angle is so narrow, doesn't vary much with distance.

    3. Christoph

      Re: 137km?

      Get them to add a Bessel beam output to the expanded lens kit. A perfect Bessel beam (which can't be made) doesn't spread out. At all.

  20. Magnus_Pym

    Home defence weapon?

    ... fire it off through a rotating mirror ball type thing and blind everybody in the room not wearing the correctly tinted glasses?

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Lovely, but dangerous

    Considering that incidents of lasers shone at planes on approach or police helicopters are on the increase in the UK, it's not particularly a good idea to be trumpeting the powers that this gadget has.

    Not only is it illegal in the UK (because of its power output), but it is dangerous in the hands of a non-professional (your daughter excluded, since she has a dad who is a professional).

    As much as it looks like a lot of fun, I'd prefer my pilots to be able to see things in the last few miles on approach into an airport, thank you very much.

    1. DragonLord

      Re: Lovely, but dangerous

      They're not illegal in the UK as there are so many legal reasons to own them (if you're a company, just a few if you're hobbyist). They are most definitely illegal to misuse though just like anything else like kitchen knives, baseball bats, bb guns, etc.

    2. Chemist

      Re: Lovely, but dangerous

      "I'd prefer my pilots to be able to see things in the last few miles"

      Me too. We were standing on the beach in the south of France a few weeks ago - very dark, beautiful starry night, far from any serious light pollution and then suddenly a brilliant green beam started up from inland pointing up and out into the med. sky. It flashed all over the place for about a minute, no obvious pattern like a laser light show, and then stopped. What it might have done to a pilot or even a sailor doesn't bear thinking about.

  22. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    This is no toy

    "For real penetration, though, check out the stats on the 532nm green Krypton. At full power, its NOHD is the same as the Arctic - 149m. However, its FL1 is a staggering 137,120m."

    To give that some perspective, that is 85 miles.

    I can see few reasons why anyone working outside of an industrial or research setting using such lasers would need something that can project a visible spot of light onto a building in London, from Swindon.

    1. dogged

      Re: This is no toy

      However, destroying Swindon from anywhere can only be a good thing.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: This is no toy

        @dogged, a good point, well made.

      2. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Re: This is no toy

        Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is no toy

      Me, I've wanted to go to the top of Pikes Peak, and have somebody in Goodland, KS, and see if the trip can be made....

      The folks on the Cog Rail say you CAN see a corrugated roof in Goodland on your way up, if the sun is right.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dangerous in an idiots hands

    I have one of those cheapo green lasers I got off Ebay a while ago. Can't remember the output (not to hand to check). Think it was well over 1mW though. Might be 3 or 5 not sure. Anyhow the first time I had it I was playing with it indoors and decided to shine it out into the dark outside the back window. Silly me forgetting to open it first and that that glass is reflective. I ended up being zapped in one eye. I had a bright green blob on the back of my retina for a good hour or more. Luckily I don't think I did any lasting damage but it was a good warning of just how dangerous these things can be.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As i own the Dragon lasers spartan 1w blue laser,( a better quality item than the shit wicked lasers pump, no pun intended, out) , a 500mw green laser, 300mw red and a 2.5w IR laser the one thing that has been overlooked is the quality of the optics.They are shite and the beam divergenge is massive. At 100 meters the "spot" is about 2-3 inches across, at 500 meters its about a foot....

    Also, none of these operate in true TEM00 mode.......

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sigh...

      I've also wondered about the coherence length as well - if you are doing holography, you need a coherence length > the depth of field.

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