Star Trek Phaser Built For Real?

I’m not sure I’m buying into this yet, but if you go to MSN.com they are featuring a video of a guy who built his own Star Trek phaser. He tests it out and it works like a toy until he pops a balloon with it. It wouldn’t be a hard stretch for me to imagine a laser popping a balloon (heat?), but I’m no expert on how lasers work.

What is disappointing is that MSN.com leaves it up to us to decide if it is real or not. How about giving some information on lasers or any science behind lasers that would aid us in verifying if the video is true or just doctored (like one comment by a reader who suggested they used a BB gun off to the side). What kind of reporting is that?

2 thoughts on “Star Trek Phaser Built For Real?

  1. I’m expert enough on lasers to comment. You can, in fact, pop a balloon with a laser by heating it enough to make a weak spot. Notice that the balloon is black, probably so it will absorb more energy. A mylar balloon would reflect the light just like a mirror.

    I notice a couple of things about this video:

    – There is a lot of smoke or dust in the air. You need this to see the laser — what you see is the dust that got in to the path of the beam. Otherwise, the light is all traveling in the direction of the beam and you would not see it.

    – It’s probably a real laser. You can see the laser illuminating the dust, but also scattering and reflections from other places in the room. For example, at 0:11 you can see the beam illuminating the white part of that appliance and you can see it reflected in the glass.

    – Lasers are not white, but if you look at http://www.rog8811.com/whitelaserpointer.htm you can see somebody’s description of how to use optics to combine multiple lasers into a single beam.

    – at 0:22, it takes nearly a half second to pop the balloon. This is not surprising — it is easy to put a little bit of energy into a laser, but hard to put a lot.

    – The room is dimly lit. This makes the laser look brighter than it is, because the camera is adjusted to the background lighting. It would look much less impressive in direct sunlight.

    If I needed to make this video, the easiest way to do it is to make a smoke filled room, a recorded sound effect, a black latex balloon, and a real laser. I would wear safety goggles to protect my eyes from the light.

    Really, this is just a stunt. There is nothing remarkable about this video, and this device is not a viable weapon unless you can shine it directly into somebody’s unprotected eyes.

  2. Excellent comment! (wish I could get more analysis like this). Thanks for taking the time to be informative.

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