Tunable Terahertz Lasers Could Allow Airport Scanners to Chemically Analyze Substances

A new way to tune the width of terahertz quantum cascade lasers heralds a breakthrough in airport scanning and much more

If Superman saw in terahertz radiation, he could do more than just peer through clothes and the human body. The Man of Steel might also be able to identify the chemical difference between a benign powder or an explosive tucked away inside a vial within a suitcase -- assuming that he could somehow tune his vision.

No worries, because an MIT electrical engineer and colleagues have managed to tune a small but powerful laser capable of generating terahertz rays. That could someday lead to airport scanners capable of even better snooping than superheroes.

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Scientists Stun Nematode Worms With UV Phaser Straight Out Of Star Trek

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.

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Boeing's Latest Mobile Laser Weapon Tracks and Shoots Down Drone

Laser Defense: Boeing's MATRIX high-energy directed weapon knocks a UAV out of the sky.  U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory
Boeing has just announced it successfully tracked and shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle with a laser weapon. Actually, it shot down five UAVs at various ranges with the trailer-mounted Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments (MATRIX).

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Laser-Enabled Wheelchair Autonomously Navigates City

LIDAR View Of The City :  via Physorg
For the blind and the physically disabled, moving about a busy urban environment alone presents a constant challenge. For the unlucky few who are both blind and disabled, or for those too impaired to look around while operating a wheelchair, that challenge becomes nearly insurmountable. But now a new "smart" wheelchair may allow those without sight or mobility to traverse a bustling city street.

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UK Calls For a Transforming, Laser-Toting Stealth UAV

In February, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) in Great Britain unveiled its plans for modernizing its military. Curiously similar to the US Army's recently killed Future Combat System, the British program looks to bring a new generation of unmanned vehicles, advanced sensors and energy weapons to the battlefield.

However, unlike its American counterpart, it looks like this project is a go.

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Laser-Wielding Scotsmen to Turn Landmarks into Holodeck Experiences

In April, a team from Glasgow School of Art will shoot lasers at the heads of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. And they will do it all in the name of preservation.

The Scottish artists have perfected a system of laser scanning giant monuments, ensuring the digital preservation of even their finest nooks and crannies. They have already completely digitized Scottish landmarks like Rosslyn Church and Stirling Castle. The team is also working in conjunction with CyArk, a non-profit dedicated to laser scanning 500 UNESCO world heritage sites.

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Air Force Uses Airborne Lasers to Create High-Speed Data Links

Researchers have tested the laser links at distances of almost 22 miles during flight

Manned Air Force jets and drones could soon send high quality video and audio by using ultra-high bandwidth lasers, transmitting critical battlefield data faster than ever. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has conducted experiments that transmit data without interference across almost 22 miles, both in the air and on the ground.

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Laser Watch of Tomorrow

Because lasers make even the most basic of tasks cooler

Imagine this. It’s a particularly boring day in the office and time is crawling by. You’ve minimised your computer’s Taskbar so you don’t have to look at the time, but a newfangled watch adorns your wrist constantly reminding you of the time no matter how many times you tell yourself not to look at it. As with many of life’s problems, the solution involves lasers.

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Laser Refrigeration is Fastest, Coolest Chilling Tech Yet

Physics nerds and sci-fi geeks just about everywhere agree: lasers are cool. But cool enough to drop the temperature of a gas by 119 degrees in a matter of seconds? German researchers say so, having made advances on ideas reaching back 30 years but never successfully executed. Bombarding high-pressure gas with a laser, the scientists were able to create a significant cooling effect, shaving the aforementioned 119 degrees from the gas almost instantly by pushing electrons into higher orbit.

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Smallest Laser Ever May Herald the Future Of Electronic Devices

For decades, electronic devices have been shrinking, in accordance with Moore's Law. Now, as circuits reach the size of single atoms, progress begins to bump up against the physical limitations of matter. Enter the spaser. This new kind of laser produces a beam so small that it could someday form the foundation of circuits made of light, not electrical impulses.

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Company Last Seen Making Lightning Guns Is Now Attaching Lasers To Planes

We at PopSci appreciate new weapons. And lasers. And laser weapons. Which is why we're excited to tell you that the Navy and the Marines have given a company called Applied Electronics about a million dollars to attach lasers onto planes. The weapons would be ultra-short-pulse (USP) lasers, which shoot beams of frequent-pulse light that create a path through the air, via which bolts of electricity can travel toward a target.

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Laser-Powered Lightcraft "At the Cusp of Commercial Reality"

The Lightcraft's laser propulsion engine undergoes hypersonic shock tunnel tests in Brazil

Future business travelers may literally ride a laser to work. The U.S. and Brazilian Air Forces are experimenting with Lightcraft technology that could become part of your daily commute, using plain old air to fuel 45-minute transcontinental jaunts.

The design uses a ground-based laser to beam the Lightcraft skyward on a series of blast waves. A parabolic mirror on the back of the craft would capture and focus the pulsing laser beam so that it heats air to 5 times the sun's temperature, creating mini-explosions that propel human passengers or cargo to any point on the planet in under an hour, or into orbit.

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Aluminum Blasted With X-Ray Laser Reveals New Transparent State of Matter

German researchers at the FLASH facility in Hamburg decided to roast a piece of aluminum foil with a 10-million-gigawatt X-ray laser. They heated the foil so hot that it became a new matter state: transparent aluminum. It's also believed to be the same state of matter that comprises the core of planets, such as Jupiter.

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Blind Drivers Get Behind the Wheel of Terrain-Scanning Car

New prototype uses lasers and force feedback to give the blind a chance to drive

For long-distance trips, the seeing-eye dog might soon be replaced by the seeing-eye car. Researchers on Virginia Tech's Blind Driver Team, with funding from the National Federation of the Blind, might soon give blind people the ability to do something they never thought possible: drive. The prototype "car" is actually a buggy equipped with lasers that judge the surrounding terrain.

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The Prism Is Part Laser Synth, Part Guitar, Pure Fun

Pitch Control: A range finder was installed on the Prism's neck to provide a Theramin-like effect of pitch bending.  Instructables

Building your own guitar or synthesizer is impressive enough. But when you decide to smash the two music makers together -- and throw some lasers in for kicks -- the end result is the jaw-droppingly awesome "Prism."

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