Thursday, Aug. 05, 2010

Laser Pointers

It seemed like such a good idea. As PowerPoint overtook slide projectors, lasers, once the preserve of missile-defense systems and rock concerts, allowed a presenter to emphasize a point without getting in the way of the pretty slides. Soon, laser pointers became smaller and more powerful. You could have one on your key chain and dazzle your boss in a budget meeting. You could point to the constellation Orion and wow your kids. You could even use one to ward off bears while camping. Or you could shoot a soccer goalie in the eye during a World Cup qualifier (Saudi Arabia vs. South Korea, 2008) or perhaps point it at passing planes. In 2008, following a rash of laser attacks on Sydney passenger jets, the Australian government banned high-powered lasers. Most of Europe followed suit, and while the U.S. allows medium-powered pointers (up to 5 mw), anything more powerful will get you in trouble with the law.