New laser star

image An artificial, laser-fed star now shines regularly over the sky of Paranal, home of ESO’s Very Large Telescope, one of the world’s most advanced large ground-based telescopes. This system provides assistance for the adaptive optics instruments on the VLT and so allows astronomers to obtain images free from the blurring effect of the atmosphere, regardless of the brightness and the location on the sky of the observed target. Now that it is routinely offered by the observatory, the skies seem much sharper to astronomers.

Blasting matter without heat

imageA company called Raydiance has recently released a desktop USP laser that puts out pulses of 800ps to 3ps of 1-5mj at 1552nm.  In short, it can "burn" through a variety of materials without creating heat as most other cutting lasers do.

The Raydiance breakthrough came in developing a desktop-size USP laser that could deliver power levels that could achieve non-thermal ablation in a device small and robust enough to have practical applications. Raydiance has transformed USP technology by shrinking a laboratory behemoth down to a desktop Internet appliance that is “plug and play”.

Laser powered bridge

OK, not really laser powered but lasers are being used in Wiltshire UK to alert drivers when their loads are tall enough to cause a bridge strike.

Heavy goods vehicles frequently strike the bridge after misjudging the height and width – but this could become a thing of the past thanks to some laser-guided technology.

There are now two new interactive height warning signs on the bridge that use lasers to judge whether a vehicle is too tall or wide.

The new signs, funded by Network Rail, warn drivers approaching the bridge from both sides if they are about to strike the masonry.

Lasers for stroke therapy

Saint Louis University has announced that they’re about to begin trials on a laser-based method for treating stroke victims.

Salvador Cruz-Flores, M.D., associate professor of neurology at Saint Louis University, is leading the only clinical trial in St. Louis that looks at an investigational device called the NeuroThera® Laser System to treat ischemic strokes. The study will enroll 660 patients at 50 centers worldwide.

To receive the laser treatment, the head of the patient is shaved. A special swimming cap-type covering put on the head that has openings that show 20 treatment sites where low-level lasers are activated.

Near-infrared light, generated from a laser, is delivered noninvasively for about two minutes to each site, which means the treatment lasts a total of 40 to 60 minutes. The laser treatment is broadly delivered because stroke also affects the tissue surrounding the blockage, Cruz-Flores said.

Is this more laser snake oil or is there really something to shining a low-power laser at the body?

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Laser powered… Scissors?

imageUsing lasers for surgery? Great idea.

Using lasers to make 3D images? Even better.

Using lasers on sharks? Way cool.

Putting a laser on a pair of scissors? Lame. It’s a good thing the company offers a 100% money-back guarantee.

If you have so much trouble cutting on a straight line that you want a laser on your scissors, this product won’t help you.

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Lasers that know when they’re going to die

According to :

A new range of 635 nm laser modules featuring a "near end-of-life detection" facility to warn operators of their impending failure will make their debut at LASER 2007. Photonic Products, a UK-based optoelectronics device manufacturer and laser diode specialist, says that it developed the PM-NEOLD laser-diode modules after a request by a client, and is now making them generally available.

"As a laser diode approaches the end of its operational life, its imminent failure is signalled by an increase in the current drawn by its drive circuitry," David McGinness technical sales manager told "Typically, when the current draw reaches a value of 120% of its original operating value, the laser diode is considered to have reached its ‘near end-of-life’ condition."

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Laser man pleads guilty

Back in April I linked to a story of a man in DeKalb county who was accused of shining a laser at a police copter. He’s plead guilty.

Mohammed Haghighi, 24, admitted in federal court that he repeatedly pointed the laser at the DeKalb County Police helicopter on the night of Feb. 4. He faces up to five years in custody for the incident, although he could receive probation, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

people, don’t shine your lasers at other people, especially the police.

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USA declares war on Venus!

On June 5th the Messenger spacecraft used Venus to get a boost on it’s way to Mercury and took the opportunity to take out some Venusians on the way.

Picture this: A spaceship swoops in from the void, plunging toward a cloudy planet about the size of Earth. A laser beam lances out from the ship; it probes the planet’s clouds, striving to reach the hidden surface below. Meanwhile, back on the craft’s home world, scientists perch on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens.

Probes the clouds. Right.

How long before laser pointers are legislated out of existence?

A man arrested in DeKalb county Georgia faces charges of lying to federal agents. It’s a bit odd since he apparently admitted to police that he’d shone his laser pointer at a police helicopter.

Mohammed Haghighi, 24, allegedly shined the laser at the craft as it responded Feb. 4 to a melee at a roller rink near his apartment. Authorities said the pilots, who were wearing night vision goggles, were temporarily disoriented as the laser bathed the cockpit glass in a green glow.

The pilots saw a man holding the laser and called ground units, who arrested Haghighi. He allegedly admitted shining the light at the helicopter.

Racetrack laser design

Researchers at UCSB in conjunction with Intel have come up with a novel design for a new laser resonator.

The resonator features a racetrack shaped design that will ultimately reduce the cost of production and improve efficiency.

The integration of a racetrack laser with a photodetector on the hybrid silicon evanescent device platform demonstrates the potential to realize practical photonic integrated circuits on a silicon substrate. These two types of photonic devices are fabricated on a single active region design showing the flexibility of the hybrid silicon evanescent device platform. On-chip testing and characterization of the laser simplifies the testing by eliminating facet polishing and characterization uncertainties caused by coupling losses. We have demonstrated a monolithic laser with output powers up to 29 mW operating up to 60 C in the range of 1590nm.