Sunday, 02 January 2005

Idiots and A**holes. They’re everywhere, unfortunately. People who run a company that sells cool stuff to people might occasionally have to sit down and have a conversation with, oh say the FBI. Hey, at least you can blog about it!

Laser_cautionApparently, a not-so-naturally-select number of people are taking green handheld laser pointers (which are quite bright out of the box ), increasing their power, and (like complete idiots) pointing them into aircraft that are flying overhead. Of course, common sense tells us if you’re aiming a laser into an aircraft, it’s probably close to the ground and chances are the light scatter through the glass is going to be intense. Not to mention I seem to recall that when I was a kid growing up in a national laboratory town, there being a warning label on every laser ever made about not shining it in a person’s eyes…

In a blog entry called “Jasper Green Lasers: useful tool or terrorist weapon?” (hey look Scoble – A corporation with a blog, heh!), Bigha Sales and Marketing guy Noah Acres (dude, nice web site, seriously) talks about a little visit he was paid by the FBI, duly (and correctly) chastises any of his customers who might be using the devices illegally, and let’s those people know that some (very interesting-sounding) technology can and will be used to hunt anyone doing this down, at which point they could be quickly taken to jail. Nice! We need more of this kind of law enforcement! [EDIT: In the comments for this post, Noah points out that the secret technology is – once again - a common sense approach: The pilot or observer can jook where the super bright green beam of light is coming from on the ground, and radio in the location. Ahhh – GPS/LORAN/etc! Hey, works for me – technology doesn’t have to be very complicated to work!]

Inlineimage_handBut anyhow, about the laser, because this is a tech blog after all, and these things are pretty cool… Maybe you’ve heard of the Jasper Laser (or any one of a number of similar handheld pointers of lower quality). It’s a very bright green laser, running at 5mw, which is the highest power at which a class IIIa laser can legally operate. Class IIIa is also the highest power laser you can operate without a permit.

Unfortunately, there are places that modify this laser and others like it and then sell them on the Internet. There are videos of modified lasers cutting through plastic cups.

Bigha is a company in Corvallis, Oregon that makes cool bicycles. They also happen to sell Jasper handheld lasers, which are perfectly legal and kinda cool.

In their Jasper Laser FAQ, they tell potential purchasers…

“When used with common sense, Jasper is completely safe.”

They also offer these safety tips on the web site:

1. Don't allow children to use Jasper without close adult supervision.

2. Don't shine Jasper into:

  • passing cars, airplanes or other vehicles
  • windows of houses
  • around the eyes of any person or animal
  • mirrors or other highly reflective surfaces — the beam might bounce into someone's area of vision
  • any optical instrument that might focus Jasper's energy into someone's eyes

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who have no notion or concept of common sense. It is these dolts that don’t think about what they are doing and end up hurting people. It’s also these dolts that read the first two sentences in this paragraph and think it’s not talking about them.

More from the FAQ pages on the Bigha web site:

“… as the beam gets brighter it also contains more energy and can cause harm to eyesight. The beam can even burn if brought to too high a level. It is illegal to modify a Class IIIa laser to output more than 5mw. Anything stronger becomes a Class IIIb device and requires a safety interlock and a mechanical shutter. It is also illegal to use a Class IIIb laser in a public place without special permission … 5mw lasers are quite adequate for everyday use, indoors and out. More power than that increases the health risk to others and shortens the life of the laser itself.”

Good for Noah and Bigha.Subscribed” the the blog [hey guys, put a nifty RSS icon on your web page :-)], and I only wish more companies would have the cojones to yell at their customers and others who are making it hard for them to do business or who are putting other people at risk. Nail ‘em, man. None of us need dolts and idiots running around pulling crap like that.

And I think I want a green laser now. Heh.

Add/Read: Comments [7]
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Sunday, 02 January 2005 09:56:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Sunday, 02 January 2005 18:58:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
First: I don't have a laser pointer. I think their relatively useless, and at best slightly annoying.

Second: I know most people don't have my curiosity for things that can potentially do damage.

When a friend showed me his new light emitting toy, I (as always) Shined it directly into my eye to see how it compares to staring into the sun. It's slightly less intense an arc welder. Really would have to stair straight into one for several seconds (1/2 a minuet or so) to get any effect lasting more than few of minutes. The reason 5mw was chosen as the "legal limit" was because even when shined straight into someone's, eye it's relatively harmless. Nobody has ever been hurt by an un-modified store bought laser pen.
Sunday, 02 January 2005 19:08:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Unfortunately, many of these 4.5-5mw laser pens are ebing modified to run at MUCH higer power. Like burning a hole through a plastic cup in a second or two kind of power. Also aiming a weapon a long freakin way with a bright light at even a couple miles kind of power. I think that's whay they're more concerned about.

I also don't find them very useful, and let's face it - nothing ruins a movie quite like the stupid dancing lights.
Monday, 03 January 2005 22:17:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Wow, thanks for the props on the site, Greg! I just want to make a little correction.

The cops don't have any mysterious technology to track down the laser holders. At least not that I know of. It's just that since the entire beam is visible, someone flying in the air could see the beam pointing back to the ground and determine pretty much your exact location.

Not to long ago I was sitting through a really terrible movie and I had the near-uncontrollable urge to start shining my Jasper on the screen. But then I realized everyone would know it was me since the beam points right back at me. Some people aren't so smart apparently.

I actually feel bad for the guy in question. It sounds like an innocent mistake. Others are being more sinister. They should go to jail.
Wednesday, 05 January 2005 00:47:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Hey, anyone know where I can find out about modifying the laser beam to make it more powerful?

I don't have a laser to try it out on, but from a physics perspective it sounds interesting.

(Though, if i had a jasper pen, i probably would try it...shhhh)
Monday, 30 January 2006 03:08:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
eh, just so ya know, that laser burning through a cup is not a modified crappy little laser pointer. It's a totally different machine, and it costs over 600 bucks. You can't get enough energy out of AAA batteries to make a green laser pointer pen to cut through anything.
Please stop propagating crap and confusing ppl, the internet already has all the morons it needs without you making it worse by spreading horribly uninformed rubbish.
test user
Sunday, 07 May 2006 19:49:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
How do you actually modify a 5MW laser? Do you open it up and turn a screw? Could you please tell me how to.
Sunday, 18 June 2006 19:26:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
hi, i have a green laser pointer thats 5 mw and i was wondering how u can modify it to make it stronger? b/c i had it all the way apart and idk how u would make it stronger. thanks
curtis sayres
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