The Times West Virginian

Community News Network

March 26, 2013

Slate: Your laser pointer is probably illegal

For all the whining everyone's always doing about jetpacks and other tech of the future, you'd think we'd be more impressed with the teeming abundance and affordability of lasers. In fact, we're so over Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, we've relegated the technology to kitschy beach-shop key chains and board games for nerds.

And yet a new study shows a majority of the dinky laser pointers on the market exceed the power level limits set by the Code of Federal Regulations, which means a whole lot of twerps out there wield far more retina-burning power than they should.

That laser pointers are potentially dangerous shouldn't come as any big surprise. However, ubiquity has a way of breeding a lack of respect. And lack of respect leads people to point electromagnetic radiation at the eye holes of rival soccer clubs or helicopter and airplane pilots.

"The human eye is a fantastic optical instrument capable of concentrating light a 100,000 times onto the retina," explains Joshua Hadler, physicist and laser safety officer for the National Institute of Standards and Technology Laser Radiometry Project. "More than a few milliwatts at the cornea can be focused to a spot so small that the power density on the retina can become greater than that generated when staring into the sun."

Power limits put in place by the CFR cap laser pointers at 5 milliwatts. Anything more powerful than that is technically not a "laser pointer" — that is, a handheld laser intended to trick an audience into thinking your PowerPoint slides are even vaguely interesting. Which is why it's concerning that Hadler and his co-authors Marla Dowell and Edna Tobares found some of the laser pointers they tested to be well above the 5 milliwatt output advertised on the labels. One showoff laser pointer clocked in at an absurd 66.5 milliwatts.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 17, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads