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First Liquid-Cooling Laser Could Advance Biological Research (washington.edu) 55

Zothecula writes: In a world where lasers are sci-fi's weapon of choice for melting away an enemy spaceship, researchers at the University of Washington have swum against the current and produced the first laser capable of cooling liquids. " They demonstrated that the laser could refrigerate saline solution and cell culture media that are commonly used in genetic and molecular research. To achieve the breakthrough, the UW team used a material commonly found in commercial lasers but essentially ran the laser phenomenon in reverse. They illuminated a single microscopic crystal suspended in water with infrared laser light to excite a unique kind of glow that has slightly more energy than that amount of light absorbed. This higher-energy glow carries heat away from both the crystal and the water surrounding it." The technology could be especially useful for slowing down single cells and allowing scientists to study biological processes as they happen.

Laser Strikes On Aircraft Increasing In Frequency (usatoday.com) 161

puddingebola writes: The FAA is reporting a record number of laser strikes on aircraft for 2015. From the article: "The Federal Aviation Administration recorded 5,352 laser strikes through Oct. 16, up from 2,837 for all of 2010. ... Some airports have reported more than 100 laser strikes this year: Los Angeles had 197; Phoenix had 183; Houston had 151; Las Vegas had 132, and Dallas-Fort Worth had 115. On July 15, during a 90-minute period, 11 airliners and one military aircraft reported laser strikes near New York City-area airports. Those incidents remain under investigation by the FAA, FBI and New Jersey state police."

Australia Working On High-Tech Shark-Detection Systems (itworld.com) 81

jfruh writes: Even if you're a frequent ocean swimmer, you're much more likely to die in a car accident than from a shark attack — and yet sharks strike fear into people's hearts in ways that directly affect the economies of surf paradises like Australia. That's why the Australian government is working on a host of techologies to detect shark incursions on popular beaches, including drones and smart buoys (PDF) that can identify potential predators (PDF).

Asteroid Impact Mission Sets Sights On New Laser Communications Record (esa.int) 10

Zothecula writes: Laser-based communications has the ability to beam enormous amounts of data at high speed, but the use of this technology in space is still in its infancy. To help push things along, ESA's proposed Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) will carry out a record-setting demonstration of space laser communications across a distance of 75 million kilometers (46 million mi) while orbiting a binary asteroid.

Scientists Control a Fly's Heartbeat With a Laser (ieee.org) 17

the_newsbeagle writes: Researchers have demonstrated a laser-based pacemaker in fruit flies, and say that a human version is "not impossible."

The invention makes use of optogenetics, a technique in which the DNA that codes for a light-sensitive protein is inserted into certain cells, enabling those cells to be activated by pulses of light. Researchers often use this method to study neurons in the brain, but in this case the researchers altered flies' heart cells. Then they activated those cardiac cells using pulses of light, causing them to contract in time with the pulses (abstract). Voila, they had an optical pacemaker that worked on living adult fruit flies.

Don't worry, no one can control your heartbeat with a laser just yet. That would require inserting foreign DNA into your heart cells, and also finding a way to shine light through the impediment of your flesh and bones. But lead researcher Chao Zhou of Lehigh University is working on it.


Boeing Demonstrates Drone-Killing Laser 125

An anonymous reader writes: Boeing has successfully tested a new weapon system that tracks unmanned aircraft and shoots them down with a laser. The system is surprisingly small — it can be transported in a few medium-sized boxes, and two techs can set it up in minutes. The laser needs just a few seconds of continuous [contact] to set a drone aflame, and the tracking gimbal is precise enough to target specific parts of a drone. "Want to zap the tail so it crashes and then you can go retrieve the mostly intact drone and see who is trying to spy on you? Can do. Think it's carrying explosives and you want to completely destroy it? No problem." The laser is controlled with custom targeting software that runs on a laptop, with help from an Xbox 360 controller. Boeing expects the laser system to be ready for sale in the next year or two.

Scientists Arm Cells With Tiny Lasers 35

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have implanted tiny lasers within living cells. A team of physicists and biologists have coaxed a cell to envelop a tiny plastic sphere that acts like a resonant cavity—thus placing a whole laser within a cell (abstract). The spheres are seasoned with a fluorescent dye, so that a zap with one color of light makes them radiate at another color. The light then resonates in the sphere, triggering laser action and amplifying itself. So although demonstrated only in cultured cells, the technique might someday be used to track the movement of individual cells, say, within cancerous tumors.

Scientists Look For Patterns In North Carolina Shark Attacks 92

HughPickens.com writes: The Washington Post reports that there have been seven recent shark attacks in North Carolina. Scientists are looking for what might be luring the usually shy sharks so close to shore and among the swimmers they usually avoid. It's an unusual number of attacks for a state that recorded 25 attacks between 2005 and 2014. Even with the recent incidents, researchers emphasize that sharks are a very low-level threat to humans, compared with other forms of wildlife. Bees, for example, are much more dangerous. And swimming itself is hazardous even without sharks around.

George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida's Florida Museum of Natural History, speculates that several environmental factors could be pushing sharks to congregate in the Outer Banks. It is a warm year, and the water has a higher level of salinity because of a low-level drought in the area. Also, a common species of forage fish — menhaden — has been abundant this year and might have attracted more sharks to the area. Burgess also says some fishermen put bait in the water near piers, which could lure the predators closer to shore; two of the encounters took place within 100 yards of a pier. "That's a formula for shark attacks," Burgess says of these conditions, taken together. "Now, does that explain seven attacks in three weeks? No, it doesn't."

Facebook Successfully Tests Laser Internet Drones 59

rtoz writes: At its F8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook announced the first hardware it plans to use to beam the Internet down to billions of people around the world. Codenamed "Aquila," the solar-powered drone has a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 737, but weighs less than a small car. It will be powered by solar panels on its wings, and it will be able to stay at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet for months at a time. Facebook says it'll begin test flights this summer, with a broader rollout over the next several years. The drones were tested over the UK recently, and everything worked as expected.

Laser Takes Out Truck Engine From a Mile Away 274

MutualFun (1730480) writes Aerospace company Lockheed Martin has used a laser to obliterate the engine of a small truck from more than a mile away. (Finally, Star Wars is making a comeback!) The company says, "The demonstration marked the first field testing of an integrated 30-kilowatt, single-mode fiber laser weapon system prototype. Through a technique called spectral beam combining, multiple fiber laser modules form a single, powerful, high-quality beam that provides greater efficiency and lethality than multiple individual 10-kilowatt lasers used in other systems."

The US Navy Wants More Railguns and Lasers, Less Gunpowder 517

coondoggie writes Speaking before nearly 3,000 attendees at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology EXPO in Washington, D.C., Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert charged his audience to reduce reliance on gunpowder in a wide-ranging speech on the future technological needs of the Navy. "Number one, you've got to get us off gunpowder," said Greenert, noting that Office of Naval Research-supported weapon programs like Laser Weapon System (LaWS) and the electromagnetic railgun are vital to the future force. “Probably the biggest vulnerability of a ship is its magazine—because that’s where all the explosives are." Weapons like LaWS have a virtually unlimited magazine, only constrained by power and cooling capabilities aboard the vessel carrying them. In addition, Greenert noted the added safety for Sailors and Marines that will come from reducing dependency on gunpowder-based munitions.

Finland Announces an Anti-Laser Campaign For Air Traffic 114

jones_supa writes Trafi, the Finnish Pilots' Association, and STUK, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, have launched a joint campaign against air traffic interference with the title "Lasers Are Not Toys." Ilkka Kaakinen from Trafi says that laser pointers interfering with air traffic is a real problem in Finland. "We receive reports of several cases of laser interference every month and every one of them is potentially dangerous," Kaakinen says. Last year, 60 cases of laser pointer interference were reported in Finland, and the figure for this year was at 58 in November. Despite the continuing interference, only one person has been caught misusing a laser pointer in this way in Finland. That single person was not convicted of a crime, as the court was not able to establish intent. Kaakinen says other countries hand down severe punishments for interfering with air traffic, even years-long stretches in prison. He also reminds that it is important for users of laser pointers to understand that the devices are not toys, and that children should be warned of the potential danger in using them irresponsibly – or ideally, not given one at all.

Trains May Soon Come Equipped With Debris-Zapping Lasers 194

Molly McHugh writes: Holland's chief transportation service is testing a unique new way to clear the rails of fallen leaves and other small debris: by mounting lasers on the fronts of locomotives. The lasers will cause the leaves, which produce a condition commonly referred to as "slippery rail" in the fall and winter months, to vanish in a puff of smoke.

Laser Creates Quantum Whirlpool 59

Quantus347 writes: Physicists at The Australian National Univ. (ANU) have engineered a spiral laser beam and used it to create a whirlpool of hybrid light-matter particles called polaritons. Polaritons are hybrid particles that have properties of both matter and light. The ability to control polariton flows in this way could aid the development of completely novel technology to link conventional electronics with new laser- and fiber-based technologies. Polaritons form in semiconductors when laser light interacts with electrons and holes (positively charged vacancies) so strongly that it is no longer possible to distinguish light from matter.

Engineers Build Ultrasmall Organic Laser 22

ckwu writes: Researchers have made the tiniest organic laser reported to date. The 8-micrometer-long, 440-nanometer-wide device, which looks like a suspended bridge riddled with holes, is carved into a silicon chip coated with an organic dye. Integrated into microprocessors, such tiny lasers could one day speed up computers by shuttling data using light rather than electrons. The new organic laser is optically pumped—that is, powered by pulses from another laser. But it has a very low threshold—the energy required to start lasing—of 4 microjoules per square centimeter. The low threshold brings the device closer to engineers' ultimate goal of creating an organic laser that can run on electric current, which would be key for on-chip use.

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