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Technology

How Lasers Could Help Fingerprint Conflict Minerals 31

New submitter carmendrahl writes "Diamonds might get most of the media's attention, but they're not the only minerals being sold to underwrite militias. Two chemistry teams are developing portable instruments that can detect an elemental fingerprint in mineral ores, to verify that the samples don't come from militia-controlled mines. One technique uses laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (PDF), which vaporizes a small amount of an ore sample with a high-energy laser pulse, and detects elements in the sample by their characteristic light emission. The other technique couples the laser ablation to a mass measurement and a scanning electron microscope."
Biotech

Repairing Genetic Mutations With Lasers? 65

Roland Piquepaille writes "German researchers at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU) think they've proved that genetic information can be controlled by light. The group studied the interaction between the four DNA bases — adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T) — by using femtosecond time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy. The researchers think that they've demonstrated that DNA strands differ in their light sensitivity depending on their base sequences. The team thinks that it might be possible in the future to repair gene mutations using laser radiation. One of the project leaders said that 'it might even be possible under some circumstances to make transistors from DNA that would work through the hydrogen bonds.' It's not the first time I've heard about DNA computing, but this new approach looks promising."
The Military

Anti-Missile Technology To Be Tested on Commercial Jets 490

Hugh Pickens writes "As many as three American Airlines passenger jets will be outfitted this spring with laser technology intended to protect planes from missile attacks. The tests, which could involve more than 1,000 flights, will determine how the technology holds up under the rigors of flight. The technology is intended to stop attacks by detecting heat from missiles, then responding in a fraction of a second by firing laser beams to jam the missiles' guidance systems. A Rand study in 2005 estimated it would cost about $11 billion to protect every US airliner from shoulder-fired missiles. Over 20 years, the cost to develop, procure and operate anti-missile systems could hit $40 billion."
Toys

How To Turn a Mini Maglite Into a Laser 605

Lucas123 writes "Using the laser from a DVD burner, this instructional video shows you how to create a hand-held laser that is powerful enough to light a match and pop a balloon. There's some soldering involved and the Maglite's bulb housing needs to be drilled out to fit the new laser diode, but with some basic skill, most people could do this. Just plain cool." Update: 07/09 12:23 GMT by KD : Warning, the device that results from following these instructions will blind you if you look into it.

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