Sometimes the word "why?" is just an exclamation. We don't really expect an answer. We just wish something hadn't happened. Yet, perhaps you might be able to answer the "why" part of this question: Why has a laser manufacturer produced a Star Wars-ish laser that it proudly describes as being "the most dangerous ever created"?
Its manufacturer, Wicked Lasers of Shanghai, is rather excited about its potential.
May I quote its Web site? "Don't let the Arctic name fool you, this laser possesses the most burning capabilities of any portable laser in existence. That's why it's also the most dangerous laser ever created."
Personally, I didn't let the name fool me. You see, just below this claim to success, Wicked Lasers offers a very bright yellow warning: "Extremely dangerous is an understatement to 1W of laser power. At close range, this Class 4 beam will cause immediate and irreversible retinal damage."
Oh, and "it will blind permanently and instantly and set fire quickly to skin and other body parts."
Wicked Lasers says it is quite aware that its product might be misused. Which is why, it says, "Laser safety flyers and LaserShades are shipped free" with the device.
Perhaps some would be reassured by such benevolence. However, Dr. Annette Dowd of the University of Technology in Sydney offered this analysis to ABC:
"People could very readily access this laser which could cause blindness. It could also start fires. It could be a very dangerous tool in the hands of people who didn't really know how to use it. It could potentially be used as a scientific instrument but it doesn't look like it's been designed to be used as such."
It has, however, been designed not to be too expensive. Together with shipping, the site suggested I pay a mere $227.96.
But still this leaves the question "why?"
If Dr. Dowd is correct that this thing hasn't been designed to be used as a scientific instrument, then what has it been designed for? I tried very hard to maneuver my way around the Wicked Lasers site and discover a potential use for something that surely has the potential to be mistaken for a toy. I couldn't find anything that seemed to explain the uses for this particular item.
And then Sky News scoured some social-networking sites and discovered a number of people, who didn't, at first glance, sound like scientists, offer posts about this laser.
One reportedly read: ""I must have this. Birthday present anyone? I will KILL things, with FIRE."
Another reportedly offered: "Real lasers that resemble Star Wars lightsabres, that can burn skin, cut through plastic and ignite matches--yes please."
There is something curious about a manufacturer who appears to be suggesting there is something vaguely exciting about how dangerous its product might be. Perhaps I missed something. Or perhaps not.