laser explosion

Science Fiction vs. Science Fact

How real-life laser technology compares to comic book lasers.
Lasers are a hallmark of iconic comic series and science fiction novels. While their capabilities and uses vary, in most cases, lasers are highly accurate, work instantaneously and cause minimal collateral damage. But does any of the technology behind these futuristic laser-based systems have a parallel in real-life laser technology? Actually, more than you might think. Read on:

Science Fiction

Laser beams come in a variety of colors

Science Fact:

The color of a laser depends on the wavelength and type. While lasers beams can be made in a visible wavelength, most used in defense applications are not visible.

laser colors

Science Fiction:

Laser weapon systems cause huge explosions (like those required to blow up an asteroid spiraling toward Earth)

Science Fact:

Lasers are all about pin point accuracy, not a big boom. For example: A beam can be directed at a five-centimeter spot up to 2 kilometers away. Lasers apply heat to the target causing various failures, such as melting. If the target contains an explosive, the heat effect can cause a big boom.

explosion

Science Fiction:

Lasers are portable (making them especially handy for glasses or ray guns).

Science Fact:

There won’t be laser goggles any time soon. Today’s high-power lasers are much too large to hand carry, but can be fielded on a ship, in the battle field, on a plane or even mounted on a ground vehicle.

robot

Science Fiction:

Lasers have unlimited firepower (there is no need to worry about loading ammo).

Science Fact:

True! Lasers can have a virtually unlimited “magazine” and minimal collateral damage.

infinite firepower

Science Fiction:

Lasers work at lightspeed (vaporizing super villains in their tracks).

Science Fact:

Not quite. The laser beam is light and therefore travels at light speed to start working immediately. But once the beam reaches its target, it often takes milliseconds to seconds to destroy the target. Even so, a laser can work its way through targets in a fraction of the time it takes to toast a slice of bread!

lightspeed