Not long after I received this rather benign looking kit containing aand a pair of from , I started really paying attention to all of the reports regarding people with lasers – red and the stronger green, interfering with pilots flying passenger airplanes. In February 2009, there were already 148 reported incidents of laser attacks, and just last week a plane arriving at Sea-Tac was lasered no less than 20 times.
What’s the big deal? Well to start, shining a high powered laser at a plane creates the possibility of messing with the pilot’s vision. If the pilot’s vision is compromised, then there is a possibility that he or she might not be able to land the plane properly. If the pilot can’t land the plane properly, then there is a possibility that it will crash. If the plane crashes because someone was playing with a high powered laser, then there is a possibility that without actually meaning to, and without necessarily understanding the consequences, one irresponsible person could be the means for destroying hundreds of others’ lives.
But what about when a high powered laser is in a responsible person’s hands? Someone who doesn’t plan on assaulting an unwilling bystander with a blast of light that could cause eye damage faster than one could blink to block it? I wanted to find out why – other than the fact that it is “cool” – a responsible person might want to play with a high powered laser…
As mentioned, I was sent the 125mW Green Laser Pointer. According to the information on the ordering page, with such a laser I could expect to do the following:
Pretty wild, huh? I honestly figured that the best use I would find for it was pointing out constellations, but I liked the idea of popping balloons and performing other party tricks with my own little weapon of mass destruction.
Speaking of which, let’s take a look…
The laser pointer measures 6.75″ long and it is a little over 1/2″ thick; it feels substantial in hand, but obviously isn’t going to be mistaken for the Jedi’s thicker-handled light saber. 😉
Inside the metal tin presentation box is the laser’s body, the end cap, and a set of plastic keys. More on those in a bit.
After inserting two AAA batteries, the Laser Pointer needs to be unlocked, and this is where the included set of plastic keys come in.
On the non-pointing end of the laser, there is a black power adjuster which is activated by inserting and turning the key.
There are three positions that the power adjuster can be turned:
Red: – your laser pointer is locked and will not turn on.
Green: – your laser pointer will turn on at high power.
Yellow: – your laser pointer will turn on at low power.
When the laser is on low power, it is perfect for pointing out constellations and objects far across the skyline. When the laser is on high power, it is supposed to have all of the burning qualities that make these toys attractive for middle-age pranksters and physicists. So let’s go down the list of what this laser is supposed to do, and I will let you know how it performed on the tests I was willing (or able) to perform…
Laser “spot” visible – Oh absolutely. Just like any laser you can buy for $10 or less, you can see the laser spot from across the room – day or night.
IR Filter Technology – According to SKYlasers:
All SKYlasers green laser pointers are equipped with an infrared filter. The IR filter is an important part of all high power green laser pointers. Green lasers without IR filters emit a fair amount of infrared radiation that can be potentially hazardous to your eyes. The IR filter minimizes this. Learn more about.
Laser beam visible w/ smoke or fog – ?+ Unless it is a totally solid object, this laser is going to be visible through pretty much anything.
Laser Beam visible at night – Absolutely!
Laser Beam visible in lighted area – Forget “lighted areas,” you can see the laser on objects 50+ yards away in full sunlight!
Look at the little dot in the middle of the sea crate’s left door; that is the laser in full sun!
Laser Range > 15 miles – For sure. Here is a photo of the laser beam shooting across the hilltop…
Make holes in black trash bags – We didn’t have luck with this, but holding the laser in the same general area definitely puckered and scarred the bag.
Daytime smoke detection – Not that I noticed…
Stings bare skin – Sorry! I just wasn’t willing to perform this test! 😛
Laser Range > 50 miles – It might as well be! We could easily use it to point out single stars and encircle constellations. Unfortunately, my nighttime picture taking skills totally fell flat when trying to get a representative photo.
Here’s a bonus though, when stargazing the laser does not necessarily need to be on full power. According to SKYlasers:
A feature which makes SKYlasers green laser pointers better than any other laser pointer for astronomy is its unique power adjustable function. With a simple twist of a key switch, you can adjust the power and brightness between a high power and low power setting. When there are large amounts of ambient light, use the laser pointer on high power. This will guarantee the visibility of the laser beam despite the presence of surrounding ambient light. If you are in complete darkness, operate your laser on the low power setting. This will ensure that your night vision is not affected by the bright laser beam.
Burn dark fabrics – Oooh, I am such a chicken. The softtop on Kevin’s Ranger Crew is so raggedy, and even though we are planning on replacing it ASAP, it just didn’t seem right to add another intentional hole. But you can see the beam on the front corner of it, obviously in broad daylight…when I was thinking about doing it!
Pop dark colored balloons – Definitely – but the key was to hold the beam steady. I made a chain of ten balloons, and only the first three popped when Kevin shined the beam; probably because the laser was being held by hand.
Ignite wooden or paper matches – Yep! It took about five seconds.
Cut black electrical tape – I was not able to accomplish this.
Etch dark plastics and leathers – Not so much that I noticed – other than the puckering and scarring.
Light fireworks – Definitely. Heh heh.
Melt rubber and plastics – You can definitely add ripple damage to dark colored plastics and rubber; maybe if I held the laser long enough these things would melt, but I didn’t have the patience.
If, like we did, you have difficulty getting some things to burn, SKYlasers has these tips…
1. Make sure the battery is either brand new or fully charged.
2. Wear protective laser goggles at all times.
3. Dark, ideally black, non-reflective objects are easier to burn or melt through.
4. Keep your hands steady and the laser “dot” in one spot. It is sometimes helpful to mount your laser on a stand or tripod.
5. If the object is not burning, a trick is to color the object with a black marker such as a Sharpie.
I’ll probably offend at least a few geeks out there when I say this, but it’s the mother in me coming out: I don’t think that this laser is something that just anyone should own. If you want to use a green laser for stargazing, which is definitely a legitimate use, you could get by with a less powered (55 – 75mW) SKY laser . If you want to amaze your friends with laser tricks, you would probably need to consider purchasing a slightly stronger one – perhaps even one of their ultra strong and accordingly priced. But for simple laser tricks and the ultimate in stargazing, the 125mW definitely manages nicely.
You would think that at the prices green lasers command, only people who “know better” would buy them, but sadly that will not always be the case. There will always be people with more money than sense, and they are the ones who may make it impossible for the responsible ones to enjoy these ultimate high-tech toys. Promise me that if you buy one, you won’t look at it directly, and you won’t use it to be a menace to pilots or anyone else. 🙂
Theis available directly from ; they come with a six-months no questions asked warranty.
MSRP: $299.99, and don’t forget tofor an additional $39.99
What I Like: Incredibly bright; ability to change power level settings or lock laser in off position completely; takes AAA batteries; you can perform tricks with the laser; you can point out individual stars or highlight constellations by simply pointing
What Needs Improvement: If you don’t wear your goggles, you will hurt your eyes; not for children or the child like