Common UsesLasers are found in so many applications that it would be nearly impossible to list them all, but several common uses stand out: communications, imaging, manufacturing, and weaponry. Communication lasers require line of sight from the transmitter to the reciever but tremendous ranges and communication speeds. Because it is directional, it is nearly impossible to eavesdrop or jam, but the recipient and sender must work together to maintain contact. If either is avoiding contact, the comm link is likely to fail. Lasers are, perhaps, most often encountered in everyday life when used for imaging. Such readers are commonly used to read various barcodes and tags in stores, signs, ads, and so on. Another less common, but very visible way lasers see use is in visual entertainment as part of light shows. Manufacturing uses lasers for precision cutting, engraving, welding, and additive processes. This enables so much of modern technology that it is unimaginable to manufacture goods any other way. Finally, lasers have proven extremely useful on the battlefield, both offensive and defensive roles. Their precision and straight line shots give them superb accuracy, and their speed makes them excellent at intercepting physical attacks like missiles and bombs. See Weaponized Lasers, below, for more information.
DangersFor all of their utility, lasers are not without their risks. While one might be forgiven for fearing being burnt by the holy light of the god-machine, their biggest threat lies in their effect on vision. Any laser is capable of inflicting damage on an unprotected eye if stared at directly, but those with enough power to burn, engrave, cut, or kill can cause temporary or permanent loss of sight if a person even looks at where the laser strikes. For this reason, most warfighters are equipped with armored laser safey goggles to avoid being blinded on the battlefield.
Weaponized LasersWeaponized lasers are easily the most powerful lasers currently in existence. They work by delivering so much heat to a target that where the light hits flashes to vapor in a small explosion. But lasers don't fire a single burst on the pull of a trigger. Instead, they fire a train of dozens of such pulses that strike within a nanosecond (Blasters and X-Ray Lasers) and a microsecond (Pulsars) of each other, drilling a hole into the target with a series of rapid explosions. Even pulsars are capable of ripping flesh from bone in this manner. Lasers also provide several less-than-lethal options to those who are not seeking to outright kill a target. These range from stunning via electric shock to inflicting temporary or permanent blindness.
Fire ModesLasers need not be fired at full power, and when firing subpower shots, they can fire more rapidly. The result is that one weapon can be fired in single-shot or rapid-fire modes. Moreover, the focusing mechanism for the beam can be vibrated during rapid fire mode to create a scattergun effect. The result is one weapon that can fill multiple roles. Note that most governments will restrict the use of rapid-fire modes in any weapons permitted to civilians. While a person knowledgeable in the occult ways of the Astrians could override these restrictions, it is not only illegal to do so - it is also blasphemous.
Wavelength and Atmospheric AttenuationA laser's color - or wavelength - determines many of its properties. Chief among these is its effective range; second is its effects on the unprotected eye. Air, water, or other mediums absorb laser light of different wavelengths to different extents. For instance, blue and green lasers propagate further through water than do red or ultraviolet wavelengths. This is called attenuation. Air tends to attenuate longer wavelength lasers (infrared and red) less than shorter wavelengths like blue or purple. But this is not the entire story. Regardless of medium, shorter wavelength lasers tend to have longer effective ranges than longer ones. These two factors are at odds and result a couple of trends:
- In water, blue and green lasers have the best range
- In air, blue and green lasers tend to have the longest ranges, but sometimes purple can work, too
- In vacuum, there is no attentuation and the shortest available wavelength - typically UV-C or Extreme-UV - provides the best range
Types of Weaponized LasersThere are three primary types of weaponized lasers currently in use: Pulsars: Millisecond-pulse lasers that may operate from the infrared to UV-C bands. Blasters: Nanosecond-pulse lasers that may operate from the infrared to UV-C bands. X-Ray Lasers: Nanosecond-pulse lasers that operate in the vacuum and extreme UV bands. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages, but generally speaking, pulsars tend to be shorter range and less powerful than other types of lasers, but outperform them in underwater settings. They also tend to be cheaper due to their obsalescence. Blasters are by far the most common laser weapon used. They are well suited to atmospheric usage and perform adequately in other environments. X-ray lasers have shortened ranges in atmospheres, but extremely long ones in vacuum, making them particularly good in trace and vacuum environments. Furthermore, X-ray lasers have the best penetration of any laser weapon technology. Additional laser technologies that see use in more niche applications include Electrolasers, Dazzlers, and Blinders. Electrolasers fire a pair of low-powered lasers at a target to ionize the air in a way that can carry an electric charge capable of disabling a target. This provides a less-than-lethal option for law enforcement, but it does not operate in vacuum and performs poorly in very humid or rainy conditions. Dazzlers are very low-powered laser weapons that use a defocused beam to temporarily blind a target, while blinders are somewhat higher power lasers that permanently blind their targets. Naturally, Dazzlers and blinders must operate in the visible or UV wavelengths.
Table of Contents
- Access & Availability
- Lasers are easily had in modern society. In fact, they appear as part of many common devices from pointers to remote controls to communicators, to scanners. More restricted uses typically involve military applications.
- Most lasers are fairly simple devices, but weaponized lasers can be quite complex and rely on precision actuated mirrors and deformable lenses, metamaterials, and advanced computers.
- In the year 1917 of the Christian Era, Albert Einstein established the theoretical foundations for the laser and maser in his paper, Zur Quantentheorie der Strahlung, but it was not until 1953 that Charles Townes created the first functional maser and 1960 that the first laser was successfully operated.
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