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May The Force, and Safety Goggles, Be With You

Since Luke Skywalker first picked up a light saber in 1977, we’ve dreamed of wielding the laser sword made famous in the “Star Wars” movies—“an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” And while the technology isn’t quite there yet, we’re getting closer.
For around $200, Shanghai-based will ship you its latest laser device, known as the Spyder III Pro Arctic and looking suspiciously like the beloved science-fiction weapon. Using a blue-laser diode taken from a powerful film projector, the Spyder III emits a 445-nanometer wavelength beam of up to one watt in power. Or, as the WickedLasers site explains:
“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.”
With Father’s Day right around the corner, the “most dangerous laser ever created” may sound like the perfect gift for the supervillain who has everything (though more powerful lasers exist for industrial and research purposes). But remember that every young Jedi must endure an exhaustive training montage sequence before going to town on his enemies with a light saber.
Wicked Lasers says the Spyder III isn’t to be taken, ahem, lightly, and posts photos of two surly-looking fellows arrested for pointing lasers at aircraft. The Spyder III is a Class 4 laser, meaning it’s so strong that it can cause blindness and color-perception problems, including the inability to perceive the color green for four to six months. Also, at a thousand times stronger than sunlight on skin, it can burn skin and may even cause skin cancer.
So Wicked Lasers adds an FDA-mandated safety sticker on the device, includes a pair of safety glasses and warns that you shouldn’t make direct eye contact with the beam. Or expose it to bare skin. Or shine it at anyone. Or shine it at reflective surfaces. And don’t use it near airports, highways or construction sites. Really, they say, it should be used only by “individuals who have appropriate laser safety training and product familiarity in using Class 4 lasers.”
But other than that, they add, “As a general concept, owning a laser is pretty fun.”
And that fun is illustrated on the site, using videos that show Wicked Lasers products doing such disparate tasks as burning holes in trash bags, popping balloons, cutting electrical tape and igniting matches. Not exactly the sort of swashbuckling space adventure we imagined.
The FDA states on its website that laser pointers should be within the first three classes of lasers, I, II and IIIa—though the classification system the agency uses, with Roman numerals, is slightly different from the newer classification that uses modern European digits.
The agency doesn’t address Class IV laser products as consumer devices, as such powerful lasers have previously been used only in laser light shows and industrial and research lasers. But regarding Class IIIb lasers, until recently the strongest level of laser pointers, the agency’s site says:
“Class IIIb hand-held lasers are too dangerous for use as pointers or amusement articles. Furthermore, promotion of Class IIIb or IEC Class 3B products for pointing or amusement violates FDA requirements and United States law. Manufacturers of such products may be required to repair, replace, or refund the purchase price of violative products distributed in the U.S. These products are also subject to detention and seizure by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection when imported.”
Classes IIIb and IV products, the FDA says, “should be used only by individuals with proper training and in applications where there is a legitimate need for these high-powered products.”
Wicked Lasers didn’t return calls for comment.
Sky News in the U.K. spoke with laser safety expert John Colton, who termed the Wicked Lasers product “horrendously dangerous.”
“Under no circumstances should they be on sale on the internet,” said Mr. Colton, director of Lucid Optical Services, which offers technical training and consultancy in fiber optics and laser safety.

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