Lasers, Phasers, and Tasers

March 21, 2013 / by / 0 Comment
All images courtesy of Real Genius (1985)
All images courtesy of Real Genius (1985)

The Modern Applications of Science Fiction Technology

Science fiction is embedded in our culture. For fans, the stories have resonated deeply, fulfilling an imaginative void regarding the unexplored and the (hopefully) possible future. While sometimes ridiculous in portrayal, there are elements of these stories that are beginning to emerge in modern technology. While there are no giant, furry, roaring space creatures (that we know of yet), some weapons that could take a wookie down are in development.



Twin laser cannons aren’t just for Tie Fighters anymore. The U.S. Military will be equipping some of their fighter jets with real laser weapons. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) says that the first laser system will be fitted onto jet aircraft in 2014 as a defensive weapon capable of knocking out missiles and other projectiles while in flight.

These laser weapons are part of DARPA’s High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System and are designed as a defensive measure against surface-to-air missiles or any type of larger projectile.  The specifics of the system’s capability are still classified (finger crossed for meteors).

According to DARPA, the new laser weapon system will begin operations in 2014 with their first major round of intensive testing before actual use. Lasers will be tested for all types of projectiles that can be taken out of the sky.

Actual news of the laser system comes direct from the U.S. Pentagon and is being developed specifically for the U.S. Navy and Air Force.  They further elaborated that the General Atomics Aeronautical System Inc. (GA-ASI) would be constructing a second laser system in addition to the current laser system.

Earlier on, the U.S. Navy tested a similar, larger laser system that successfully shot down objects even as small as mortar rounds.  This new system is far smaller and more advanced than some of the original concept weapons. For example, an earlier design was so large that it required a 747 to house all of the components.


Whenever phasers are mentioned, many people immediately think of the classic Star Trek weapon and the phrase “set phasers to stun.” However, recent scientific developments indicate potential applications in medical technology rather than space weaponry.

Phasers have existed for a while, but a new Japanese scientific breakthrough uses similar sorts of semiconductor technology to make a nanoscopic “drum”, which they then “beat” using bursts of electricity. It oscillates in an extremely controlled way at 170 kilohertz, which equates to eight and a half times higher in frequency than our ears can detect.

The device is in its very early stages, but will ultimately be able to generate incredibly controlled bursts of sound. This type of innovation could replace timing oscillators in computer circuitry, or even be used as a more advanced form of ultrasound scanning tool. As a result, this breakthrough may have all sorts of medical and engineering possibilities.



Despite the ongoing controversy surrounding the ethical use of Tasers, some people independently seek new possibilities. The Electric Stun Sword is the brainchild of a certain YouTube user known as Jonathan. He was reportedly experimenting with a double-bladed Shock Mod Ninja Sword in order to imbue it with Taser-like functionality. According to Jonathan, his inspiration stemmed from another YouTube user by the name of GreekGadgetGuru.

The Electric Stun Sword has a single switch that can be activated to turn on the shock function. Because stun guns run off a power source or battery, it will require a regular wall socket plug located at the end of the grip (specially designed to charge the weapon).

In the name of science Jonathan decided to test the effectiveness of his creation by having a friend of his touch him with the sword. The subsequent “successful” demonstration should be enough to convince anyone to avoid the wrath of the mighty sword.

MythBusters exposed this scene of a laser popping enough popcorn to destroy a house and jump and dance in as false. Thanks, MythBusters.

MythBusters exposed this scene of a laser popping enough popcorn to destroy a house and jump and dance in as false. Thanks, MythBusters.


Chris is a graduate of Ball State University, where he studied Journalism and Advertising. As a staff writer he brings his love for snazzy word combinations to Techie, meanwhile suppressing the continuous urge to generate puns. In his free time, Chris is likely reading, accepting food challenges, performing Spartan exercise maneuvers, or crafting new music on guitar and the occasional dub step on GarageBand.

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