Category Archives: Stuff I want

World’s Biggesterest laser – pew pew pew

There are some things in the world that never get old. Zombies. Pirates. Ninja. Sharks. Dinosaurs. All these things we can count on to be perpetually cool. Top of the list for me, however, (and you already know this if you hang around the Blahg or me very much) is the topic of lasers. Sure, sure, sure – the previous things are great. But put sharks together with lasers and you far exceed the awesomesauce held by the mere category of sharks. Everyone likes the idea of pirates versus ninja. Suppose, however, you got a pirate and a ninja fighting on top of a laser beam? Only pirates and ninja could pull off a fight carried on completely on a beam of focused light, and they are way more fantastic for doing so. I think, by this point, that you get my point.

So with lasers consuming the position as awesomerest of awesome everything, just what could I want to talk about to impress even the laser fan? Well, how about the most powerful laser EVAR? Could this thing lift a squirrel into orbit? I don’t know. But it is a shit-ton of power:

Scientists working at the National Ignition Facility of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, have built the most powerful laser in the world, capable of simulating the energy force of a hydrogen bomb and the sun itself.

“The system already has produced 25 times more energy than any other laser system,” said NIF Director Ed Moses.

These scientists worked more than a decade to come to this. They generate this power by combining 192 laser beams. And the whole facility is contained within a ten-story building that’s roughly the size of three football fields (American football, for my dear foreign readers). So just how much is 25 time more energy than any other laser, exactly?

NIF’s 192 laser beams, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, travel a long path, about 1,000 feet, from their birth at one of the two master oscillators to the center of the target chamber. As the beams move through NIF’s amplifiers, their energy increases exponentially. From beginning to end, the beams’ total energy grows from one-billionth of a joule (a joule is the energy needed to lift a small apple one meter against the Earth’s gravity) to four million joules, a factor of more than a quadrillion – and it all happens in less than 25 billionths of a second.

Yep – fully focused and powered up, this laser could lift 4 million apples one meter off the ground. Hmmmm. That doesn’t sound nearly as cool as it should. Let’s try again – this laser could lift 1 apple 4 million meters off the ground! Might need more exclamation points, but I think you get the idea. And that estimate of the value of a joule isn’t quite accurate, but it does simplify it and still leave us close enough.

Of course, that assumes the laser wouldn’t instantly vaporize the apple. But maybe if it’s a zombie dinosaur apple, it will survive the trip.

[tags]Lasers, 1.21 Gigawatts!, Apples, Zombies, Ninja, Pirates, Dinosaurs, I’m too fascinated by memes[/tags]

OSSTMM version 3 coming soon?

In a previous life, I was a computer security specialist.  I had a really cool job, and worked with really, really damn cool people (hi Gerald, Doug, Jon, et al).  I read (a tiny fraction of) all the cool security news.  I kept up to date on as many security topics as I could.  I read security books.  I studied a lot of security web sites.  I took training from SANS.  I subscribed to a few security mailing lists, although much of the detail in many vulnerability announcements messages was above my understanding.

But in all that reading, research, study, training, and other learning, one of the coolest things I ever consumed was the OSSTMM project. Rather than try to explain this project, I’ll just snag the introductory text from the project home site:

The Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM) is a peer-reviewed methodology for performing security tests and metrics. The OSSTMM test cases are divided into five channels (sections) which collectively test: information and data controls, personnel security awareness levels, fraud and social engineering control levels, computer and telecommunications networks, wireless devices, mobile devices, physical security access controls, security processes, and physical locations such as buildings, perimeters, and military bases.

The OSSTMM focuses on the technical details of exactly which items need to be tested, what to do before, during, and after a security test, and how to measure the results. New tests for international best practices, laws, regulations, and ethical concerns are regularly added and updated.

The version I read when I first found this was 2.2.  It has been years since I used it, and I periodically check in for updates on the version 3.0 release.  I haven’t seen an update on the web site, and I’m not a team member/subscriber to the service, so I didn’t expect I would know unless I checked in on my own.  Well tonight, while catching up on email, I get this message from the project:

Continue reading OSSTMM version 3 coming soon?

Cool new type of laser?

Since we haven’t covered any really cool laser news in a while, it’s time to throw out our shark-powered story-hounds (and yes, I recognize the incongruity of that analogy) and see what pops up.

Looks here like there is a story out on a new type of laser. While studying laser generation from a device called a quantum cascade laser, scientists noticed that a secondary laser with some unusual properties was generated.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 22, 2008) — A Princeton-led team of researchers has discovered an entirely new mechanism for making common electronic materials emit laser beams. The finding could lead to lasers that operate more efficiently and at higher temperatures than existing devices, and find applications in environmental monitoring and medical diagnostics.

In particular, this new type of laser apparently requires less energy to produce than a traditional laser. While the story in question makes no mention of strapping these frikkin’ lasers to frikkin’ sharks’ heads, I suspect a lower power draw would come in quite handy in any world take-over attempts based on such a premise. Assuming the scientists in question can figure out how to create this secondary laser without the primary laser still being there, of course.

The new laser phenomenon has some interesting features. For instance, in a conventional laser relying on low momentum electrons, electrons often reabsorb the emitted photons, and this reduces overall efficiency. In the new type of laser, however, this absorption is reduced by 90%, said Franz. This could potentially allow the device to run at lower currents, and also makes it less vulnerable to temperature changes. “It should let us dramatically improve laser performance,” he said.

The device used in the study does not fully attain this level of performance, because the conventional, low-efficiency laser mechanism dominates. To take full advantage of the new discovery, therefore, the conventional mechanism would need to be turned off. The researchers have started to work on methods to achieve this outcome, said Franz.

So work is still underway. And has been for a while, in fact. Word from the brains behind this work is they actually discovered this effect sometime last year, but have been working on perfecting or improving it since then. My current suspicions are if this doesn’t end up in shark-based warfare, it will be part of the coming robot uprising. And I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords (unless the zombies take over first).

[tags]Lasers, Frikkin’ sharks, Throw me a bone, Robots, Quantum something I don’t understand, Science Daily[/tags]

Start slicing stuff – no sharks included

So long, we have failed to talk lasers here on the Blahg.  If you’ve been around long, you know it’s one of our favorite topics.  But what is happening in the laser world?  What goes on when the Blahg doesn’t mention lasers?  If someone puts out news on a laser, and the Blahg doesn’t cover it, does it deserve to be mounted on the head of a friggin’ shark?  Well yes.  Yes it does.  Every laser deserves a shark of its own.

That out of the way, what good news to we have?  Well, how about a guide to building your own laser cutter?  Would you be interested in getting a knife made of focused light?  And what if it was less than $50?

This project demonstrates a simple hack to create a large format laser cutter utilizing all the scrap electronics you may have lying around. If you have a broken scanner or two, the cost can be just about 30 dollars for the entire project.

I totally need to build one of these, even if it isn’t actually a hand-held laser knife.  It sounds cool enough that it could go in to The Best of Instructables book, although it looks like it didn’t make the first volume.  Maybe volume 2?

So we’ll try to get you up date on the coolest or most useless new laser news in the coming days.  And as always, we’ll watch for news of advances on the friggin’ shark front.

[tags]lasers, laser, shark, Instructables, Laser knife[/tags]

32G key, cheap

Man, I soooo totally need to buy one of these.  I may just be in need of an upgrade of my 8 Gig USB key.

DataTraveler 150 USB Flash drive is big news in mobile storage. With a capacity of 32GB, it lets you store more digital files than ever before on one drive. DataTraveler 150 from Kingston helps budget-conscious users break storage barriers, allowing them to easily store and move files in a 32GB device no bigger than a pocketknife. As easy as click and drag, DataTraveler 150 can hold just about any file you can think of term papers, theses, digital images, spreadsheets or other important documents.

And the cool thing?  It’s dang cheap – just under $60.  Pop half a dozen compressed DVD images on there, and still have room for pr0n or portables apps and games.

[tags]USB, Storage, Kingston, PortableApps, Portables, Pr0n[/tags]

Time Turner collectible?

My wife and I have a friend who spends a lot of time at our house.  Honestly, she ends up doing more housecleaning than either of us quite frequently.  She babysits our kids so the wifey-person and I can go out, or when we have to work, or sometimes just so I can have time to myself.  As a small token of appreciation, I’ve been thinking about getting her one of these Time Turners.

She is a HUGE fan of, among other things, all things Harry Potter.  I personally think the Time Turner is one of the neater little meaningless gizmos from the series, so it seems like a good gift idea to me.  The problem is, of course, that I’m looking at this from the point of view of what I find cool.  The question really is, will she consider this a cool gift item?  I have no idea how to judge, but figured getting this out so others can see it might get me some feedback.  Would this be a worthwhile toy for a Harry Potter nut?  Would this be neat to have on display in one’s home?  I don’t know, but hope someone less geeky than I am can tell me.

[tags]Harry Potter, Time Turner, Gift, Friends[/tags]

Bejeweled Twist quick-impression

I just downloaded PopCap game‘s newest – Bejeweled Twist.  The first couple versions of Bejeweled games grabbed me right away.  This one?  Meh.

But then, I decided to start paying attention to what the game was offering.  The concept is simple – spin a set of four jewels, try to get three in a row.  It lacks the immediacy of the original, but it gives some new twists that add depth and strategy.  Here’s a video someone else made showing a bit of gameplay.

Read more of what I saw in the game below the hump. Continue reading Bejeweled Twist quick-impression

Watchmen – the graphic novel trailer

I recently finished reading Alan Moore’s Watchmen again.  It is, quite simply, one of the best graphic novels ever written, I think.  The art is well done.  The story is thoughtful.  This is one of the graphic novels that made people recognize long-form comic as legitimate novel rather than just another comic format.  I had read this in college, then forgotten about it for a long time.  In the past year or two, I’ve started seeing it on bookshelves again (or possibly it was always there and I just started noticing it there), and decided last month to order it from Amazon.

While doing other random surfing this week, I stumbled on mention of a Watchmen trailer that was out.  I didn’t even realize this graphic novel was being made into a movie, but it is.  So naturally, I had to track the trailer down.  You can get the official, hi-res, widescreen trailer from the official movie site, but I have a soft-spot for Rorschach, and liked this fan-made trailer enough to use it instead:

No compromises.  Not even in the face of Armaggedon.  Not much longer to wait.  I look forward to seeing this.

[tags]Watchmen, Graphic Novel, YouTube, Watchmen Movie[/tags]

Free comic book day coming this week-end

Don’t forget to get up early so you don’t miss out on free comic book day offerings at your local comic shop this Saturday. I missed it last year because the site was broken on free comic book day, and I hadn’t checked on participating comic shops before the event. So head over there now, look up your local shops, and make sure to drop in to get your free comics.

[tags]Free comic book day, comics, free, FCBD[/tags]