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Egypt crisis: Why are Cairo protesters using laser pens?

Helicopter flying above Tahrir Square

As crowds packed Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo to celebrate the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi on Wednesday night, three things filled the air – noise, fireworks and, unusually, laser beams.

The use of laser pens has become a distinctive feature of the protests against the country’s leadership, which began at the end of last month.

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Piracy and Lasers

Piracy Map

It’s hard to believe that it’s the 21st Century and we’re still talking about pirates, but high-seas bandits are a big problem for ships, including oil tankers and container ships. Last year, there were 430 reported attacks and in 2009, 406, according to reports from the ICC’s International Maritime Bureau.

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Helicopter crew in another laser arrest Flashing an aircraft with a laser device called “an assault” by officer.

GLENDALE — A 31-year-old man was arrested Friday on suspicion of flashing a laser three times at a police helicopter crew, officials said.

Erick Medina of Glendale was taken into custody in his Elk Avenue apartment in connection with discharging a laser at an aircraft, according to Glendale Police Department reports.

It was the second arrest connected to pointing a laser at a police helicopter in less than a week, prompting officials to re-issue warnings about the dangers the lights pose to pilots.

“It’s not a game,” said Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson of the Joint Air Support Unit. “It’s not a joke. It’s an assault.”

The aircrew notified fellow officers that at about 10:45 p.m. they had been struck by a green laser while patrolling the skies over South Glendale. They noticed the light coming from a white apartment building on Elk Avenue.

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Lasik surgery

If your vision’s blurring and you hate the idea of using glasses or contact lenses, you should consider Lasik surgery as an option. Short for Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, this walk-away procedure is used to treat near sightedness (myopia), far sightedness (hyperopia) and cylindrical (astigmatism) refractive errors.

Lasik is a walk-away surgery where the patient does not need to be hospitalised. Using a microkeratome, a cutting tool with a metal blade, a hinged flap in the cornea is cut. The flap is folded back and an excimer laser is used to reshape the cornea from the newly exposed surface. Then the flap is put back in place, resulting in a reshaped cornea that produces better vision.

To be suitable for traditional lasik surgery, a person should be 18 years old to ensures that the eye has matured and developed properly, must have a stable vision, should not have any concurrent eye infection, cataract or eye injury, should not have a thin cornea, and suffer from an autoimmune disorder.

The entire procedure takes 15 minutes and is almost painless. The cost of a lasik procedure ranges between Rs 30,000 and 45,000 for both eyes.

Blade-free lasik uses two lasers instead of one, with the first laser replacing microkeratome blade used in conventional surgery. Then second excimer laser is used to reshape the cornea. The blade-free technique makes surgical vision correction possible for people who have steep, flat or thin corneas and not suited for traditional lasik surgery.

NASA has recommended the blade-free procedure for its astronauts as it can withstand the toughest physical conditions, including high G-forces. The cost of a blade-free lasik is between Rs 90,000 -Rs 1 lakh for both eyes.

Avoid splashing water or rubbing the eyes for a few weeks after surgery. You also need to wear sunglasses when you step outdoors. Other than that, you can follow your normal routine from the very next day, with restrictions on TV-viewing or computer use.

Source : hindustantimes

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Laser therapy may ease type of eczema

(Reuters Health) – Laser therapy that delivers a concentrated beam of ultraviolet light may help ease a hard-to-treat form of eczema, a small study suggests.


The study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, compared the effects of laser therapy versus corticosteroid ointment in 13 patients with what is known as the prurigo form of atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema, or skin inflammation, that arises from an allergic reaction; the prurigo form is marked by small, hard, intensely itchy nodules on the skin.

Only a small proportion of people with atopic dermatitis have the prurigo form, but the condition can be challenging to manage, according to Dr. Elian E.A. Brenninkmeijer, a dermatologist at the University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, and the lead researcher on the study.

The current findings, while based on only a small number of patients, suggest that when topical treatments fail to improve prurigo atopic dermatitis, laser therapy may be a suitable option, Brenninkmeijer told Reuters Health in an email.

Specifically, a device called the 308-nm excimer laser is approved in the U.S. for treating atopic dermatitis and certain other skin conditions, including psoriasis and vitiligo. It works by emitting a concentrated beam of ultraviolet B (UVB) light directly to patches of affected skin, avoiding the healthy surrounding skin.

UVB light has long been used to treat some cases of atopic dermatitis; it is thought to help by quelling the exaggerated immune response causing the skin inflammation. The purported advantage of the excimer laser over traditional UVB therapy is that it more precisely targets the problem areas of the skin.

However, there are only limited study data on the effectiveness of the laser therapy for atopic dermatitis, and almost nothing known about how it works for the prurigo form.

To investigate, Brenninkmeijer and his colleagues recruited 13 adults with atopic dermatitis and prurigo nodules on the upper or lower extremities on both sides of the body.

Over 10 weeks, the patients received twice-weekly laser treatments on one side of the body, and used prescription corticosteroid ointment — clobetasol propionate — on the other side of the body. Both the laser treatment and the ointment were applied directly to the prurigo nodules.

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Mapping Ancient Civilization, in a Matter of Days

For a quarter of a century, two archaeologists and their team slogged through wild tropical vegetation to investigate and map the remains of one of the largest Maya cities, in Central America. Slow, sweaty hacking with machetes seemed to be the only way to discover the breadth of an ancient urban landscape now hidden beneath a dense forest canopy.

Even the new remote-sensing technologies, so effective in recent decades at surveying other archaeological sites, were no help. Imaging radar and multispectral surveys by air and from space could not “see” through the trees.

Then, in the dry spring season a year ago, the husband-and-wife team of Arlen F. Chase and Diane Z. Chase tried a new approach using airborne laser signals that penetrate the jungle cover and are reflected from the ground below. They yielded 3-D images of the site of ancient Caracol, in Belize, one of the great cities of the Maya lowlands.

In only four days, a twin-engine aircraft equipped with an advanced version of lidar (light detection and ranging) flew back and forth over the jungle and collected data surpassing the results of two and a half decades of on-the-ground mapping, the archaeologists said. After three weeks of laboratory processing, the almost 10 hours of laser measurements showed topographic detail over an area of 80 square miles, notably settlement patterns of grand architecture and modest house mounds, roadways and agricultural terraces.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Diane Chase said recently, recalling their first examination of the images. “We believe that lidar will help transform Maya archaeology much in the same way that radiocarbon dating did in the 1950s and interpretations of Maya hieroglyphs did in the 1980s and ’90s.”

The Chases, who are professors of anthropology at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, had determined from earlier surveys that Caracol extended over a wide area in its heyday, between A.D. 550 and 900. From a ceremonial center of palaces and broad plazas, it stretched out to industrial zones and poor neighborhoods and beyond to suburbs of substantial houses, markets and terraced fields and reservoirs.

This picture of urban sprawl led the Chases to estimate the city’s population at its peak at more than 115,000. But some archaeologists doubted the evidence warranted such expansive interpretations.

“Now we have a totality of data and see the entire landscape,” Dr. Arlen Chase said of the laser findings. “We know the size of the site, its boundaries, and this confirms our population estimates, and we see all this terracing and begin to know how the people fed themselves.”

The Caracol survey was the first application of the advanced laser technology on such a large archaeological site. Several journal articles describe the use of lidar in the vicinity of Stonehenge in England and elsewhere at an Iron Age fort and American plantation sites. Only last year, Sarah H. Parcak of the University of Alabama at Birmingham predicted, “Lidar imagery will have much to offer the archaeology of the rain forest regions.”

The Chases said they had been unaware of Dr. Parcak’s assessment, in her book “Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology” (Routledge, 2009), when they embarked on the Caracol survey. They acted on the recommendation of a Central Florida colleague, John F. Weishampel, a biologist who had for years used airborne laser sensors to study forests and other vegetation.

Dr. Weishampel arranged for the primary financing of the project from the little-known space archaeology program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The flights were conducted by the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, operated by the University of Florida and the University of California, Berkeley.

Other archaeologists, who were not involved in the research but were familiar with the results, said the technology should be a boon to explorations, especially ones in the tropics, with its heavily overgrown vegetation, including pre-Columbian sites throughout Mexico and Central America. But they emphasized that it would not obviate the need to follow up with traditional mapping to establish “ground truth.”

Jeremy A. Sabloff, a former director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and now president of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, said he wished he had had lidar when he was working in the Maya ruins at Sayil, in Mexico.

The new laser technology, Dr. Sabloff said, “would definitely have speeded up our mapping, given us more details and would have enabled us to refine our research questions and hypotheses much earlier in our field program than was possible in the 1980s.”

At first, Payson D. Sheets, a University of Colorado archaeologist, was not impressed with lidar. A NASA aircraft tested the laser system over his research area in Costa Rica, he said, “but when I saw it recorded the water in a lake sloping at 14 degrees, I did not use it again.”

Now, after examining the imagery from Caracol, Dr. Sheets said he planned to try lidar, with its improved technology, again. “I was stunned by the crisp precision and fine-grained resolution,” he said.

“Finally, we have a nondestructive and rapid means of documenting the present ground surface through heavy vegetation cover,” Dr. Sheets said, adding, “One can easily imagine, given the Caracol success, how important this would be in Southeast Asia, with the Khmer civilization at places like Angkor Wat.”

In recent reports at meetings of Mayanists and in interviews, the Chases noted that previous remote-sensing techniques focused more on the discovery of archaeological sites than on the detailed imaging of on-ground remains. The sensors could not see through much of the forest to resolve just how big the ancient cities had been. As a consequence, archaeologists may have underestimated the scope of Mayan accomplishments.

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Rain-making lasers could trigger showers on demand

Lasers that stimulate condensation may help to induce rain artificially.

Zeeya Merali

The rain dance is getting a twenty-first-century revamp using laser technology. Optical physicists have demonstrated that shooting lasers into the air can trigger the formation of water droplets, a technique that could one day help to stimulate rainfall.

For more than 50 years, efforts to try to artificially induce rain have concentrated on ‘cloud seeding’ — scattering small particles of silver iodide into the air to act as ‘condensation nuclei’, or centres around which rain droplets can grow. “The problem is, it’s still not clear that cloud seeding works efficiently,” says optical physicist Jérôme Kasparian at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. “There are also worries about how safe adding silver iodide particles into the air is for the environment.”

Kasparian and his colleagues realized that there might be a more environmentally friendly alternative. Firing a laser beam made up of short pulses into the air ionizes nitrogen and oxygen molecules around the beam to create a plasma, resulting in a ‘plasma channel’ of ionized molecules. These ionized molecules could act as natural condensation nuclei, Kasparian explains.

To test whether this technique could induce droplets, the researchers fired a high-powered laser through an atmospheric cloud chamber in the lab containing saturated air (see video). They illuminated the chamber using a second, standard low-power laser, enabling them to see and measure any droplets produced. Immediately after the laser was fired, drops measuring about 50 micrometres wide formed along the plasma channel. Over the next three seconds, the droplets grew in size to 80 micrometres as the smaller droplets coalesced. The team’s results are published online in Nature Photonics1.


The next step for Kasparian and his team was to take the technique outside. The researchers already have experience using plasma channels to modify the weather: in 2008, they demonstrated that a beam from their high-powered portable ‘Teramobile laser’ could be fired into thunder clouds, triggering an electric discharge2. The beam was able to reach its target without being deflected because the generated plasma channel modifies the speed at which light travels through air — slowing it down in the centre of the beam and speeding it up at the sides. This causes the beam to continually self-focus, helping it to maintain a high intensity across large distances (see ‘Bendy laser beam fired through the air’).

This time, Kasparian and his colleagues tested the Teramobile laser over a number of different nights and in various humidity conditions. Once again, they detected the amount of condensation induced by monitoring how much the light from a second laser was back-scattered by any droplets. In low humidity conditions, the Teramobile laser did not induce droplets. But when the humidity was high, the team measured up to 20 times more back-scattering after the Teramobile laser was fired than before, says Kasparian, suggesting that condensation droplets were forming.

Roland Sauerbrey, an expert on laser physics at the FZD Dresden–Rossendorf Research Centre in Dresden, Germany, says that the team has the potential to create a “breakthrough technology”. “This is the first time that a laser has been used to cause condensation outdoors,” he says.

However, the technique is still in its early stages. “We can only create condensation along the laser channel, so we won’t be going out and making rain tomorrow,” Kasparian notes. He and his team are now investigating whether they can create condensation over a wider area, by sweeping their laser across the sky.

Thomas Leisner, an atmospheric physicist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany, remains cautious about the feasibility of scaling up the technique in this way. “I am sceptical that this could be used to trigger rain on demand,” he says. But he adds that the technology will have other uses. The researchers should now calibrate the relationship between the amount of condensation produced by the laser and the prevailing atmospheric conditions, he says. “They could use the amount of condensation produced by their laser as a measure of water saturation to help forecast the chance of rain,” he says. 

  • References
    1. Rohwetter, P. et al. Nature Photonics advance online publication doi:10.1038/nphoton.2010.115 (2010).
    2. Kasparian, J. et al. Opt. Express 16, 5757-5763 (2008). | Article

Source : naturenews

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Tech Tips for Practicing Laserists

Animator Blends Old And New
Interview with Carl Graves of Laser Force
By David Lytle

“Smooth as butter” is how Laser Force President Chris Stuart describes the work of his animation director, Carl Graves. The company entered the ILDA Awards competition for the first time this year and took a total of six awards in four categories, including ISP Cel Animation and both the ISP and non-ISP Graphic Module categories.

The company’s pieces incorporate traditional hand-drawn frames, plus computer-generated animations, plus a third style that blends together the best of both worlds. This fall, Laser Force will begin releasing a series of compact discs chock-full of their trademark animations. The discs will also include “Module Makers” designed to help laserists easily generate customized animations from the stock frames. Laser Force plans to release one new themed disc each quarter, with the first disc focusing on fire effects. The Laserist recently talked to Graves about his special style of animation. To see examples of the animation and learn more about the Module Makers CD series, visit the company’s Web site at:

Laserist: Tell me about what you call “computer-enhanced animation.” How is that different from the way animators usually work?
Graves: Traditionally, laser animation has been very heavy on the digitizing side. Take the example of 24 frames for one second of film or laser output. In the past, I would draw those 24 frames by hand, then hand them over to a digitizer and then possibly someone else to colorize those frames. With the approach I have now, I may only need to animate 6 of those 24 drawings, and maybe only digitize one or two of those drawings and then let the computer do the math between the motions.

Laserist: How is that different than just giving the computer a start position and an end position and then letting the computer do the in-between animation frames?
Graves: Animation requires a lot of fine touches to be appealing. If I give the computer a start point and an end point it will give me a flat move from A to B. But I may change an eyebrow or move a lip or bend a finger to give the animation that extra bit of realism, that extra bit of action and ultimately appeal. You cannot get that with straight computer animation. With computer-enhanced animation, you create key frames and digitize those keys and then let the computer blend those two key frames for you.

Laserist: I’ve seen your work and it seems amazing that you can get such fluid, lifelike motion by only drawing a handful of key frames. How is that possible?
Graves: It’s all in the pre-production. As any animator does, you examine the movement from A to B, every part, every detail—you figure the motion, the path, the flow and pretty much calculate it. But instead of drawing every frame of it you can create the same kind of appeal and flow within a computer enhanced model.

Laserist: How much time does this save?
Graves: You save a considerable amount in the digitizing and colorizing end. If you can imagine 24 frames dwindled down to maybe 2, that is a great cut and you might be able to eliminate colorizing all those frames as well. But, because it is so reliant on pre-production, it doesn’t necessarily save a lot on the animator’s time. You are still plotting, still drawing and you will do reference keys and rough drawings.

Laserist: What about the tools you use? I understand you mix and match between hand-drawn animation, computer enhanced animation, and full-on digital animation all within the same show.
Graves: It is a balance between all the tools. If I am doing something that is very cartoony—something that is slapstick—I might want to go for more of a traditional look and not even use computer enhanced animation because I can’t capture the exaggerated look I want. Exaggerated motion doesn’t necessarily need to be as smooth as butter, so you use a more traditional style of art work. If you want mathematically correct perspective images you will go with a platform like 3D Studio Max (a conventional computer graphics animation program). If you want to kind of juggle in between, I think that type of animation is perfect for computer enhanced animation. It is just a matter of applying the right tool for the right job.

Laserist: I understand that some of these modules incorporate several styles.
Graves: Yes, it depends on the project. Various scenes might require one tool versus another. You may do 80% of your show with traditional hand-drawn animation, 15% with computer-enhanced animation and maybe 5% with LCMax [a Pangolin plug-in that renders 3D Studio Max output in laser light].

Laserist: I understand Laser Force is working on a series of animations and graphics that will be available for sale. Tellus about the additional tools these CDs will include to help people expand on the images.
Graves: Well, let’s say you are looking at a new or intermediate Pangolin user who generally will purchase graphics from another company and probably never use a lot of the tools that could possibly save them time or money. What I hope to do with Module Maker is not only offer great frames, but also include tips for Pangolin Showtime effects along with tutorials that help you get better use out of the equipment you have. It’s a whole suite of show-building materials that helps minimize production time.

Laserist: Can you give me a couple of examples of the effects in Showtime they might use?
Graves:For example, let’s say you want to create a star field moving through space. That is a very difficult thing to do by hand. You could do it on the computer and make that happen, but you might want some variations. You might want to go into a warp or you might want to pull out of a warp or slow it down or even change angles. Showtime effects can help do that without creating separate animations. You can change perspective, change scale, change position and add certain accelerations and decelerations within Showtime to achieve a different look. And most of these things we will show you how to do on the disk

Laserist: You aren’t afraid of giving away trade secrets, are you?
Graves: This is a service. It is something that we wish to share because of our passion for it, for the quality level that we wish to achieve. And it keeps us doing something we love and we have fun doing it, so I don’t think we are giving away too many trade secrets. Besides, when you boil it all down, it’s creativity and imagination that are most important.

Laserist: Let’s wind up here on the big picture. A lot of people look at lasers and they see them as a poor stepchild to traditional cel animation found in film and video. Critics don’t see laser displays on par with other forms of animation. How do you feel about that?
Graves: When I first started in the industry, I did share that opinion. I started in the traditional fields of animation, so doing lasers was really kind of an awkward thing. But the more I learned and the more I saw, I began to realize how it [laser display] really does the same things as traditional animation. You are not going to get the mega budgets for it, but you still get a lot of the same audience appeal. You can reach out and touch people in a variety of venues with lasers. It is more of a—I don’t know what the word is I am looking for— it’s a unique connection with the audience. I don’t think it pales in any way to other forms of animation. You are still communicating and you are still entertaining.

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Robot With Laser to Zap Weeds Automatically in Chemical Free Control of Pesky Plants

No more chemicals for fighting weeds in professional gardening! A fully automated unit drives over a field, a camera recognizes weeds sprouting up and a laser beam takes care of the rest. This science-fiction scenario is actually being researched at the Zentrum Hannover eV (LZH) and the Institute for Biological Production Systems (IBPS) at the Leibniz University Hannover.
Working sketch of the laboratory set-up for weed control using the laser. Image processing plants recognizes which plants are good and which are weeds, and aims the laser only at the weeds.
Image credit: Leibniz University Hannover/ Laser Zentrum Hannover eV
The main goal of the project supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) is non-chemical weed control, one of the main goals of ecological planning and effective production. The basic idea is similar to flame weeding, in which heat is used to eliminate the weeds. However, this method burns out everything under the flame, and it is neither precise enough nor can it be automated. In comparison, a laser beam is precise and can be used to hit a sprouting weed, not affecting the plants around the weed. And “laser weeding” can be automated.

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LOBO’s Interactive Laser Show

LOBO electronic recently premiered its first interactive laser show at Germany’s Holiday Park. LOBO’s Alex Hennig said the show worked better than expected, with thousands of audience members eagerly responding to the commands of a laser-projected girl.

The show, performed this summer in the theme park’s Aqua Stadium, featured a floating water screen, four laser systems, and 18 fog generators. The laser-projected girl gave the audience instructions (such as waving hands, clapping, and singing along to the music). “Surprisingly, the audience really followed even the most demanding actions and this concept really had a booster effect,” said Hennig. To add more excitement, the audience was given small battery-powered fiber lamps that turned the audience area into a sea of moving lights.

Source : The Laserist

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