Fun With Frickin' Lasers!

Laser beams!
Wicked Lasers has been making high-powered handheld lasers in China since 2003, and I finally got my pyromaniac responsible hands on one. While playing with the Wicked Fusion for several days, I tried to burn plenty of things (yes, including myself… real tattoos are expensive, y’know!), but I had the most fun pointing out stars and buildings. Okay, that’s not true: I spent most of the time just looking at the beam as it illuminated the dust floating around my apartment. It’s almost like having a tiny lightsaber.

Here’s an account of my first handheld laser experience — thankfully, I’m not writing this from a jail cell.

Wicked Laser

Whipping It Out
The Wicked Lasers Fusion comes in a little box, as though it were a Cross pen. The laser itself looks a lot like a high-end writing utensil, with a matte black metal casing interrupted only by a tiny hole at one end and an oval button on the side. It came with a pair of red safety goggles in a zippered case, which I wore at first until I knew for sure what I was dealing with.

The Fusion is the most powerful (125mW) model in Wicked’s Executive series, which is geared towards long distance pointing; if you want more burning power, the Evolution series is the way to go. At $499, the Fusion essentially a toy for people who make too much money and don’t have enough to do in their spacious office.

Light ‘Em Up
I unscrewed one end and put in a couple of triple-A batteries, wondering how such a tiny power source could yield such cool results. With goggles in place and a maniacal look on my mug, I began “testing”.

I didn’t beat around the bush — I immediately set to trying to burn things. I started with the plastic UPS envelope, and I was able to burn small holes and even a small line in about 10 seconds. I moved on to a newspaper, some brown tape, and finally my hand. The trick to burning stuff is that you’ve got to shine the laser on something dark colored, or the light will just be reflected.

Dark newspaper images smoldered a bit, but I couldn’t seem to get all the way through. The brown tape didn’t take long to burn through, though it didn’t happen fast enough to be practical. My black leather sneakers smoldered after only a couple seconds. As for my skin, it only took about two to three seconds for my fingertips (complete with guitar/bass calluses) to feel the burn pretty intensely, though the laser didn’t leave a mark.

I moved on to shining the laser around my apartment. One of the coolest things about the Fusion is that you can actually see the beam (the less ambient light the brighter the beam), though even in daylight you can see lots of dust shimmering across the beam. My apartment was dusty enough to make it look like I was beaming somebody up to the USS Enterprise.

Shining the laser on anything even remotely refractive provided endless trippy fun: glasses, cellophane, cut stones, and of course, the small disco ball hanging in the center of my living room ceiling. The beam and point are very bright, so if you need some quick illumination in a dark room, the Fusion will do the trick.

Almost practical?
The Fusion doesn’t toast bread, it won’t cut off body parts, it won’t light your cigarette (at least not very quickly) and it won’t cure cancer. However, it will damage eyes if you’re not careful, it will kill small slow-moving insects, and it could even land you in jail if you shine it at a plane flying overhead.

I can’t say that this laser is practical. The closest thing I can think of is that it’s handy for amateur astronomers who want to point out stars or other extra-terrestrial objects in the night sky. Architecture enthusiasts could also make good use of it to point out building features, even from far away. It might get you noticed at a bar, but it’s just as likely to get you kicked out of said bar. But it is a whole lot of fun for at least a week.

If you’re not ready to shell out almost $500 for the fusion, pricing starts at $99 for the 15mW version, though you’re not going to do much burning with that one.

Photo credit at top: Philip Johnson