Why Lightsabers aren't Possible, and a $200 Alternative

By Will Greenwald

This is the sort of thing that should really be more expensive, just so people think twice before getting one.

This is the sort of thing that should really be more expensive, just so people think twice before getting one. Wicked Lasers' Spyder III Pro Arctic Series is a laser device that costs only $200, that can light things on fire. It uses a ~1-watt blue laser diode harvested from a home theater projector to produce a 445nm beam that can burn, blind, and generally cause havoc.  
 
To put it in perspective, the average laser pointer is around 5 mW, or 1/200th the strength of the Spyder III. At about 50 mW, a laser can be powerful enough to pop balloons from a distance. Wicked Lasers notes that the Spyder III is a Class 4 laser product (the most powerful commercially available laser) that can instantly set skin on fire and ruin eyes, and the company requires anyone who purchases a Spyder III Pro to fill out a waiver. 


 
explored the underlying technology of lightsabers as described in various Star Wars media: a device in which a special crystal channels energy from a multi-megawatt diatium power cell into a blade of incredibly hot plasma. Ignoring the various science fiction concepts like special crystals and currently-impossible power sources, lightsabers can't work because of one simple engineering problem: plasma cannot be manipulated in such a way.  
 

 
On the bright side, you can just drop $200 and get a hand-held laser that can burn things. Take consolation in that.