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Review: LaserCube, the world’s smallest – and first – battery-powered RGB laser projector

Wicked Lasers’ latest gadget is one of the most mesmerizing and compelling toys we’ve played with in a long, long time. It’s also extremely dangerous, powerful enough to pop balloons, etch patterns on wood, and surely fry the odd retina if used incorrectly.

The LaserCube starts at US$499, and is essentially a highly portable, battery-powered RGB laser projector. Weighing 3 lb (1.4 kg) and measuring about 4 in (10 cm) per side, it sits happily on top of a tripod head, and uses high-speed mirrors to blast laser beams about the place in 33,000 colors.

Direct those laser beams into a single point at full power, and you’ve got an 800- or 1,000-mW beam (depending on which version you’ve got) capable of burning through wood. Or, you can use it to project stunning, hypnotic full-color patterns and animations onto walls, buildings, screens or any other surface.

The LaserCube’s companion software LaserOS (for Mac, PC and Android at this stage) comes pre-loaded with literally hundreds of animations, images and sonic visualizers that can paint the world with go-go-dancers, endless looping tunnels, or brilliant laser artwork in an array of styles that seem to go on forever. Point it at the side of a building from a decent distance, and your working area can be enormous – the beams are so powerful that they operate at impressive distances.

What’s more, many of the preset animations (and effects you can apply to those animations) are designed to work in time with music, and music is pretty much mandatory when it comes to enjoying the LaserCube’s extraordinary displays. The animated dancers find the beat and move to it, the sonic visualizers scan the frequency and amplitude of what’s playing and create motion artwork from it all. Honestly, one of the hardest things about writing this review is that every time I turn the thing on, I get utterly mesmerized and forget what I was doing.

Effectively, it’s a nightclub-grade laser in a box that’s small enough to carry about, with a battery that lasts three hours and that you can run off your phone. You can even play games on the damn thing. They’re crappy games, with terrible controls, but they’re on the side of a freakin’ building. And everyone I’ve switched it on for has fallen in love immediately. It’s absolute magic, there is no comparison between the way this thing makes light dance and a regular 1080p projector. None. Add smoke so you can see the beams darting around, and it’s even wilder.

It’s also – and I find it hard to get over this – super dangerous, despite the fact that multiple layers of safety gear are provided. To get the LaserCube going, you need to attach a special safety dongle, turn it on, then turn a separate safety key, then unscrew the shield from the front and let it drop out of the way, then hook it up to a laptop or a phone and turn it on.

But as soon as you’ve done that, you’ve got a 1,000-mW laser at your command. To put that in perspective, if a hand-held laser pointer makes 1 mW in many jurisdictions, it’s illegal, because people have used them to blind airplane pilots and cause all sorts of chaos. The LaserCube is a Class 4 laser – the highest the safety classes go – meaning it can instantly burn skin and eyeballs, among other things. The Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance – the distance from which a 1,000-mW laser can damage your eye in less than a quarter of a second – is 733 ft (224 m) away. You can even hurt yourself looking at the point where the laser hits the wood as you’re etching it, it’s so bright.

Having said that, after a fair degree of online searching, I can’t say for sure whether it’s illegal to own and use a LaserCube in my jurisdiction. I can definitively say it’s a felony to let a corner of the “screen” drift off a building into the sky, and may the good lord help you if you accidentally light up a plane and get caught. Essentially, do your own research when it comes to your own home state, be super careful with this thing, and make sure either that everyone in the vicinity knows the deal before you turn it on, or that you mount it in such a way that it can’t fry any retinas – like 10 ft off the ground and angled upward.

If you want to take these things in a pro direction, you can hook multiple LaserCubes up to a single control computer if you like. You can create your own animations with software like MaxWell Synth, Modulaser or LaserShowXpress – it’s compatible with all of these – or even try uploading images and converting them to laser art … which has frankly sucked every time we’ve tried it, for whatever reason. You can grab a smoke machine and be a smartass by making laser harp strings float in the air, which you can use as a MIDI controller to make music.

Or, if you’re like us, you can simply put on some sweet electronic music and scroll through the preset animations, gawking like drooling chimps marveling at a fire dancer. It hits us on a level I’d describe as primal.

The LaserCube costs US$499 for the 800-mW version and $599 for the 1,000-mW version. Honestly I have no idea which one we’ve been testing, it’s not written anywhere on the device. You can pay extra for a carry case, a small ball-headed tripod, a gamepad (don’t bother!) and a few other trinkets.

This thing is an absolutely legendary toy to bring out at a party or any other time people are around. If you can stomach the risks, grab one – we’re absolutely hooked on it, as you can see from the video below.

Source: Wicked Lasers


Science & Technology

We Have a Cure for the Deadliest Form of Tuberculosis

The Food and Drug Administration just approved the third and final part of a new drug regimen shown to cure the deadliest strain of tuberculosis.

The regimen involves taking five pills every day for six months straight, but that’s nothing compared to the existing treatment, which requires 40 daily pills for two years, according to The New York Times. And in a small clinical trial, the new treatment was shown to cure the rare, deadly XDR strain of tuberculosis in 90 percent of people, suggesting that the disease could soon become much more manageable.

Tuberculosis is still a major problem in a large chunk of the world. The disease is the most common infectious cause of death on Earth, the NYT writes, and the XDR strain had already built up a resistance to all four types of antibiotics that doctors currently use to treat it.

Ten million people catch XDR tuberculosis every year. Three-quarters of those people die before they get any treatment, per the NYT, and existing cures only worked on just over a third of the remainders.

The new treatment requires three separate drugs, the newest of which just got FDA approval. Gerald Friedland, one of the scientists who discovered the XDR strain told the NYT that he thought the recent experiment was “a wonderful trial.”

“If this works as well as it seems to,” he said, “we need to do this now.”

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Science & Technology

New Virus Takes Screenshots of Users Online Porn Searches

‘Sextortion’ in the making…

via sputniknews:

A new harmful virus is going after naughty victims searching for porn online, or using any other sex-related website in the most unexpected, low-blow way.

Slovakia-based IT security company ESET has warned French users about a new virus, dubbed Varenyky that allegedly records their device screens when it detects key words used to search for porn (i.e. XXX, pornhub, sex).

When these words appear, the malware could record the screen using an FFmpeg executable and then upload the video to the command-and-control (C&C) server using a downloaded Tor client.

As soon as the Spambot Trojan, which was first detected in May in France, makes its way onto people’s computers, it can get access to their passwords and emails, and potentially send the X-rated snaps to a victim’s family or friends – or even use them for blackmail.

The malware, which is still being developed by unknown hackers, also sends spam emails pretending to be invoices or bills, and once people open an attachment, it is able to extract usernames and passwords.

“Researchers observed a spike in ESET telemetry data regarding malware targeting France. After further investigations, we identified malware that distributes various types of spam. One of them is leading to a survey that redirects to a dodgy smartphone promotion while the other is a sextortion campaign. The spam targets the users of Orange SA, a French ISP. We notified them before the release of this publication”, ESET said in a report.

Even though the Varenyky malware is able to spy on victims’ screens, at this point ESET is not aware of any kind of sextortion activity.


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Science & Technology

Not for the Faint of Heart: How the Human Body Decays

Researchers at the Anthropological Research Facility at the University of Tennessee (the Body Farm) are charged with studying how the process of decay on human bodies takes place.

There, donated cadavers are observed and examined outdoors under various conditions to determine just what happens at specific times to a body in the process of decaying.

Among other uses this information is invaluable in helping law enforcement officials accurately determine time of death in criminal cases. While the process is not for the squeamish it provides a interesting glimpse into how our bodies are reclaimed by the earth.

Death and Rigor Mortis

The moment a person dies their body begins to cool at the rate of about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit per hour. This cooling process continues until the cadaver reaches the same temperature as the air around it.

Rigor mortis, the stiffening of the bodies muscles due to a lack of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), begins within 2 to 4 hours after death at the head and neck. The process proceeds down the entire length of the body until finally disappearing within 10 to 48 hours.

Flies and other insects quickly arrive at a cadaver and lay larvae at bodily orifices where the maggots can most easily gain entry to the body’s interior. These entry points include the eyes, mouth, genitalia, and any open sores. The goal for the insect larvae is the fat that lies just under the skin which they can then feed and grow on.

Autolysis, The Body Eats Itself

In a living human body enzymes within cells metabolize various substances which are then used to fuel the body. When a person dies the cells no longer have the ability to control these enzymes and they begin to break down the cell walls with the interior fluid leaking out.

The liquid from the eyes is one of the first things to go in a cadaver, spilling out of the eye sockets. “Skin slip”, or “gloving”, occurs as this cellular fluid leaks between layers of skin and loosens them. Entire sections of skin can then slough off a cadaver.

Autolysis is the process of self-digestion that occurs within a cadaver as all this leaking fluid provides food for bacteria located throughout the body; in the lungs, the intestines, and on the skin for example.

Feasting on all this food, bacteria migrate throughout the body causing it to bloat as it fills with gasses that the bacteria expel as waste. A living human being expels this gas on their own, but with no working digestive system a cadaver just fills up with gas.

The most bloating takes place where the largest colonies of bacteria live, typically in the stomach, the mouth (making the lips and tongue bloat), and the genitals.

Bloating continues for about a week until some part of the cadaver gives way, usually the intestines or the torso itself splitting open releasing the pent-up gas. During all this autolysis and bloating the insects have been busy feeding with larvae continually growing larger and more numerous.

Putrefaction and Decay

Putrefaction is the dissolving of the body’s organs that takes place as bacteria continue to eat fluids that have leaked out of the cells. Because of their high concentrations of bacteria, the lungs and digestive organs liquefy first. The brain goes quickly also, as the bacteria in the mouth work through the soft upper palate, feeding on the organ from below.

Eventually the organs in the torso have all dissolved into an unrecognizable, soupy mixture. Meat-eating insects along with bacteria will also attack the muscles for food.

Depending on the environment and weather conditions the skin may or may not be consumed. With this the process is nearly complete and the body has quietly returned back to the earth from where it came.

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