Oh No, They Strapped Lasers To Sharks
We asked readers to name a fictional weapon they hope never to encounter in real life. All the most famous movie weapons received mentions, and we also got some more obscure answers. Gabirelle K. picked the "squid launcher from Despicable Me. Squids' mouths are terrifying, and the thought of a weapon capable of launching said animal's mouths into my face is just a big no thank you." Andy R. said, "Adamantium claws on a scientifically engineered cat."
Turner W. fears that if Captain America ever threw his shield his way, he'd end up with metal permanently embedded in his head, but "then I'd stick fridge magnets to my forehead at parties and probably get laughs, like, 60% of the time, so ... not a total loss I guess." Jessica H. picks "the lust instrument from Se7en." Glen R. fears a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range—a Terminator weapon that's received a lot of mockery from viewers, since 40 watts isn't a lot of power at all.
We couldn't have predicted the most commonly picked answer, however. "Sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads," said Justin N. We heard the same answer from Ryan Q., Drew K., Bill S., Kyrie S., Jesse R., and many other readers too. They're of course referring to the proposed weapon from Austin Powers, which Dr. Evil fails to receive, as sharks are endangered. This is one of several jokes about James Bond–style stories having to adapt to the modern politically correct era known as the 1990s.
Could you attach laser beams to a shark's head? Or would this lead the shark to thrash around in confusion, rendering it useless as both a weapon and a pet? In 2012, brave souls at a Hong Kong company called Wicked Lasers sought to answer this question. They got themselves a lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) and attached a laser with a strength of 50 milliwatts, which is far from powerful enough to kill a secret agent but is a bit stronger than the 2 milliwatts of a typical laser pointer.
The shark (not pictured above; that's an image from Aquaman), initially uncomfortable, quickly got used to the laser and learned to ignore it. The company designed the attachment so it would loosen and fall off before long, so the shark would not be permanently armed. Or, rather, so the shark wouldn't be permanently handicapped—the bright light ruined the shark's usual hunting strategy, which relies on stealth.
In the years that followed, the US cracked down on personal lasers, mainly due to potential danger to aircraft overhead. Starting in 2015, Wicked Lasers announced that they'd no longer be shipping any laser stronger than 5 mW to the US. They do still sell a much stronger personal laser with a full watt of power, strong enough to burn through plastic. Suddenly, a plasma rifle in the 40-watt range sounds like it could be pretty dangerous after all.
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To learn more about scary sharks, check out:
Man Wrestles Shark Out of the Surf
Shark Island Concentration Camp
Sharks Don't Really Want To Eat People
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Top image: Warner Bros.