Decades after its birth, the laser is still irresistibly cool.

How many other fifty-somethings can you say that about?

Even though lasers are as common as dirt now, appearing in everything from DVD players to supermarket scanners to computer mice, there’s still a certain appeal to a beam of coherent, monochromatic light. Especially if it’s dangerously powerful.

So it’s no surprise that people can’t resist playing with lasers, building their own, customizing them and, of course, setting stuff on fire with them.

Theodore Maiman probably never foresaw the ways his creation would be used when he first turned it on in 1960. But then again, he might be happy to know that someone has come up with actual laser rayguns.

Pulse Laser Gun Mk II
At the top of the do-it-yourself laser pyramid is this amazing pulse gun, capable of pumping out 1 megawatt of coherent light in short pulses.

As the video shows, that’s enough to punch holes in plastic and, of course, pop balloons. Add a focusing lens and the beam of laser light creates a tiny, intensely hot ball of plasma that can burn holes in aluminum and char wood.

It weighs almost 2 pounds, but has a self-contained battery pack capable of 50 shots. It may not be practical as a weapon, but like other powerful lasers, it’s very, very dangerous.

Full gallery, with lots of snarky copy: DIY Lasers Are Irresistibly Dangerous | Gadget Lab |