Do you expect me to talk?
No Mr Bond, I expect you to die!
Once you get beyond the dubbing over the villainous Goldfinger (played by Gert Fröbe) and the idea that a sixties supervillain would casually have an industrial laser to cut a slab of pure gold in his wood-panelled conference room, it’s a damn good piece of cinema.
And the laser beam depicted in the scene is not too far from the truth either.
Since Sean Connery first donned the tux and Walther PPK in Dr. No, British agent James Bond has been pushing the limits of what’s possible for one man.
Imaginatively, Bond has always been armed with more than his trusty shooter. The whizz kids in the MI6 armoury have always had him equipped with gadgets that any tech billionaire would love to get their hands on (and they have, Elon Musk owns one of the submarine versions of the iconic Lotus Esprit from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me).
Back to the Goldfinger laser.
While you wouldn’t get a bright red laser beam projecting out from the gun barrel, it’s otherwise fairly accurate: a concentrated beam of light can cut through solid metal in today’s industrial applications.
But, as Professor David Lancaster from the Laser Physics and Photonics Devices Laboratories group at the University of South Australia explains, the limits of current laser technology don’t go too far beyond that.
“Laser weapons [in pop culture] have always been a big thing, and from Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, they’ve all used that in jest,” Lancaster tells Cosmos for Issue #97.
“James Bond has continued that with supervillains using them for world domination, but the uses nowadays are relatively mundane.
“They’re mainstream and if you’re going to be a supervillain, there’s much better weapons that have a lot more impact than lasers.”
Fortunately, the real world superhero uses of laser technology are emerging: they don’t just cut metal, they also cut flesh.
“Lasers can put out incredibly high energy pulses. And it turns out they’re very good for cutting and welding human organs, like eyes, for instance.
Get up to speed with how Eyes Work in Cosmos #96
“You can use these lasers to reweld the back of your core or your retina, if you’ve got retinal detachment.
“Surgeons are now starting to use them for a whole range of different forms of surgery.”
Lasers are even being used in warfare, as we detail in the latest print issue of Cosmos Magazine – Bond Gadgets: From Reel to Real. From laser cannons to swimming cars and many more, we take you through seven (or should that be 007) gadgets that have jumped from being screen dreams to live action.
Cosmos Magazine #97 is available now at all good newsagents or subscribe at cosmosmagazine.com and save up to $35.
Originally published by Cosmos as Never Say Never: these Bond gadgets are the reel deal
Matthew Ward Agius
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
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