in my inbox

I received the following e-mail this morning.  Does anyone know what this is about?  Or, for that matter, what an “explicative action” is?  Have laser pointers become so powerful now that an instructor casually swinging one around might blind or behead a student?

I’m the appointed Laser Safety Officer for the whole University.  Please distribute 
this notice to your peers, colleagues and students.

Due to the exponential growth in the availability of low-cost high-power hand-held 
laser pointers on the market (especially green laser pointers), an explicative 
action is urgent.
If you own and use a hand-held laser pointer for your lectures, presentations 
and demonstrations, please take a few seconds to review the label placed on it.
If the label states “Class 3b” (or alternative text like “Class 3B”, “Class 
IIIB”, “Class IIIb”), please note that your pointer falls under the provisions 
of the university’s Laser Safety Program and must be operated according to 
University Policy and State Regulations.  If you have this Class of pointers, 
you are urged to contact me ASAP.
You are encouraged to contact me even if there is no label or there is a 
different classification number.  In case of any doubts, please contact me.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

17 thoughts on “in my inbox”

    1. Apparently, the primary responsibilities involve regulating other high-powered lasers used in research — the ones that can set fires and cause other permanent injuries.

      The significance of Class 3b lasers is that they pose eye injury hazards (so the short answer to Jeremy is yes, an instructor casually swinging a Class 3b pointer about could at least temporarily blind a student) and their use is regulated by the FDA among other agencies.

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  1. I believe the safety issue with high-powered laser pointers available on the internet is that, when pointed toward the sky, they can temporarily blind airline pilots. This in no way answers the question of why your university has a Laser Safety Officer.

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    1. p.s. Laser pointers always make me nauseous, especially when held by someone with shaky hands jerking the light around erratically in my peripheral vision as I try to read an equation or something on their slide. Perhaps I should make myself a badge declaring me a Laser Safety Officer and take some sort of explicative action.

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  2. This is clearly a response to an increase in TRON awareness. Point that laser at someone the wrong way, and they could end up in a minimalist blacklit cyberworld where statistical significance is determined through a series of frisbee duels.

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  3. If you have this Class of pointers, you are urged to contact me ASAP. You are encouraged to contact me even if there is no label or there is a different classification number. In case of any doubts, please contact me.

    If you would just like to talk about lasers, please contact me. Or, you know, if you would like to have a chat about anything at all, really—maybe over dinner? I have some coupons for The Olive Garden—please contact me. If you would like to “take explicative action” with a nice person who sometimes is kind of quiet and I suppose could dress better but really is totally intelligent and sensitive underneath and knows about much more than Class III lasers and Warcraft then, I’m begging you, contact me. Email, phone or IM is fine. You can also find me on Facebook and OK Cupid and sometimes Craigslist don’t you fucking judge me you have no idea how lonely it can get up here especially in the Winter and you can wipe that smirk off your face if you know what’s good for you because you won’t be rolling those eyes at ANYONE anymore if I take my Class IIIC or Class IV laser and burn them out of your pretty little head who’s laughing now you—I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please, I didn’t mean it. Remember, an explicative action is urgent. I urge you to contact me. If you have a shred of human decency in you, please, please contact me. Thank you for your attention in this matter.

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      1. Kiernan, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at your post.

        Jeremy, I wondered about this email too. Perhaps it will go in my “Deal with Later” (aka never) email folder.

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  4. green lasers and beheading — no effect, p > .05
    red lasers and beheading — no effect, p > .05
    blue lasers and beheading — no effect, p > .05
    brown lasers and beheading — no effect, p > .05
    alien lasers and beheading — no effect, p > .05
    purple lasers and beheading — effect, p .05
    white lasers and beheading — no effect, p > .05
    pink lasers and beheading — no effect, p > .05

    BREAKING NEWS — PURPLE LASERS BEHEADING STUDENTS

    À la xkcd.

    Like

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