What we thought laser weapons would look like.
What they actually look like.
More proof that the future never shakes out like you think it will: If you asked any of us during our childhoods what laser weapons would look like, our Lucasfilm-fueled imaginations would have described bolts of light that blast out of gun barrels like tracer rounds. We have a tendency to map current technology onto future technologies, which is why futuristic flying car concepts from the 1950s all look like '57 Chevy Impalas with no wheels.
Well, the U.S. Navy is now testing a shipborne laser cannon, and its actual application looks a lot less like blasting TIE fighters out of the sky and a lot more like burning ants with a magnifying glass. Observe:
That's called the Laser Weapon System—also known by the somewhat lame acronym LaWS—and it was developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. As you can see in the video, it works by tracking targets and painting them with the laser until it catches fire. The concept had been tested against a small boat prior to torching the flying drone you see in the video, and will reportedly be used in the future to counter things like incoming missiles. However, there's no word yet on whether Navy engineers will be able to surmount the ultimate technical hurdle: Ensuring that it makes a really cool noise when you fire it.
[Indistinct buzzing noise.]
"Pew pew, pew pew"