The Blaster is an absolutely ridiculous invention from South Africa, designed to help aggressively lower crime. Before I get into what it does, though, a few words about South Africa are required.

During the mid-to-late 1990s (I am unaware of any data more current than that: if anyone has more recent facts I'd be glad to hear them), violent crime--especially carjackings--was a huge problem for the South Africans. According to Snopes, it was calculated that in 1997 there were 434 murders, 7,210 thefts, 1,218 armed robberies and 952 rapes every week. For comparison's sake, "South Africa's 1997 murder rate was 52 people per 100,000, compared with a U.S. rate of 6.8 the same year."

Again, one of the most frequent crimes in South Africa is carjacking. In 1998 alone there were over 13,000 carjackings, taking place anywhere from traffic lights and stop signs to parking lots and even peoples' driveways. Needless to say, car owners live in fear of having their car stolen and themselves or their family hurt in the process.

Which brings us to the Blaster. This device is literally a driver-operated flamethrower mounted under the front doors of the vehicle. From CNN:

"The Blaster squirts liquefied gas from a bottle in the automobile's trunk through two nozzles... The gas is then ignited by an electric spark, with fiery consequences."
When a potential hijacker approaches the car, the driver presses a button next to the pedals and two giant gouts of flame are released, one on either side of the vehicle. I am not making this up: to see an absolutely amazing QuickTime video clip of the Blaster in action, see the link at the bottom of this write-up.

According to the inventor, Charl Fourie, the Blaster is not intended to kill the attacker, but merely to blind them for life. "A person is not going to stand there for a minute while you roast him. It will fend off the attacker, and that's the end of it." Medical experts seem to disagree with this assessment, however.

To the best of my knowledge, and according to all of the sources I looked at, the Blaster is still legal. I certainly hope that anyone planning on stealing a car in South Africa has second thoughts about it now.