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"For the sciences, the way to change science's perception of things is to wait until all the old farts have died off."
- Larry Niven

  A sword the blade of which is formed by a beam of visible light which cuts like a laser.  

Yes, this is the original, fabled light saber of Star Wars. Not a random weapon, like a blaster, but something that requires skill to use properly.

It consisted primarily of a short, thick handgrip with a couple of small switches set into the grip. Above this small post was a circular metal disk barely larger in diameter than his spread palm. A number of unfamiliar, jewel like components were built into both handle and disk, including what looked like the smallest power cell Luke had ever seen...

Luke examined the controls on the handle, then tentatively touched a brightly colored button up near the mirrored pommel. Instantly the disk put forth a blue-white beam as thick around as his thumb. It was dense to the point of opacity and a little over a meter in length... Strangely, Luke felt no heat from it... He knew what a lightsaber could do, though he had never seen one before. It could drill a hole right through the rock wall of Kenobi's cave - or through a human being.

From Star Wars, by George Lucas.
Published by Del Rey in 1976
Additional resources -

Luke Skywalker is handed his father's light saber by Obiwan Kenobi, his father's teacher. Obiwan describes the weapon, piquing the interest of his young padawan:

"This was the formal weapon of a Jedi knight," explained Kenobi. "Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. More skill than simple sight was required for its use. An elegant weapon. It was a symbol as well. Anyone could use a blaster or fusioncutter - but to use a lightsaber well was a mark of someone a cut above the ordinary."

Fritz Lieber had this idea forty years earlier; see the entry for rod of wrath from his 1943 story Gather Darkness. See the entry for flashlight laser, which is essentially an indefinitely long light saber, from Ringworld, by Larry Niven. Niven mentions "light swords" in the book. See also the entry for Force-Field Penknife, from Foundation by Isaac Asimov.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Star Wars
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