Lasers Celebrate Their 50th Birthday

Green 532nm 10mW refracted from a 5 carat diamond.-  © Photograph by Marco Nero

Green 532nm 10mW refracted from a 5 carat diamond.- © Photograph by Marco Nero

Lasers Turn 50 and the Celebration Lasts All Year!

There’s no question that laser technology is important to industry and to our workforce. Lasers are widely used throughout medicine and surgery. Lasers are integral to our telecommunications infrastructure. Lasers are helping to create the jobs of the future.

But, let’s face it: Lasers are also fun. As Laser and Photonics Engineering student Todd Devine confessed, “I’ve always liked lasers, ever since I was little.”

If you, too, have always been intrigued by the power and precision of these multi-colored light beams, you’ll want to check out LaserFest, the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the laser. As their website announces, “From DVD players to eye surgery, the laser is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century — one that has revolutionized the way we live.”

Think you know all about lasers? Take this quick quiz:

Question: What does “laser” stand for?
Answer: Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation

Question: When did lasers first become part of our “everyday” lives?
Answer: In 1974, when the bar code was first used in retail stores

Question: What is the estimated dollar value of lasers to our economy?
Answer: The devices and services that rely on lasers are thought to play a role in more than $3 trillion worth of commerce annually.

And a multiple choice question:
Lasers have recently been used to a) Clean several famous works of art; b) Shoot down mosquitoes in mid-flight; c) Identify a bank robber and analyze rocks on Mars; d) All of the above.

Answer: d) All of the above.

In fact, the reason that lasers are so valuable to our lives isn’t just because of their power. A real selling point of laser technology is the fact that the photons in light beams move with extreme focus and precision, making lasers ideal for sending messages over long distances or for accurately reading the messages contained in DVDs, bar codes, or even biological cells.

So, the next time you pop a copy of “Star Wars” in your DVD player consider this: Without lasers, you wouldn’t be watching that DVD. And without his laser beam, Darth Vader would be powerless.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply