50 Years of Lasing, and still to go on..

Posted on June 28, 2010 in Sci- Tech

Irfan Mohamed:

Through the dawn of civilization, certain inventions, simple yet critical, have shaped the flow of human advancement. And through the test of time, they have undergone moulding and shaping of ages that came and went.

Electromagnetic waves alias light, was in great study. Communications got better everytime one put his head into it. Of one great breakthrough was the invention of monochromatic light. Light Amplification by Simulated Emission of Radiation i.e. LASER. Laser is known for its special property of creating “coherent” light waves. Coherent?? A physicist would define coherence as in-phase. Light as an electromagnetic wave tends to diverge. Laser is where light is guided through a path without stepping away from its previous state.

In 1960, at the Hughes Research Laboratory, the first beam of laser of born. Theodore Harold Maiman operated the first ever laser built from a ruby crystal. Laser is emitted due to shifting of subatomic particles between energy levels. Using amplifiers and several other technologies, a monochromatic light is created.

The initial response to the invention was not welcoming. It was greeted by headlines calling it a “death ray,” a light “brighter than the sun.” Ted Maiman had a hard time convincing his bosses to let him work on his laser project. Later with a help from few other scientists, the view shifted.

Initially a brainchild from Einstein’s big bank of theories, it got impetus from the ongoing world wars. Huge money was put into science and as the concept met huge interests in civil sciences, laser was on acceleration.

Thanks to Star Wars, Star Trek, Modern War dramas — laser technology is always related to hi fi space crafts and warfare. But it doesn’t stop there. Lasers have found a place everywhere you could look for. Commerce, Industry, Medicine, Surgery, Information Technology, Gaming and so on and so on…

Lasers have established a great deal in Defense and Combat industries. Laser Tagging is an form of gaming that is used for leisure and also training combat soldiers. LADAR (Laser Detection And Ranging) is an optical remote sensing technology that uses laser to find range and other information of a distant target which again uses the property of coherent laser light. And hey, this article that you are reading is also powered by lasers. Vast episodes of laser networking power the net, exchanging data through optical fibres.

One could quote one use of lasers from every field and every genre. The latest update on the technology is the U.S. National Nuclear Security using 192 laser beams to compress tiny balls of fuel made from deuterium and tritium thus compacting nuclear energy science.

In order to mark the 50 year landmark, it was brought out of storage to be the star attraction at a conference at Simon Fraser University in May. At that conference, the laser was hooked up to a power source and fired its beam of light once more. A half century after it made history, the world’s first laser still worked.

A milestone has been reached for this marvel invention. But, science and fiction will not stop paving its way further ahead.

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