Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 22, 2010

Helium-Neon laser

March 22, 1960: Arthur L. Schawlow and Charles Townes receive a patent for the laser while working for Bell Labs and change our lives dramatically. LASER is an acronym rather than a noun. It stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. It is a device that creates and amplifies a narrow intense beam of coherent light.

The trick is to find the right atoms – which emit the radiation. Atoms are used from crystals like rubies and garnets as well as gases or liquids. These atoms are stimulated or excited as well as focused and then used in a variety of applications today.

The output of lasers are varied. They can be a continuous constant-amplitude and called CW or continuous wave. Some of these can produce visible light and can do so for a very short period of time – a few femtoseconds. That word means one quarrillionth of a second or 10-15 which is also one millionth of one billionth of a second. So a very short time. There is also a method of use called Q-switching, another method is modelocking, and there is also pulsed pumping.

Lasers are useful in industry, medicine, communications, scientific research, and holography. You use lasers every day when items are run across a bar scanner or when you print with a laser printer. When you listen to a music CD or run a data CD the reader uses laser technology. DVDs also use this focused light.

“We manipulate nature as if we were stuffing an Alsatian goose. We create new forms of energy; we make new elements; we kill crops; we wash brains. I can hear them in the dark sharpening their lasers.” – Erwin Chargaff

“The simplistic concept (of lasers) probably derived from that old James Bond movie of a laser driving down at Sean Connery. It was a big-old device with a circular beam coming down. Conceptually, that’s kind of correct, but all lasers today with those big beams come from gas or material lasers,” – Malcolm Thompson

“You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?” Dr. Evil from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

“The atoms become like a moth, seeking out the region of higher laser intensity.” – Steven Chu

Also on this day, in 1989 Clint Malarchuk got his throat slit during a hockey game.

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  1. The Laser » Laser Light said, on May 3, 2012 at 9:18 am

    […] Laser History […]

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