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50 Years Of Laser


The name LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Albert Einstein first theorised about the possibility of stimulated emission in a 1917 paper, The Quantum Theory of Radiation.

The application of laser technology is now a way of life from scanning goods in your local supermarket to the production of electronic devices such as CDs. It has also led to advancements in health care from removing unwanted tattoos to the correction of vision defects.

With over 22 million laser eye surgery procedures already carried out, laser eye surgery is now one of the most popular and frequent elective surgery procedures performed in the world today helping to change people’s lives for the better.

  1. Laser Technology is widely regarded as one of the most influential technological achievements of the 20th century.
  2. Hard to believe then that Einstein’s theory was initially ridiculed by scientists who saw no immediate or foreseeable use for this advanced technology.
  3. Townes, Basov and Prokhorov shared the 1964 Nobel Prize for fundamental work on the theory of lasers describing how they could be built from similar appliances to microwaves called the MASER.
  4. The correct description of how laser technology works should be described as “Light Oscillation by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. The acronym of which is not quite as impressive.
  5. The first working laser was produced by Theodore Maiman and ‘fired’ on 16 May 1960.
  6. A long and intense lawsuit lasting 28 years was fought between physicist Gordon Gould and Bell laboratories for the right to use the term Laser.
  7. Lasers are a special form of light that can only be created by human technology – laser light does not exist in nature.
  8. Famous novelist Alexei Tolstoy first used the idea of a device similar to a laser in his science fiction novel “The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin”.
  9. Arguably, the most famous onscreen use of laser is the cutting beam heading too close for comfort for James Bond in Goldfinger, a scene that has seen many send-ups in comedic films since.
  10. The infamous Star Wars light sabre was influenced by laser technology and according to Twentieth Century Fox is the “most popular film weapon of all times”.
  11. From security heists to space adventures, conveniently-visible red laser beams are a common movie experience, however in reality laser beams are invisible.
  12. To deflate another movie myth it is virtually impossible to use infrared goggles or aerosols to make the beams visible, indeed the aerosol itself may even set off the alarm!
  13. At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, 20 lasers were used in a nightly light show in which people from around the world controlled the beams through public Internet access.
  14. Scientists are working on a laser to draw lightning strikes away from airports and power plants.
  15. Lasers were first used commercially in 1974 by supermarket barcode scanners.
  16. You can now milk a cow using a robot milking machine that uses a laser beam to scan the underside of a cow and locate the udders.
  17. It takes just seconds to scan a fingerprint for identification against a huge database, regularly depicted in popular crime dramas.
  18. Curtains of lasers were used to unravel why sharks could swim so fast. Sharks can raise their scales to create tiny wells across the surface of their skin which reduces drag…the golf ball effect!
  19. In the 1970′s the US army developed a non-lethal ray gun for training purposes. We use the same technology for fun – laser tag!
  20. Laser thermometers can measure surface temperature without touch.
  21. Lasers can be so powerful that a tiny beam can be used to etch serial numbers on the hardest surface know to man, diamonds.
  22. Pink Floyd and The Who are widely regarded as the pioneers of using light laser shows during live performances.
  23. Drive within the limit or risk being ‘zapped’ by a speed camera as a laser bounces off your car to clock your speed.
  24. As Andy Murray powered his way into the final of the Australian Open, we can appreciate the use of lasers to measure tennis ball speed and court accuracy in the game, football should take note!
  25. The world of fashion sees many designer using laser machines to ensure top quality tracing and a perfect finish as well as accurately cutting through layers of material.
  26. Dr Fyodorov stumbled upon the process of correcting eye imperfections when, due to the minimal damage inflicted, he chose to remove glass from the eye of a young boy by shaving off a layer and thus improved his myopia.
  27. It was in 1978 that US doctors realised the potential of using eximer lasers to perform eye surgery.
  28. In 1987, Dr. Marguerite McDonald performed the first laser eye surgery.
  29. Astronauts aboard Apollo 11 used laser technology to measure earths distance from the moon to an almost accurate measurement with the marginal error possibility of a finger width.
  30. Tattoo regret was given a boost in the late 1960′s when experimental observations of the effects of short-pulsed lasers on tattoos were first reported.
  31. An argon laser helped realise the theory in 1979 when 28 patients underwent laser tattoo removal although success was limited.
  32. Nowadays Q-switched lasers are the only commercially available devices that can meet the requirements of successful tattoo removal after several sessions.
  33. ‘Laser’ will score a lowly 5 points in scrabble (with no bonus squares) as each letter is only worth 1 point.
  34. Astrophysicist Lowell Wood invented the mosquito laser device to kill large numbers of mosquitoes as a prevention of the malaria infection.
  35. As we prepare to kick off the RBS 6 Nations lest we forget one of best sporting April Fools of 2010 when it was reported Scotland were docked points for using a laser guided tee to gain advantage.
  36. Lasers are used in our communication systems to carry TV and telephone signals over special cables.
  37. Cold lasers can be used for acupuncture instead of needles to alleviate acute and chronic pain issues.
  38. Laser guns will replace traditional air pistols in the modern pentathlon at the 2012 London Olympics.
  39. Famous sporting names that have undergone laser eye surgery include Marcus di Rollo, Daley Thompson and Eileen O’Keefe
  40. Scientists have turned to a simple method of tracking E. coli that uses a laser to detect and monitor the microbe in potentially contaminated bodies of water to identify and reduce outbreaks.
  41. Engineers at the University of Liverpool are working with a top car manufacturer to develop a laser ignition system that will cut the carbon emissions of next generation car engines.
  42. The newest addition to the video game industry Microsoft’s Kinect uses advanced webcam and infrared laser technology to deliver this exciting new experience.
  43. The prototype for the camera and microphone of last year’s top selling Christmas gaming gift famously cost $30,000.
  44. Cutting edge laser technology can now project your arcade games onto the side of buildings to be played as normal thanks to a one-of-a-kind vector-based projection system designed by Cleveland-based Raven Systems Design and Chicago-based Aura Technologies.
  45. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich who owns Britain’s Chelsea Football Club and the most expensive yacht in the world, reportedly fitted his yacht with a laser system that prevents paparazzi taking photos.
  46. The laser printer was invented by Xerox in 1969 bringing fast, high quality text printing with multiple fonts on a page to the business and consumer markets.
  47. A laser-powered lift won the Space Elevator Games 2009 paving the way for similar machines to carry people and cargo into orbit.
  48. The Nova Laser is the most powerful laser in the world generating a pulse of energy equal to 100,000,000,000,000 watts of power for .000000001 second to a target the size of a grain of sand.
  49. The world’s smallest laser is 30 millionths of a meter long.
  50. Optical Express carries out the largest number of laser eye surgeryprocedures every week in the UK.

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