What is a Laser?


Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The term originally referred to devices capable of emitting monochromatic (or near-monochromatic) light. As the devices developed and entered into almost every type industry, the term laser began to refer to the beam of light itself as well as the apparatus that created it. Later use of the word as an adjective, as well as the acronym reduction from "LASER" to "laser", have cemented the word as a common term in everyday speech.

Although lasers enable industry to produce products that otherwise could not be produced, they are more often used in much less critical roles. Most industry use of lasers are in operations that can be done by other means. However, lasers are often cheaper, more reliable, and safer than other technologies. Delicate surgical procedures, especially eye surgery, are a prime example of a laser's precision being put to use. Laser eye surgery is safer, less painful to the patient, and has a shorter recovery period as compared to traditional scalpel surgery. Laser hair removal is more permanent, and less traumatic, than shaving or body waxing. Modern laser printers are faster, more efficient, and produce sharper results than conventional ink jet, solid ink, or dye-sublimation printers. Laser parking sensors help us park our cars, and laser pointers help us aim our attention and our weapons. Laser discs store more music than the formats they replace, and laser mice are more accurate and comfortable than their mechanical-ball counterparts.

In addition to these roles, lasers have enabled new devices and methods that do in fact rely upon them exclusively. Laser engraving techniques offer precision that traditional etching methods cannot match. Additionally, lasers can engrave rough or uneven surfaces, a job that chemical etching cannot do. Laser cutters can work continuously, with little to no noise and no wear. Thus, factories can reduce downtime and maintenance costs. Digital optical disks such as CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs rely upon the laser's precision to store huge quantities of data in small spaces. Every field, from medicine to entertainment to the military, have found a use for lasers. Not bad for an invention that was once termed "a solution looking for a problem".

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