Lasers

Lasers

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Since boyhood Einstein wondered about light. He would wonder about its speed, and how it works. In fact most of Einstein's work involved light in someway or another. (Guillen) So of course when S.N.Bose sent Einstein a paper on light being a gas consisting of photons, Einstein was very interested. Bose's paper was more like a bunch of questions. For example he noticed that photons didn't behave like statistical billiard balls. Billiard balls that are shaken on a table will eventual fall in some pocket. But photons tended to fall in to one "pocket" if another photon was ready there. (Forward)

Einstein and Bose continued to work together on photons and noticed that one photon was indistinguishable from another photon. This let Einstein and Bose to conclude that strange behavior or photons was just statistical probability. (Forward)

For example if I have the set of numbers {1,2,3} There are 6 subsets if each position is unique:
{1,2} {1,3} {2,3}
{2,1} {3,1} {3,2}

but if position doesn't matter then there are only 3 subsets:
{1,2} {2,3} {1,3}
Since {1,2} is the same as {2,1}

Using this idea and many other ideas Einstein laid the foundations for the laser by theorizing about the stimulated emission of radiation. His idea was that if you had a large number of atoms full of excess energy, and they were ready to emit a photon at some random time in some random direction, if a stray photon passed by, then the atoms are stimulated by its presence, and each atom may emit there photon early. This new photon would have the same direction and the same frequency as the original photon! Repeating this process with more and more photons each time is what gives us a lasers. (Forward)

Einstein did not actual build the first laser. The first laser would not be created till 1954 by Townes. He called his invention a M.A.S.E.R. : Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. but skeptics read it as: Means of Acquiring Support for Expensive Research ! (Talbot) Townes first used Microwave energy to create resonance in ammonia, if the power input was really large, the ammonia would emit energy . Most people don't consider this a laser, since it was using Microwave energy to stimulate the atoms to change energy levels, but the maser did stimulate the research that lead to the laser.

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The first real laser was created in 1960 by Dr. T.H. Maiman. His L.A.S.E.R stood for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Notice that the Stimulated Emission of Radiation comes from the work of Einstein. You can see the first lasers were much smaller then the maser, but they would get very hot, so they had to be cooled by air, and would only operate in pulse mode, where the laser was primed by a flashing light. The laser it self was pretty simple, which surprised many people.

The Flash Tube is just like a flash on a camera, its job is to inject the photons in to the ruby. The ruby it self its the container of the atoms (the pockets of the billiard table in the example above) The ruby was polished and was coated with silver, with the emitter end of the ruby a little thinner, so some light could escape. The Quartz tube had the job of reflecting the photons to maximize the number of photons staying in the ruby. The trigger electrode is what raised the ruby to a higher potential. (Talbot)

All lasers work on this same basic principle where there is gas or solid that is excited and then lased with a photon and light is emitted. (howstuffworks) This light is highly symmetric and highly organized. It can also have quite a bit of energy with it. (LFI)

Medical Lasers:
Medical lasers can be used as a scalpel. Since the laser can be controlled and can have such a small contact area it is ideal for fine cutting and depth control. Medical lasers can also be used to reattach retinas and can be used in conjunction with fiber optics to place the laser beem where it needs to be. Medical lasers can also be used to stitch up incisions after surgery, by fusing together skin. (LFI)

Entertainment:
Laser shows are quite popular and the special effects are amazing. These use lasers that are in the visible spectrum along with vibrating mirrors to paint images in the air.

Computers and Music:
One popular use of lasers is the reading of CD. CD's function by having a reflective aluminum layer that has very small pits put in the aluminum. The pits and the lack of are translated into binary by the computer and then are used for information. Another use of lasers is in the use of fiber optics. Since lasers travel very fast they make an ideal way to communicate. The laser is shot down a fiberglass tube to a receiver. These wires can be very long with no loss of signal quality. Also modern multiplexing of the line lets two lasers of different frequencies share the same line. (Serway)


Metal working:
Lasers very accurate point and solid state construction make it ideal or industrial production. Lasers allow better cuts on metals and the welding of dissimilar metals with out the use of a flux. Also lasers can be mounted on robotic arms and used in factors. This is safer then oxygen and acetylene, or arc welding. (Impulse)

Sources

LFI, About LFI - How Lasers Work, http://www.laserfantasy.com/LFI/howlaserswork.html, 4-14-03


Serway, Raymond A, and Robert J. Beichner. Physics for Scientists and Engineers. N.p.: Thompson Learning, Inc, 2000.


Forward, Robert L., Laser History - Einstein
http://home.achilles.net/~jtalbot/history/einstein.html, 4-14-03


Guilluen, Michael, Five Equations That Changed The World, Hyperion, New York, 1995


Talbot, John, Laser Stars, http://home.achilles.net/~jtalbot/history/ruby.html, 4-14-03


Howstuffworks, How Lasers Work, http://science.howstuffworks.com/laser.htm, 4-14-03


Impulse Manufacturing, Inc. Precision Robotic Welding http://www.impulsemfg.com/Welding.htm 4-14-03

Talbot (2), John, Lasers in the Movies, http://home.achilles.net/~jtalbot/amateur/movies/myths.html 4-14-03
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