Quantum Optics from the Opposite Direction: QED Limits on Laser Intensities

Most of the time, when we talk about seeing quantum effects from light, we talk about extremely weak beams– looking at intensities where one photon more or less represents a significant change in the intensity of the light. Last week, though, Physics Buzz wrote up a paper that goes in the other direction: they suggest […]

What Do You Need to Make Cold Atoms? Part 2: Lasers and Optics

Following on yesterday’s discussion of the vacuum hardware needed for cooling atoms, let’s talk about the other main component of the apparatus: the optical system. The primary technique used for making cold atoms is laser cooling, and I’m sure it will come as no surprise that this requires lasers, and where there are lasers, there […]

The Most Amazing Laser Application of All Time Is…

Voting has closed on the Laser Smackdown poll, with 772 people recording their opinion on the most amazing of the many things that have been done with lasers in the fifty years since the invention of the first working laser (see the Laserfest web site for more on the history and applications of lasers). The […]

Laser Smackdown: Final Days of Voting for the Most Amazing Laser Application

We’re just over 600 votes in the Laser Smackdown poll in honor of the 50th anniversary of the laser, as of early Friday morning. I notice that it has moved off the front page of the blog, though, so here’s another signal-boosting repost, just so we have as many votes as possible, to establish maximum […]

Reminder: Vote for the Most Amazing Laser Application of All Time

As of 1:45 Monday, 217 people have cast votes in the Laser Smackdown poll. That’s not bad, but it’s currently being handily beaten by the 271 people who have voted for a favorite system of units. The nice thing about using actual poll services for this sort of thing, though, is that I can re-post […]

Amazing Laser Application 12: Laser Guide Stars!

What’s the application? Producing artificial “stars” to serve as a reference for telescopes using adaptive optics to correct for atmospheric turbulence. This allows ground-based telescopes to produce images that are as good as those from the Hubble Space Telescope. What problem(s) is it the solution to? “How can I make this giant telescope produce even […]

Amazing Laser Application 11: Frequency Combs!

What’s the application? An optical frequency comb is a short-duration pulsed laser whose output can be viewed as a regularly spaced series of different frequencies. If the pulses are short enough, this can span the entire visible spectrum, giving a “comb” of colored lines on a traditional spectrometer. This can be used for a wide […]

Amazing Laser Application 10: Surgery!

What’s the application? Using lasers to cut and/or cauterize tissue during surgical procedures, instead of the traditional very small very sharp knives. What problem(s) is it the solution to? 1) “How can we do surgery without touching the tissues being operated on?” 2) “How can I get rid of these annoying glasses/contact lenses?” How does […]

Amazing Laser Application 9: Fusion!

What’s the application? The goal of laser ignition fusion experiments is to heat and compress a target to the point where the nuclei of the atoms making up the sample fuse together to form a new, heavier nucleus, releasing energy in the process. Nuclear fusion is, of course, what powers stars, and creating fusion in […]

Amazing Laser Application 8: Holography!

What’s the application? Holograms are images of objects that appear three-dimensional– if you move your head as you look at a hologram, you will see the usual parallax effects, unlike a normal photograph, which is fixed. So, if your hologram includes one object that is partly behind another object, you can see around the obstruction […]