September 25, 2017

Alana Hackes

The Electrifying Science of Lasers

Topics: STEM


jedi.jpgThere are many intense, exciting, and visually appealing moments that happen in the Star Wars movies. One that especially grips viewers is from Return of the Jedi, in which Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader stand opposite to each other, with green and red lasers, better known as “light sabers” in that universe, in hand. Within moments, they engage in a duel that is like a sword fighting match, and the colors red and green swirl all around the screen. While there aren’t any lasers in our universe that operate like this, the fact of the matter is that the laser is a fascinating invention. Whether you’re a Jedi locked in a duel with your adversary, playing laser tag with friends, or logically executing challenges in Laser Maze, it’s hard to deny that lasers are exciting!


The laser got its name because it’s an acronym for “light amplification by stimulation emission of radiation.” This is because “a laser is created when the electrons in atoms in special glasses, crystals, or gases absorb energy from an electrical current.” Previous to the laser, there were “masers” that were similar in the light beams they produced but operated using microwaves instead of light amplification. It was in May of 1960 at the Hughes Research Laboratory, according to the University of the Chicago Press, that Theodore Maiman operated the first laser “by shining a high-power flash lamp on a ruby rod with silver-coated surfaces.” Since its creation, the laser is used in a variety of different ways!

There are many lasers that are used for medical purposes such as solid-state lasers that are used for tattoo removal, kidney stone removal, and dentistry and metal-vapor lasers that are used in dermatology. There are also lasers that are used scientifically and technologically such as the dye lasers which separate isotopes and semiconductor lasers which are used for telecommunications, welding, printing, and high beam highlights for cars. Every kind of laser falls into different numerical classifications which deem them safe or unsafe. Chemical lasers, for example, which are used by the military to develop weapons would be considered a Class 4 (meaning completely unsafe) laser while the laser in Laser Maze is considered a Class 1 (meaning completely safe). You can check out the below diagram to see the breakdown of laser safety.

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While some lasers can be classified as dangerous, like light sabers, for the most part lasers have helped advance our technology while also making games like Laser Maze and Laser Maze Jr. lots of fun! The importance is knowing the classification ahead of time and not getting yourself stuck in a light saber battle you can’t get out of. It’ll be exciting to see how lasers will advance our world next!