Laser Smackdown

Category archives for Laser Smackdown

What’s the application? Telecommunications, namely, the sending of messages over very long distances by encoding them in light pulses which are sent over optical fibers. What problem(s) is it the solution to? “How can we send large numbers of messages from one place to another more efficiently than with electrical pulses sent down copper wires?”…

Amazing Laser Application 6: LIGO!

What’s the application? LIGO stands for Laser Interferometer Graviitational Wave Observatory, because (astro)physicists feel free to drop inconvenient words when making up cute acronyms. This is an experiment to look for disturbances in space-time caused by massive objects, which would manifest as a slight stretching and compression of space itself. What problem(s) is it the…

Return of the Laser Smackdown

Several weeks ago, I announced a contest to determine the Most Amazing Laser Application. Personal issues interrupted this, but I want to finish it out in honor of LaserFest Here’s the list of finalists, with links to those already written up: Cat toy/ dog toy/ laser light show Laser cooling/ BEC Lunar laser ranging Optical…

What’s the application? CD and DVD players use lasers to read (and in some cases write) digital information from convenient plastic disks. What problem(s) is it the solution to? 1) “How do we store a large amount of digital information in a convenient and stable fashion?” 2) “How do we make everybody buy the White…

Laser Smackdown Update

A couple of weeks ago, I announced a contest to determine the Most Amazing Laser Application. What with one thing and another, this didn’t get posted last week, but I don’t intend to drop it completely, and will be finishing the series up in the next week or so. Here’s the list of finalists, with…

What’s the application? Optical tweezers use focused light beams to trap small particles in the focus of the beam, and drag them around by moving the beam. What problem(s) is it the solution to? 1) “How do we move these tiny little things around without touching them?” 2) “How do we measure the forces exerted…

What’s the application? Measuring the distance from the Earth to the Moon by bouncing a laser off one of the retro-reflector arrays left there by the Apollo missions. What problem(s) is it the solution to? 1) “How does the distance from the Earth to the Moon vary over time due to things like tidal drag?”…

What’s the application? Using lasers to reduce the speed of a sample of atoms, thereby reducing their temperature to a tiny fraction of a degree above absolute zero. What problem(s) is it the solution to? 1) “How can I make this sample of atoms move slowly enough to measure their properties very accurately?” 2) “How…

What’s the application? The use of lasers to provide an entertaining light show for humans, dogs, or cats. What problem(s) is it the solution to? 1) “How will I entertain my dog or cat?” 2) “How can we distract people from the fact that Roger Daltrey has no voice left?”