Laser Smackdown: The Finalists

A couple of weeks ago, I announced a contest to determine the Most Amazing Laser Application. After a follow-up post listing the likely candidates, we have a final list of candidate applications, an even dozen of them (after consolidating some related topics):

  • Cat toy/ dog toy/ laser light show
  • Laser cooling/ BEC
  • Laser ranging/position measurement
  • Optical tweezers
  • Optical storage media (CD/DVD/Blu-Ray)
  • LIGO
  • Telecommunications
  • Holography
  • Laser ignited fusion
  • Laser eye surgery
  • Laser frequency comb/ spectroscopy
  • Laser guide stars/ adaptive optics

Here's how this will work: over the next week or so, I will write up a series of blog posts explaining these applications, and the pros and cons of each. At the end of that time, I'll put up a poll, and we'll decide the winner based on that most scientific of methods: random people on the Internet clicking radio buttons.

Watch this space-- the first application post will appear this afternoon.

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I'm looking forward to the post on holography. I meant to write one about the topic way back but couldn't find a good grip on it without saying Fourier transform.

Laser light shows! Duh.

Oh, and that bread slier thing that toasts your bread that they haven't invented yet.

Kewl! I love it when you guys do fun stuff like this -that's also educatonal for us amateurs and laypeople.

I now regret failing to nominate one of my phys. chem. labs, which achieved the trifecta of awesome by involving (1) lasers, (2) liquid nitrogen, and (3) glowing blue stuff. (We were measuring phosphorescence.) But these are all worthy contenders nonetheless!

By Electric Landlady (not verified) on 08 Feb 2010 #permalink

I was at a club Sat night where I saw something with a laser I had never seen. It was like they were shooting laser "bullets" out from the source. You could actually see streaks of light, maybe 1 or 2 meters long that looked like they were traveling as you might imagine tracers on military guns. But these "bullets" were not traveling at a super high velocity. It looked like they were "moving" at about 30 or 40 meters an hour. I swear I can't imagine how this was done. I would love to find out.

Given this list, laser cooling is a hands-down winner. Telecommunications has changed our world far more, and LIGO is impressive (one thing left off the list is optical springs: stiffer than diamond!), but laser cooling is a) extremely "cool", especially the fact that it works better (the Sisyphus effect) than people ever expected it to, and b) extremely cool: the temperatures achieved are measured in nanokelvins.

By Violet Barnhart (not verified) on 08 Feb 2010 #permalink

I seem to remember from The Annals of Improbable Research, a cheese raclette made by laser.

Laser cooking...the next wave?

i remember when radio buttons were only available in AM.

I'm looking forward to all of them, and in particular the laser cooling post, because I just watched Dr Kiki's Science Hour on the atomic clock, and they discussed how that uses laser cooling, and I have no clue how lasers, light, can cool, when one of the few things I know about light in general is that it generates heat.

So, can't wait to learn new stuff!