Technology: The Power & Potential of Pure Light

TECHNOLOGY

The Power & Potential of Pure Light

There was no word to describe the new device when scientists first learned how to build it. But there seemed to be no limit to its potential. The fierce pure light they were coaxing out of synthetic crystals was so powerful that the military believed its long-sought super-weapon—a death ray—might finally become a reality. Applications in medicine and in industry seemed limited only by the human imagination.

Then for a while, optimism faded. Practical uses for the new source of light, which scientists christened laser (for light amplification by stimulated...