LASERS: THE TECHNOLOGY OF TODAY
By Phil Long
Zap! Storm troopers attempt to overtake the corvette above Zorgon 4 with their blaster rifles. Zap, zap! Their rifles blazing they kill almost all of the crew. While the technology existed a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we lack the technology today to zap today.
The closest we come today to the blaster rifle is a laser pointer. The laser, when it first came out, was not cheap by any means. They retailed for hundreds of dollars. Today if you want to pay that much for a laser you can either get a host of features or get a green colored laser. Far a relatively decent laser, you can find them for around ten dollars.
The Laser is a relatively new invention, but its impact so far is colossal. The pointer has wormed it’s way into schools, businesses and into the crime and crime prevention industry. It also has helped the medical community.
The laser is based on a simple idea: take light and intensify it. For this to work modern technology must play a large role. The equation clearly describes how the process works.
Inside the laser there is a material. The process starts when the electrons within a material are excited (figure 1 and 2). They move out an orbit’s worth (figure 3). This is an unstable orbit and so eventually one of them moves back down. When an electron moves back to a more stable orbit light is emitted (figure 4). The light is in the form of a photon and
when these photons pass other electrons that are in their unstable forms they cause the electron to move back down causing other photons to be sent off. These photons grow in number (the original ones simply bounce back and for the inside the laser) until they are so great that they penetrate the one hole designed for just this overload to occur. When they pass through the laser as we see it passes through. If enough power in incorporated the laser it will incinerate anything in its path.
Lasers are extremely popular. They are found in almost all different kinds of employment applications and also in education zones. Lasers were recently banned from all Seattle schools because of the distractions they provided. Teachers had to compete with the red dot and so they just banned them. If found the laser will be confiscated. Lasers have caused problems in sports stadiums. The intense light blinds players and when they cannot see they cannot play.
The laser is extremely dangerous to the eye. It is common knowledge not to look at the sun, but a laser is much more intense (depending on the label). Of the available kinds and of the more popular types there are what is known as a class 3a diode and a class 2 diode. The class 3a uses a maximum power output between 1 and 5 mW (millawatts). Eyes can be damaged by laser light and how long a laser can do its damage is usually limited to the eye’s blink reflex, which is usually about a fourth of a second. Some theorize that a class 3a laser could damage someone’s eye if viewed directly for more than .25 of a second. Class 2 lasers, which were manufactured before 1993 had a maximum power output of 1 mW. According to scientific study these class 2 lasers are safe to view directly for “short periods of time.”
Some cases of people being exposed to laser light include a cheerleader (okay, so they have a reputation of not being very smart) who was at least exposed three times. after the last time she reported at first seeing “green,” then she has partial vision loss which lasted for several months. When taken for an ophthalmic exam, the expert found no retinal damage.
Although lasers can be dangerous, they are not considered a safety hazard. They have only caused damage when viewed directly and although it is fairly common it is most often after repeated incidents or long periods of time of looking directly into the beam.
Some guidelines as put forth by The Princeton University Environmental Health and Safety include:

Never look directly into the laser beam.
Never