Zoom September 2014

In a 1917 paper, Albert Einstein outlined the blueprint for the laser. He declared that atoms could be coerced into emitting an intense stream of light particles or photons, but it wasn’t until 1960 that physicist Theodore Maiman created the first device that engaged in “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” The first lasers were bulky instruments only seen in labs. It wasn’t until the invention of the laser diode in 1962 that the laser pointer became possible. The typical laser diode in a pointer contains two semiconductor crystals in a sandwich with a point of separation known as a junction, which contains mirrors. When electricity is applied, one crystal produces electrons and the other absorbs them. This reaction produces light photons that fill the junction and the mirrors keep them from escaping. Push the “on” button and photons shoot through a lens that “organizes” them into a point of energy that can hit a target several miles away. But the question remains: Can science produce honest-to-God lightsabers? Maybe. Researchers at Harvard and MIT have found a way to “glue” photons together into molecules that behave like the Jedi weapon of choice.

michael isenbek

Michael Isenbek, Associate Editor, dabbles in both fiction and nonfiction writing, coordinates the Pulse event listings and writes the text for "Zoom," among other editorial tasks. He has a Master's Degree in Liberal Studies and a Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Journalism from SUNY Empire State College.