Like many other technological developments of the twentieth century, the laser has moved rapidly from the scientific research laboratory to widespread use in everyday life. It is possible to design a laser for virtually any wavelength in the electromagnetic spectrum from X-ray to infrared. Today, the laser can be found in industry, drilling fine holes and cutting precise shapes in a wide variety of materials including metals, crystals, and cloth. Lasers are at the heart of modern fibre-optic communications systems, as well as the CD player which is replacing the phonograph turntable. In the health care professions, lasers are used for diagnosis and treatment of many conditions, as “bloodless scalpels”, and for imaging parts of the body. In the classroom, laser pointers are replacing wood pointers, and small lasers are often used to demonstrate fundamental principles of optics.

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