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The Laser Celebrates Its 50th Frickin' Birthday

Albert Einstein first postulated the possibility of amplifying protons to create "masers" in 1917, but the theory wouldn't produce effective technology until the post-World War II period. The science of masers continued to evolve over the following decade, and, in 1958, Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow of Bell Labs published a seminal report that would spark a scientific revolution. The paper proposed that, by incorporating maser properties with the light spectrum, researchers could emit an intense optical beam.

Theodore Maiman of Hughes Labs would finally bring that research to fruition when he constructed the first functional laser and fired the first blast on May 16th of 1960. For those keeping score, that means the laser is officially turning 50 this very day. According to CNET's Daniel Terdiman, Hughes Labs (which would later become Raytheon) initially developed lasers that were primarily used by the military for guidance and targeting operations, a system which would prove significant and highly effective during the Vietnam War. The beams have since diverged into a multitude of directions, as the technology has been applied to a seemingly infinite array of endeavors -- even if it's just a cheap method for kids to annoy their pets, teachers and classmates.

While 50 is still relatively young, this year is currently hosting an incredible laser renaissance as scientists seem to be realizing the full potential of the technology. What better way to celebrate a monumental milestone than with the completion of the world's largest laser, spaceships engaging in distant orbital exchanges, and -- finally -- a mosquito-zapping Photon Fence? Huzzah! [From: CNET]

Tags: BellLabs, birthday, einstein, fun, history, laser, laser birthday, LaserBirthday, lasers, raytheon, top