the edible laser

May 12, 2008 at 9:12 am | | history, nerd

The beginnings of the laser age must have been a fun time: crazy new experimental possibilities, beautiful optical demonstrations, dye lasers squirting carcinogens everywhere, and new lasing materials around every corner.

The “edible” laser is a great example:

High-gain directional stimulated emission has been observed for a number of dyes in gelatin with pumping by a nitrogen laser or a liquid dye laser. For some dyes the gel is made with water and gelatin; for others a detergent must be added or glycerin used instead of water. (Source: Hänsch, T.;  Pernier, M.;  Schawlow, A. IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics 1971, 7, 45-46.)

I probably would not eat that for multiple reasons: I’m vegetarian, the detergents probably wouldn’t taste good, a nitrogen laser in the eye is unappetizing, and I doubt that fluorescein is food-grade. Theodore Hänsch describes some of these fun laser stories in Optics and Photonics News 2005, 16(2), 14-16 (or the PDF here).

It’s a fun read. Or just read the first page, then look at the pictures, like I did.


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  1. Ugh, that reminds me of people getting their eyeballs tattooed.

    (I guess I should warn you: that link is diiiisgusting.)

    Comment by joel — May 12, 2008 #

  2. COOL STUFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BEST WEBSITE EVER!!!!!!! I’ll BE COMING BACK FOR MORE!!!!!!!

    Comment by bob — September 11, 2012 #

  3. how does that remind you of getting eyeballs tattoed?

    Comment by bob2 — September 11, 2012 #

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