What are lasers?

First built in 1960 by American physicist Theodore Maiman, lasers are machines that produce intense beams of high-energy light. Laser light is more powerful than ordinary light because all its rays have the same wavelength and move together in exactly the same direction, allowing them to be focused in a narrow beam with great precision.

Laser light beams vary in strength, depending on the materials and amount of energy used to make them. Lasers can melt, burn, or cut through a variety of different surfaces, from hard metal to the delicate human body, which is why they are often used in surgery today. Lasers can be used to make precise measurements, to reshape corneas to correct poor vision, to transmit telephone signals, to guide weapons, and to read supermarket bar codes.