It was too long ago that lasers seemed so far off and futuristic they were used in spoof films and general mockery. Just look at Dr Evil and his want for, “sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads.” Nowadays though, wow, lasers are being used for a serious amount of weird, wonderful and downright cool things.
It’s as if we’ve finally made lasers so attainable, we’re finding ways to use them in every situation possible. It’s that old adage of, if you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail. Well, lasers have replaced the hammer in the modern world, the difference being they are actually super-duper useful.
Instead of just being able to whack stuff and break things, lasers can actually be applied to make things way more efficient, as you are about to find out:
1. Kicking Cancer’s Butt
If only using laser beams to blast cancerous cells was all it took, the world would be a much less threatened place. Alas, some cancers are pretty tough sons of B’s, meaning they can’t be treated with a normal laser into their RNA. However, medical experts have found a way around this; by blasting lasers directly into cancerous tumors themselves. The way it works is relatively simple (in a really complex kind of way), and involves drilling a hole into the bone using a laser. Then, using MRI technology, the doctors navigate the maze of the human body until they locate the tumor itself, at which point they insert a laser probe into the hole and then heat the cancerous cells up to 60 degrees – enough to kill them. It’s incredible.
2. Body Problem Treatments
The great thing about lasers is that they are super precise, which is exactly why they have been used to assist the human body in certain ways, and one of these ways is laser eye surgery. Because these lasers can focus on a ridiculously small area, they are able to be used to improve eyesight and improve vision. Doctors can focus on the problem area, which is usually teeny-tiny, and then blast it with a laser, revolutionizing the way medical practices treat problems with sight. Of course, it isn’t just the eyes that have benefited from lasers; laser resurfacing (which is skin treatment to you and me), is now being used to make skin look healthier and younger and more Pharrell-like (come on, he’s basically a handsome vampire). Blotches, acne, scars, wrinkles – all of it can be addressed, paving the way for healthy new skin growth.
3. 3D Printing Got Perfect
The world of 3D printing has gone crazy. Like super-duper crazy. Food has been 3D printed out of mealworms, chocolate has been produced by changing the cartridge, prosthetic jaw bones are now possible, clothing, ceramics, guns, jewelery, entire houses and so much more. And that’s just the recreation of physical things. The other area that this includes is 3D scanning, something that has revolutionized the way archaeological teams go about investigating. Essentially what they do is survey areas, scan objects and then reproduce them through 3D printing so that they can be examined in much more detail. It’s insane.
4. Removing The Impossible Is Possible
The most famous of the lot is probably tattoo removal. It has to be. Lasers have hit the high street and taken something that was once a permanent decision and made it temporary. Sort of. By which we mean, it’s possible to remove the permanent if you can hack the pain. Nonetheless, laser removal is done by breaking down the ink particles that make up the tattoo, after which the immune system starts fighting them off, meaning that the tattoo will fade as if it’s been exposed to the sun naturally. Anyway, this isn’t the only cool material removal use lasers have. Lasers are now being used regularly to remove metal coating from both sides of a polymer base film, something that the electronic industry absolutely relies upon. Not only that, but selective material removal also allows patterning metal coating on top of polymer, glass, and ceramic substrates. It’s fiddly stuff made possible by lasers.
5. This One Is Diamond
All those diamond rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, watches and chains you see in MTV music videos are all cut by lasers. It’s the only thing that can do it. It’s the only thing that is up to the job. And that’s because diamonds are harder than The Rock. Anyway, the reason lasers are used in this is because they can emphasize the diamonds natural sparkle. The trick is deciding how to cut a rough diamond. As you may well have learned, diamonds are immensely expensive, which is because they are rare (or at least that’s we’re told by the people storing diamonds in their basement to keep the prices high). Anyway, because they are expensive, the idea is to get as many cut stones from a single diamond to maximize profits. That’s what lasers do. They ensure precision cutting, thus minimizing any waste.
6. Make Water Go Uphill
We’re not quite sure what the point of this one is but, recently, scientists have managed to manipulate water flow in some pretty acrobatic ways, even making it ignore the rules of gravity and flow uphill, and they’ve done it by firing super-powerful lasers at metal. If you’re wondering how this works, and you should be, it’s all about the laser playing with individual molecules that make up the metal surface, making them immensely water averse, even to the point that they force the water to become more attracted to one another than they are to metal they sit on. It’s bonkers. It’s still pretty pointless as far as we can tell, but the coolest type of bonkers nonetheless.
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list. No way. You have lasers being used to help blind people drive, to help cars drive autonomously, for lunar ranging, laser cooling, welding, power whitening, rilling, engraving, creating holograms, fingerprint recognition and, yes, making nightclubs incredibly awesome.