A Brilliant Idea

This poem is simply a description of how a laser works. The word "laser" came from the acronym LASER, which stood for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation." Lasers emit light of a pure color--that is to say, every photon's wave shape crests simultaneously and troughs simultaneously, like soldiers marching in step. This is different than white light, which is a combination of photons of many different wavelengths, which makes "walking in step" impossible--every photon's "stride" is a different length.

Since lasers were invented, they have found utility in a wide variety of fields: your CD player, CD-ROM drives, laser surgery, tattoo removal, jam-resistant speed detectors used by law enforcement, laser printers, high-speed telecommunications, and more. In fact, there is a high likelihood that the signals from this website to your computer screen were transmitted, somewhere along the line, by lasers through fiber optic cables.

This poem was first published in the July/August 1997 issue of Quantum Magazine.

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A Brilliant Idea
Copyright 1997 David Arns

You can talk of brilliant light,
Light that makes like day the night,
Or of adjectives like "bright" and nouns like "glare,"
But if you're wanting shining
That can fry your eyeball's lining,
Then you'll find that lasers are beyond compare.

See, a laser is a light
That's so very, very bright,
You can aim it up and bounce it off the moon.
For a laser blast's duration,
It is no exaggeration:
It's more dazzling than the sun at cloudless noon.

Yes, it's bright! bright! bright!
Whether blue or green or red--they're never white.
When a laser is a-lasing,
You had best avert your gazing
If you ever want to see another sight.

If you want to build a laser
For your wife, that will amaze her,
It's quite easy to assemble in a day.
Get a flashtube filled with xenon,
(Like the strobe that you're so keen on),
And wrap it 'round a rod like DNA.

Now that rod is made of stuff
That, when energized enough,
The atoms will emit a photon shower
Which will then leak out the end,
So you need to make it bend
Back into the rod, so it builds up more power.

It will grow, grow, grow!
If the polished ends reverse it to and fro.
Every time, it bounces back,
Hits the wall, reverses track--
All the while, the xenon tube pumps in its glow.

Well, the silver-polished ends,
On which power growth depends,
Are not polished, quite exactly, just the same.
So the end whose mirror's weaker
Finally gives, and there's no sleeker
Kind of light than that, which shoots with pinpoint aim.

Now, the wavelengths of this light
Are identical, all right,
And the photons all go marching, locked in sync.
It's "coherent," as they say,
When describing such a ray.
So, that's how to build a laser; what'cha think?

It is cool! cool! cool!
To create a laser of one gigajoule.
You can vaporize a tree,
Rid your dog of every flea--
Just don't let your child take it in to school. . . .

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