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Chapter 1:
For many years, lasers had been considered by engineers to be a problem in search of a solution—not the other way ‘round, as is often repeated in the scientific literature. The problem was getting the laser to work properly, reliably, cost-effectively, etc. - and then getting it to “play” well with the other components in the system. This historical difficulty in obtaining working hardware with these unique sources of photons led to the many Immutable Laws of Lasers: • The optimum number of lasers in any system is zero. • The only likely result of a laser development program is that all available funds will be expended. • The performance of any given laser cannot be predicted based on the measurements of the performance of any other laser. • Lasers are the wave of the future—and always will be! Fortunately, these laws have mutated over the years to the point where they are now mostly obsolete, and lasers are used in a number of difficult environments ranging from the manufacturing floor to the ceiling of outer space. Examples vary from the obvious to the obscure, including: • Driverless cars and autonomous vehicles • Biomedical microscopes with sub-diffraction-limited resolving power, resulting in a Nobel prize for its inventors • The Internet and laser communications • Manufacturing applications requiring material heating, removal, or addition • Laser projection systems and displays • Directed energy (aka “Star Wars”) for planetary defense against asteroids
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