A photon, unlike an electron, can stimulate an excited atom to emit a second photon into the same electromagnetic mode. This stimulated emission process is the foundation for light amplification and oscillation (i.e., self-generation). Initially, the term LASER referred to Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Nowadays laser often means Light Oscillation by Stimulated Emission, which should literally be called "LOSER" instead of "LASER." To distinguish the above two devices, the former is called a laser amplifier, the latter a laser oscillator (Siegman 1986).
Laser oscillation occurs when the photon generation rate exceeds the photon loss rate in a system. If gain saturation were absent, the photon number in a laser oscillator would diverge in time. In other words, the rate equation for the photon number would acquire an unstable solution above the oscillation threshold. In reality, gain saturation reduces the photon generation rate to the photon loss rate so that the number of photons in the oscillator remains at a finite value.
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