What Can Lasers Do?

This image of Mars was made using lasers.

Lasers use mirrors to concentrate light energy into a thin, powerful beam. You might be surprised by how often people use lasers. In fact, you may have a laser at home. A DVD player uses a laser to read the information on a DVD. The information is used to show the picture and play the sound for your favorite movie. 

When you go to the store, the cashier uses a laser to read the barcode on the things you buy. The barcode tells the computer what the item is and how much it costs. 

Some lasers are so powerful they can cut through steel. Companies that make parts out of metal use a laser beam to melt just enough metal to cut a thin line. Lasers are also used to cut diamonds, one of the hardest substances on Earth. 

Light always travels in straight lines. Builders can use lasers to make sure they are building along a straight line. Lasers can also be used to scan a landscape to get a 3-D model. Lasers have even been used in space to map Mars and the asteroid Eros. 

Doctors use lasers, too. Eye surgeons can use a laser to reshape the eye. The shape of the eye determines how well you see. Many people who once wore glasses can now see perfectly without them. Doctors can use lasers to break kidney stones apart. Lasers can be used to make very tiny cuts during surgery. This is important to speed the healing process. 

What do you think? Why are lasers important? 

Photo Credit: MOLA Science Team