NASA is sending a new laser-toting robot to Mars. But unlike the lasers of science fiction, this one is used for studying mineralogy and chemistry from up to about 20 feet (seven meters) away. It might help scientists find signs of fossilized microbial life on the Red Planet, too.
We can use just about any part of the electromagnetic spectrum to make a laser — from long-wave microwaves to bursts of highly powerful X-rays. The only ones we've had trouble with have been the ultra-short wavelengths making up the gamma-ray part of the spectrum. Now, that might be set to change.
A trio of American, French and Canadian scientists won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics on Tuesday for breakthroughs in laser technology that have turned light beams into precision tools for everything from eye surgery to micro-machining.