I’ve always been fascinated by lasers. So it was no surprise 14 years ago, when I received an assignment to write about a current breakthrough for my college physics class, I chose to write about blue lasers.
I still have that paper, and I pulled it out today just for the sheer nostalgia of considering how I ended up so interested in blue lasers for acupuncture.
The year was 2000, and the blue laser was the holy grail of the technology industry. An unknown researcher at an obscure Japanese chemical company had just rocked the technology world by creating a commercially viable, solid-state blue laser–at least 3 years ahead of his much-better-funded competitors. The technology world was both amazed and elated.
Why was it such a big deal? Well, it all really started with movies.
You see, back in 2000, most of us were still watching movies on VHS tapes at home in standard definition. (Remember those?) A few early adopters had made the switch to the then-new DVD technology, which gave a much better picture than VHS, didn’t wear out like tape, and never required rewinding. But movies recorded on DVD were still mostly limited to standard TV definition. This was because the DVD could only store 4.7 GB of data.
This limitation on storage was the crux of the matter. To store a movie in higher definition would take more space than a DVD could provide. And it couldn’t provide more space due to laser color.
CDs and DVDs both use red or infrared laser light to read the information from the disc, encoded in a series of pits on the disc that reflect light. Because red and infrared light have very long wavelengths, the pits can’t be very close together. Hence, the storage limit on a DVD. You simply can’t cram more pits into the disc.
But, theoretically, if someone could just figure out how to produce a blue laser, the limit would be shattered. Blue wavelengths are very short, and therefore a standard disc could accommodate more pits–and store MUCH more information. Four times as much, in fact. And this would lead to High Definition movie recordings. Even 3D!
If only someone could develop a blue laser.
That’s where Shuji Nakamura came into the picture. Working alone for years, he figured out solutions to all of the fiendishly difficult technical problems involved in blue laser production. In case you’re really that curious, it all had to do with gallium arsenide vapor deposition in a thin film. Like I said, you’d have to be really curious.
But the end result? A commercially viable blue laser that would revolutionize the world. It would find applications in science and medicine, communications and computing. But as expected, it made its biggest splash in entertainment and is probably in your living room right now.
And that’s why the high-definition DVDs that provide much better movie viewing are called Blu-Ray. The heart of the system is the blue laser light that makes it all possible. Isn’t technology wonderful?
The Best Application
As much as I enjoy a good High Definition movie, what I REALLY enjoy is seeing people’s lives and health improved. I may be a bit biased, but I think the real breakthrough in blue laser technology is the application of blue laser treatment for acupuncture. It provides wonderful effects for sedation of excess Qi, dispelling heat, and combating pain and inflammation. If you’re not yet using both blue and red acupuncture lasers, I highly recommend that you do.
And, now that you know the “rest of the story,” why not treat yourself to a good movie?