In space, loose clouds of gas generate spontaneous laser emissions all the time. Now, physicists are for the first time creating lasers from gas clouds here on Earth--lasers unlike any gas-based laser we've ever seen.
This month, as part of our special on the future of education, PopSci presents 10 labs where students do serious research (and career training) by blowing stuff up.Lab: Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California at Irvine
Career: Optics engineer, medical-device engineer
The lasers in Vasan Venugopalan's UC Irvine lab—eight in all—are a million times more powerful than TNT, and their beams are only one tenth the width of a human hair. Students use them to test the limits of living cells.