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No. 21: May-Jun 1982

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Natural lasers in the terrestrial and martian skies?

In a current laser patent dispute, one side claims that a certain laser patent is invalid because natural phenomena cannot be patented under U.S. law. It seems that last year, Michael Mumma and colleagues at Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland discovered a 10-micrometer (infrared) laser in the Martian atmosphere. This laser is located about 75 kilometers above the surface, is optically pumped by the sun, and radiates an astonishing 101 2 watts. The terrestrial atmosphere may contain a natural 4.3-micrometer laser, for auroras are accompanied by very intense molecular emissions at this wavelength.

(Raloff, J.; "Gould Laser Patent Ruled Invalid -- So Far," Science News, 121: 199, 1982.)

From Science Frontiers #21, MAY-JUN 1982. 1982-2000 William R. Corliss