Look Out, Lasers: Here Comes The New and Improved Maser

Microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation – “maser” technology – has been redesigned for practical use, with revolutionary implications for a variety of detection devices.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

Sixty years after the first one was built, and long after being “outshone” by the laser, scientists in the UK have come up with a practical version of the maser. Just like its vastly more ubiquitous cousin, the “aser” portion of “maser” stands for Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. However, the maser does with microwaves what the laser does with visible light. Masers actually predate lasers, but they were relegated to obscurity due to challenges associated with magnetic fields and temperature. The “new maser,” as described in a report in Nature magazine, eliminates these impediments via the use of a crystalline material.

What’s the Big Idea?

Masers’ key potential lies in their ability to “carry out the amplification process in a particularly clean way, without adding much noise.” Unlike visible light, microwaves are able to pass through materials such as clouds and skin, which means that, in terms of sensitivity, maser-enabled systems could outperform their laser-based counterparts. For example, in their current form, masers are used to detect tiny signals coming from faraway space probes. However, with the revamped version, it may be possible to create a radio telescope so sensitive that it could “detect some extraterrestrial intelligence that hasn't been detected."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less

A new study says alcohol changes how the brain creates memories

A study on flies may hold the key to future addiction treatments.

Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • A new study suggests that drinking alcohol can affect how memories are stored away as good or bad.
  • This may have drastic implications for how addiction is caused and how people recall intoxication.
  • The findings may one day lead to a new form of treatment for those suffering from addiction.
Keep reading Show less

Juice is terrible for children. Why do we keep giving it to them?

A glass of juice has as much sugar, ounce for ounce, as a full-calorie soda. And those vitamins do almost nothing.

Pixabay user Stocksnap

Quick: think back to childhood (if you've reached the scary clown you've gone too far). What did your parents or guardians give you to keep you quiet? If you're anything like most parents, it was juice. But here's the thing: juice is bad for you. 

Keep reading Show less

Heatwaves significantly impact male fertility, says huge study

As the world gets hotter, men may have fewer and fewer viable sperm

Surprising Science
  • New research on beetles shows that successive exposure to heatwaves reduces male fertility, sometimes to the point of sterility.
  • The research has implications both for how the insect population will sustain itself as well as how human fertility may work on an increasingly hotter Earth.
  • With this and other evidence, it is becoming clear that more common and more extreme heatwaves may be the most dangerous aspect of climate change.
Keep reading Show less