How Laser Communication Works

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Author's Note: How Laser Communication Works

Laser communications are another great example of how we're living in the future, but I'll always associate the concept with an episode from the past. During the Cold War, Léon Theremin -- inventor of video interlacing as well as the namesake electric instrument heard in scores of science fiction films -- developed a light-based listening device capable of remotely bugging an office (it was actually a low-power infrared beam, not a laser). It worked by detecting the vibrations on a pane of glass caused by the sound pressure generated by voices within the target room. The Soviets used this device, the ancestor of modern laser microphones, to eavesdrop on various embassies in Moscow.

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