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The laser physics of software

I’ve worked in a few different places where there have been high-powered lasers, the sort that would make short work of slicing through Sean Connery in a Bond movie. With high-powered lasers comes mandatory laser safety training. At least, it does in the UK.

The first time you receive laser safety training it comes as a bit of a surprise. Then, the second (and later) times, you get to watch the same surprise in everybody else who’s watching it for the first time.

The surprise comes because you kind of expect to hear about cooked retinas, skin burns and all sorts of unpleasant nastiness. Which of course you do, but those aren’t the likely forms of laser accident. The surprising bit is the list of “popular” (not popular) ways to get injured by a laser:

  1. You electrocute yourself on the power supply.
  2. You ignite the liquid oxygen that’s built up around the liquid nitrogen cooling system, probably using the same power supply.
  3. You drop the laser (or indeed the power supply) on your foot.

So to programming. While we’re all donning our protective goggles of shiny new type systems and lack of mutable state, the “popular” (not popular) problems (we don’t know what we’re doing, we don’t know what we should be doing, we’re bad at treating people well) are not being addressed.