Laser is a term used to refer to a beam of concentrated light or EM energy. Although a laser can form naturally as a result of light passing through certain types of matter in a way that excites the energy, most civilizations have become familiar with laser beams created as the result of technological innovation.

In Earth English, the term "laser" was created as an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, after the earliest practical lasers built by Humans were created by reflecting light through a gas or crystal medium in the 20th century. While the name's abbreviation refers to the visible energy of light, the classification has also been given to similar beams in the electromagnetic spectrum that are not part of the optical spectrum. Due to this broad definition, many specific types of directed energy weapons can share properties with lasers because of utilization of electromagnetic energy.

Lasers became used as weapons in the 21st century, with adaptations such as the laser rifle. An advanced type of laser was used as a standard weapon of the Federation Starfleet in the mid 23rd century, both as a mounted battery and as a hand-held weapon. (TOS novel: Strangers from the Sky; TOS episodes: "The Cage", "The Menagerie")

By the later 23rd and 24th centuries, laser weaponry had fallen out of favor in Starfleet due to the increase of power in phaser banks and phaser arrays. It had came to the point where laser weaponry was unable to pierce the navigational shields of a Galaxy-class starship. Lasers still remained useful in other forms of technology, including applications in medicine and science. One important use of laser technology was the ignition sequence of the common 24th century fusion reactor, such as those commonly used in starship impulse engines. (TNG episode: "The Outrageous Okona"; TNG reference: Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual)

While modern lasers are able to cause damage with the potential of being a weapon, the lasers used in Star Trek are somewhat more powerful, and were apparently used in concert with phase weapons and phasers, making the term seem more broadly used and less like the specific types of lasers known to modern science.

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