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Ultrashort light pulses make it possible to observe chemical reactions, opening up the field of femtochemistry. Other current and/or future applications include high capacity telecommunications systems, photonic switching devices, optical coherence tomography, and high precision surgical cutting. The damage to surrounding tissues during surgery is greatly reduced as the pulse duration decreases. Of course, this is not the only reason that scientists are keen to reduce the pulse duration. Light pulses with the shortest possible duration offer a wealth of benefits both for fundamental research and for technical applications.