About LightLike

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The origins of LightLike trace back to the early 1990s, when I (Steve Coy, the technical lead for LightLike), along with three others (Bob Praus, Greg Cochran, and Ernie Paxson), started a small company called MZA Associates to provide modeling, simulation, and analysis support to the Air Force Research Laboratory in connection with the Airborne Laser program.  I implemented the first working prototype embodying the main ideas underlying LightLike in 1993, and in 1995 I led the design and implementation of a more robust version, which came to be called WaveTrain™.  WaveTrain was based upon MZA’s Tempus™ simulation framework, the predecessor to our own TimeLike framework.   (WaveTrain™ and Tempus™ are trademarks of MZA Associates Corporation.)


WaveTrain was designed to be significantly easier to use than previous wave optics simulation tools, while at the same time being flexible enough to model a wide variety of optical systems.  Because of its relative ease of use, it soon became a kind of de facto industry standard with the High Energy Laser (HEL) systems R&D community, and this contributed significantly to MZA’s rapid growth as a provider of modeling, simulation, and analysis services.  Since 1995 many new components – hundreds - have been added to WaveTrain, but the basic design has remained almost unchanged.  WaveTrain has proven to be a very useful tool for two full decades, which is a remarkably long lifespan for any kind of software.  But after twenty years of experience with it, and also twenty years of progress in various enabling software technologies, we felt confident that we could create a significantly better wave optics simulation tool.


At this point, the most important differences between LightLike and WaveTrain all relate to the fact that LightLike is based on TimeLike, our new state-of-the-art simulation framework, whereas WaveTrain is built atop Tempus, which is much older and less capable technology.  As a result, LightLike is much easier to install, easier to learn, and easier to use.  In addition, in the process of porting the WaveTrain component libraries over to LightLike we found and fixed many bugs, and cleaned up the code.  Also, we made a number of improvements that were specifically designed to make LightLike easier to integrate into larger software frameworks, such as the Galaxy framework used by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Institute.