Charles Townes honored during celebration of laser's 50th birthday
| 19 January 2010
BERKELEY — What
would life be like without the laser? No DVDs, no precision laser
surgery, no high-speed optical communication, no laser light shows over
the pyramids at Giza.
We have a lot for which to thank Charles Townes, UC Berkeley professor
emeritus of physics and 1964 Nobel Laureate in physics. Fifty years
ago, the first working laser was built to Townes's specifications,
launching the fields of quantum electronics and photonics.
appreciation of the laser, and of Townes' role in stimulating it, the
world is celebrating the laser's 50th birthday. Here at UC Berkeley,
the kick-off is a Jan. 23-25 LaserFest exhibit at the Lawrence Hall of
Science (LHS) and a Jan. 25 talk by Townes and colleagues about the
past, present and future of lasers.
The free public talk by
Townes, Roger Falcone, UC Berkeley professor of physics and director of
the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and
Robert L. Byer, Stanford University professor of applied physics and
vice president-elect of the American Physical Society, is scheduled for
4:30 p.m. at LHS.
The LaserFest exhibit, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is included in the price of admission to LHS.
Townes demonstrated microwave amplification by stimulated emission of
radiation – the maser – in 1954, and subsequently, with the late
physicist Arthur Schawlow, laid out the design for visible light and
infrared versions. The first working device, later dubbed the laser,
was built from a synthetic ruby by the late Theodore Maiman, then with
Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, Calif.
then, entire fields have sprung up around the laser, which plays an
essential role in the fields of astronomy, chemistry, physics and
biology. Starting with Townes' Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964, more
than a dozen Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work done with lasers.
Lasers have been incorporated in consumer electronics,
telecommunications equipment, surveying equipment and printers,
dentistry and corrective eye surgery, light shows and laser pointers.
the Lawrence Hall of Science, much of the main lobby and some of the
downstairs area will house hands-on exhibits and demonstrations laying
out the concept behind the laser and showing how lasers affect our
daily lives. An exhibit by the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will show how the world's
largest and highest-energy laser will be used to create nuclear fusion
in the laboratory.
Following Townes' lecture on the origin of the
laser and its importance in society today, Falcone and Byers, a UC
Berkeley alumnus, will discuss the future of lasers, which promise to
be ultra-fast and big.
The LHS exhibit, a cooperative project
with the UC Berkeley Department of Physics and NIF, is sponsored in
part by the Optical Society of America and the American Physical
Society. Other LaserFest events throughout the San Francisco Bay Area
will take place at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and at Stanford
University in Palo Alto, as well as the SPIE conference, Photonics
West, in San Francisco from Jan. 23-28.
For other anniversary events and information on laser use today, link to LaserFest.