Charles Townes probably chuckles every time he sees the television
ad with the cell-phone-carrying man asking, "Can you hear me now?" And
Raj Reddy may have the same reaction when he sees robots dominate the
assembly lines of major car manufacturers.
For Townes, a still-active Nobel Prize-winning physicist at age 90,
his invention and demonstration of the maser (microwave amplification
by stimulated emission of radiation) and its optical counterpart, the
laser, kick-started a new generation of modern communications, global
networks and photonic science and technology.
Now credited as the father of quantum electronics, Townes' work has
led to developments such as the atomic clocks that keep the world's
time and the ultra-sensitive radio receivers that were part of the
first communications satellites.