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Friends and colleagues of the late Arthur Schawlow attended a special memorial session, reception and dinner in his honor at the 15th annual Interdisciplinary Laser Science conference (ILS-XV), held 26-28 September in Santa Clara, California. The meeting is jointly sponsored by the APS Division of Laser Science and the Optical Society of America, and also featured the latest in ground-breaking laser-related research in its traditional invited and contributed technical sessions. First held in Dallas, Texas, in 1985, the ILS conference series was established to survey the core laser science areas, including lasers and their properties, nonlinear optical properties, laser applications in physics and chemistry, and a selection of laser applications in other areas of science and technology.
Held Sunday evening, the Schawlow memorial session featured such luminaries of laser science as Charles Townes and Steven Chu, who reflected upon Schawlow's early contributions to optical science, his later work, his contributions as a teacher, and his public face and humor exhibited during interviews. A co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1981 for his co-invention of the laser with Townes, he was nicknamed "Laser Man" as a result of his many popular demonstrations of the new tool. [In one of his favorites, he used a "ray gun" laser to shoot through a transparent balloon to pop a dark Mickey Mouse balloon inside - without damaging the outer balloon - to indicate the laser's sensitivity.] Schawlow died earlier this year, after a long and illustrious career laying the foundation for much of modern optical science and its applications.
Another highlight of this year's meeting was Monday afternoon's plenary lecture by H. Jeff Kimble of the California Institute of Technology, whimsically (and alliteratively) entitled, "The Quantum Optics Circus: Flying Photons, Acrobatic Atoms, and Teleported Tuataras." Kimble, who joined CalTech's faculty in 1989 and is currently the William L. Valentine Professor there, believes that the field of quantum optics is moving into a radically new domain, where "quantum dynamical processes can be deterministically controlled in real time quantum by quantum." As an example, he points to the modern field of cavity quantum electrodynamics (CQED), in which single atoms are strongly coupled to the fields of high finesse resonators at the single photon level. "Manifestly quantum or nonclassical fields can now be gainfully employed to accomplish otherwise impossible tasks, such as teleportation of quantum states of light, and eventually of matter," he says. In addition, such advances are helping to lay the foundations for quantum information science, including the creation of quantum networks for diverse quantum communication protocols and for distributed quantum computation.
The ILS meeting also featured four critical review lectures, given by recognized experts on exciting new developments in the field of laser science. This year's crop of speakers hailed from such diverse institutions as Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Texas at Austin, and Stanford University. Topics presented included laser plasma extreme ultraviolet sources for lithography below 0.1 micron; nonlinear spectroscopy of semiconductor interfaces, including new directions enabled by the advent of ultrafast lasers; sonoluminescent bubbles; and the study of single molecules under an optical spotlight.
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