APS News

Laser Celebration Gets Underway

January marks not only the first month of 2010, but also the first month of LaserFest, the new outreach effort APS is helping to lead.  Together with the Optical Society of America, SPIE, and IEEE Photonics, APS is a Founding Partner of the yearlong celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser. The program includes dozens of different events across the country which will stress the importance of lasers in modern society, and more broadly the importance of basic research.

In 1960, Theodore Maiman, working at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California, constructed the first working laser using a synthetic ruby crystal. Since then lasers have become a critical component in countless technologies ranging from simple CD and DVD players to more advanced applications like Lasik eye surgery and the gigantic petawatt lasers at the National Ignition Facility used for fusion research.

“It’s a good example of how one invention can go from a ‘solution without a problem’ to a ‘can’t live without it’ product in little more than a generation,” said LaserFest coordinator James Roche.

Events will include the numerous LaserFest on the Road teams where presenters will stage physics demonstrations that feature the laser. In addition there will be a traveling lecture series, a laser show at the U.S. Capitol building, the student-run LaserDays, booths at numerous scientific conferences, and educational material distributed to classrooms across the country.

“There’s something for everybody,” said Roche, “We hope to inform the general public of the importance of the laser. We hope to let the science community know about the important faces and the work that they’ve done. We hope to convince industry and government to fund basic research. We want to inspire children to go into not just laser science but science in general.”

The LaserFest website features a continually updated calendar of planned events and locations. Also more information can be found there on the many applications of the laser, a timeline highlighting the history of laser innovations, and a variety of other resources.


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