LaserFest 2010: Celebrating 50 Years of the Laser

Nadia Ramlagan

Theodore Maiman developed the first working laser at Hughes Research Lab in 1960. Since then, the laser has affected our lives tremendously; it is responsible for technologies we couldn't do without, from barcode scanners to eye surgery. LaserFest is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the laser that will emphasize its impact throughout history and highlight its future potential. Through a series of events and programs, LaserFest will help to showcase the prominence of the laser in today's world. LaserFest is organized by the APS and The Optical Society (OSA).

Anyone who is interested can find out about events and activities, and sign up to receive updates and program announcements from LaserFest by visiting our website. There are also instructions for those individuals or corporations interested in being involved in LaserFest. All sponsors will be offered appropriate recognition on the website and in other LaserFest promotional materials.

LaserFest is designed as a public outreach activity. To successfully reach as wide an audience as possible, it will require broad participation from both scientific and local communities. We invite and strongly encourage the organization of independent LaserFest activities and events for the 2010 year, and their registration on the LaserFest website, so they can be incorporated in a comprehensive calendar of events. Those with plans or ideas for events are encouraged to submit them through our online event submission form. For questions, suggestions, or event ideas, please contact Nadia Ramlagan, LaserFest Project Coordinator.

There are plenty of educational materials and resources available on the LaserFest website. Students can explore exciting laser innovations, watch laser videos, play an interactive laser challenge game, read about women in laser science, and browse a timeline of the milestones that paved the way for the experimental realization of the laser. There is also a step by step explanation and diagram of the first ruby laser. In 2010, the APS education department will produce a laser centered curriculum module for distribution to classes across the country. This module will focus on diffraction and interference. All of the instructions for these lessons will be available on the LaserFest website.

The site's laser history section provides information about the early history of the laser, from Einstein's theory of stimulated emission to the invention of Maiman's laser in 1960. Specific contributions from key scientists whose work led to the invention of the laser is available, including Robert H. Dicke, Gordon Gould, Charles Townes, and Arthur Schawlow, as well as a list of Nobel laureates whose prize-winning research involved lasers.

In the coming months, PhysicsQuest 2010 will be featured on the LaserFest website and on PhysicsQuest is a middle school competition that consists of four physical science experiments centered on a mystery. The experiments are designed to be done by small groups in a classroom or after-school setting. Each of the experiments gives students a clue that they need to solve the mystery. Classes can submit their answers online and be entered into a random drawing for prizes. PhysicsQuest kits are provided free to registered classrooms.

In "Spectra's Power" PhysicsQuest 2010, students will follow the ordinary school girl Lucinda Hene, as she transforms into the powerful Spectra, a superhero with the powers of a laser. To unlock the mystery of her origin and her powers, Spectra must defeat the evil super villain, the beautiful yet deadly, Miss Alignment. As Spectra learns about her past, students will learn about why lasers are one of the most important inventions of the 20th century. They will do experiments that highlight why lasers are extraordinary tools for unlocking the mysteries of our world. All the while, students will be helping Spectra and her team save the world from the clutches of Miss Alignment.

New material is continually added, so visit frequently. Upcoming materials include a complete laser history timeline, a series of podcasts, ideas for outreach activities, and information on PhysicsQuest 2010. In the coming months, the site will show a calendar and interactive map of events, where you'll be able to find and participate in LaserFest in your local community. As events get underway, be sure to look out a for a LaserFest blog featuring laser scientists profiles, fun articles, and highlights of events with weekly entries and photos.

Nadia Ramlagan is the LaserFest Coordinator at APS and a member of the team at APS that produces APS News.

Disclaimer - The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of APS.