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The laser at 50

By Matin Durrani


Regular users of this site will be well aware that we are currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser.

It was on 16 May 1960 that Theodore Maiman – then a 32-year-old engineer-turned-physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories in the US – eked out the first pulses of light from a pink-ruby crystal, since which the laser has become a workhorse of physics and ingrained in everyday life.

To celebrate the laser anniversary, we’re offering a free PDF download of the May issue of Physics World (right), which you can get by following this link.

Packed with great laser features, we relive the race to build the world’s first working laser – a story still laced with controversy. Find out about the technological impact of lasers in fibre optics and the quest for green-wavelength laser diodes that could let mobile phones project images onto any surface.

Basic research gets a look-in, too – in terms of both ultrahigh power lasers to promote fusion as well as ultrafast lasers that can probe the motions of atoms and molecules. And don’t miss our special, colour-coded timeline of laser history.

And if that’s not enough, don’t forget you can also view a series of great video interviews with leading laser experts via the multimedia channel.

If I can recommend just one of the videos, it’s the one with Tom Baer, former president of the Optical Society of America, in which he overviews 50 years of laser physics, and makes some predictions about the next 50. Watch it here.

Of course, we’re not the only ones to be marking the laser anniversary. Thanks to the efforts of my colleague Joe Winters at the Institute of Physics press office, today’s edition of the Sun – the UK’s best-selling newspaper – has a great article marking the laser anniversary. Check it out via this link.

But don’t spend too long at the Sun – for the real deal on lasers, you really mustn’t miss the May issue of Physics World.

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