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MIT Museum LaserFest 2010: The Laser at 50


Friday, October 8, 2010, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Try imagining today's world without lasers. Bar code scanners, DVDs, printers, the little hologram on your credit card... all rely on laser technologies. Lasers so thoroughly permeate our lives that it is hard to imagine that the first lasers were built 50 years ago.

Made from gases, semiconductors, refractory crystals, and ceramics, man-made lasers today range in size from submillimeter to several meters in size, and natural lasers and masers have been found which are planetary and even cosmic in scale. Powers range from microwatts to megawatts. And, lasers have been made to produce pulses as short as a few femtoseconds (that's 10-15 of a second!).

Lasers enable the fabrication of the high speed microprocessors in our computers, provide the sources for the light streams that carry entertainment and data to our homes and businesses, and are used to store and read vast amounts of data at high density. Lasers work in our factories cutting and welding cars and airplanes, have created a revolution in eye surgery and many other areas of medicine, and provide unique tools for basic science.

MIT has played a prominent role in the history of the laser. Faculty, staff and students were involved in important laser milestones including the first continuously operating gas laser and the first continuously operating ultrashort pulse laser. Quaternary semiconductor lasers, which are used in fiber optic communications, and the titanium sapphire laser, which has wide scientific application, were invented at MIT.

Come celebrate the 50th anniversary of the laser! Meet some of the 'laser greats' from the MIT Campus and Lincoln Laboratory—the researchers who have made the laser ubiquitous in our lives—as they share stories of innovation and invention. See laser artifacts from the MIT Museum's collection (including the maser, the predecessor to the laser) and 'show and tell' straight out of the labs. Join students from MIT's chapter of the Optical Society of America for hands-on activities exploring the science of the laser.

Detailed Schedule

6:00 p.m. - 6:45 p.m.
Panel discussion on the history of lasers
Featuring: Jeff Hecht (moderator), Peter Moulton (on solid state lasers), Dick Williamson (on semiconductor lasers), Erich Ippen (on ultrafast lasers), Rick Osgood (on gas lasers)

6:45 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Laser artifact 'show and tell'

5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Hands-on laser activities

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