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November 2009 Newsletter


GSA Conference

LaserFest had a successful showing at the four-day Geological Society of America's annual meeting. The meeting took place October 18-21 in Portland, Oregon. In-between trips to Powell's bookstore and Voodoo Donuts, we held booth space in Portland's impressive Convention Center. Thanks to the very many who stopped by our exhibit to grab LaserFest giveaways, learn about lasers, and educate us about the laser's role in Geology. Geologists utilize lasers for many destructive and non-destructive purposes, including laser-based terrain mapping, laser ablation, and laser spectroscopy to determine various properties of rocks and minerals.

Where's Your Photon Been?

Advances in plush toy technology have allowed us to trap and squeeze photons in the palm of your hand! These massless "quanta of light" come in three colors, red, green, and blue. Each photon color represents the wavelength of light produced by a specific type of laser. Visit the Particle Zoo to get yours, and then check back with www.laserfest.org/blog where you'll soon be able to submit pictures of you and your photon. Take a picture at a local landmark, or any spot showcasing laser technology or history. Send pictures, your info, and a short description on the relevance of lasers to your location, and we will post them to the blog.

Sci-Fi Laser Myth-Busting

A direct result of LaserFest media briefings, Popular Mechanics ran a story on 7 Saber-Dueling, Phaser-Blasting Hollywood Laser Myths. Using the real-world principles of laser physics, sci-fi Hollywood blockbusters are picked apart for accuracy and corrected in the name of sound science. Nicholas P. Bigelow, chair of the department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rochester and chair of the APS Division of Laser Science, and Thomas M. Baer, president of LaserFest founding partner OSA supplied the science behind the article. Readers can argue about lightsabers in the comments section.

Nobel Prize in Physics 2009

2009's Nobel prize in Physics is shared by three "Masters of Light."

George E. Smith and Willard S. Boyle share half of the prize for "the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit - the CCD sensor." Their CCD (Charge Coupled Device) takes advantage of the photoelectric effect as theorized by Albert Einstein. Digital cameras, which have revolutionized photography, all use a CCD as an electronic eye, converting incoming light into electric signals.

The other half of the prize goes to Charles K. Kao, "for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication."Kao's 1966 breakthrough discovery led to ultrapure glass fibers capable of transmitting data in the form of light, often laser light, over 100 kilometers. Today, these low-loss glass fibers facilitate almost all global communication including telephone and internet traffic.

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Spectra coming to Comic-Con

Spectra stops to pose with OSA and APS Fellow Dr. Charles ClarkSpectra (Dr. Rebecca Thompson-Flagg) poses with APS/OSA Fellow Dr. Charles Clark

The Spectra comic book is online! In "Spectra's Power" PhysicsQuest 2009, 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 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. Meanwhile, students will be helping Spectra and her team save the world from the clutches of Miss Alignment. Also, be sure to make it to Comic-Con International 2010, where Spectra herself will be making an appearance.

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In This Issue:

  • GSA Conference
  • Where's your Photon Been?
  • Laser Myth-Busting
  • Nobel Prize in Physics
  • Spectra Comic Book

LaserFest Posters

Request LaserFest posters for your Classroom or Lab. Discover the answers to these "laser teaser questions" on the LaserFest website.



Make sure you register your LaserFest events on our website, so they can be posted on our Events Calendar.

Downloadable logos are now available, to be used publicly for LaserFest-related events and activities.

Did You Know?

Instead of 'laser', pioneer Arthur Schawlow was a proponent of the term 'optical maser', and joked that the invention would be more useful as an oscillator than an amplifier, forcing the acronym to become 'loser'.

Support LaserFest

To make LaserFest a truly spectacular event, we need your help! Organizations, individuals, or corporations who contribute to the exciting LaserFest projects and programs planned for 2009-2010 are ensuring that the wonders of the laser and the importance of scientific innovation will reach the public to the fullest extent.

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LaserFest Welcomes New Partners

LaserFest is proud to announce our cooperation with new sponsors and partners. We greatly appreciate the contributions of Coherent and Herbert V. Friedman Inc., and would like to thank the Canadian Association of Physicists, Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science, Max Planck Institute, American Meteorological Society, Invest in Photonics, American Astronomical Society, Osaka University, Ophir-Spiricon, European Physical Society, Australian Optical Society, and IFCO- Institute for Photonic Sciences, all of whom have recently declared their support. Thank you!

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