Beam: The Race to Make the Laser

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Overview


In 1954, Charles Townes invented the laser's microwave cousin, the maser. The next logical step was to extend the same physical principles to the shorter wavelengths of light, but the idea did not catch fire until October 1957, when Townes asked Gordon Gould about Gould's research on using light to excite thallium atoms. Each took the idea and ran with it. The independent-minded Gould sought the fortune of an independent inventor; the professorial Townes sought the fame of scientific recognition. Townes enlisted the help of his brother-in-law, Arthur Schawlow, and got Bell Labs into the race. Gould turned his ideas into a patent application and a million-dollar defense contract. They soon had company. Ali Javan, one of Townes's former students, began pulling 90-hour weeks at Bell Labs with colleague Bill Bennett. And far away in California a bright young physicist named Ted Maiman became a very dark horse in the race. While Schawlow proclaimed that ruby could never make a laser, Maiman slowly convinced himself it would. As others struggled with recalcitrant equipment and military secrecy, Maiman built a tiny and elegant device that fit in the palm of his hand. His ruby laser worked the first time he tried it, on May 16, 1960, but afterwards he had to battle for acceptance as the man who made the first laser. Beam is a fascinating tale of a remarkable and powerful invention that has become a symbol of modern technology.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Hecht tells the story of the several competing laboratories that were attempting in the late 1950s to use the phenomenon of simulated emisson to produce a coherent and monochromatic light source. The story is interesting in its own right, both to physicists and engineers interested in the intellectual climate of the time and to the general public as an example of excitement and competition within the scientific community."--CHOICE

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195142105
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/24/2004
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Hecht met his first laser as a Caltech undergraduate in 1968, and took a while to figure out what it was good for. In his case, it was a lot of words--he's been writing about lasers and optics for the past thirty years. His books include City of Light: The Story of Fiber Optics (OUP, 1999), Understanding Lasers (1994), Understanding Fiber Optics (2002), Laser: Light of a Million Uses (1998), Optics: Light for a New Age (1988), and The Laser Guidebook (1991). He is a correspondent for the weekly international magazine New Scientist.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: May 16, 1960, Malibu, California
1. The Laser Race
2. Microwaves Are the First Step
3. Leaping a Few Orders of Magnitude: The Optical Maser
4. The Outsider's Invention: The Laser
5. Bell Labs Takes the Early Lead
6. Stimulating the Emission of Money
7. A Spreading Interest in the Laser Idea
8. A Pause to Compare Notes
9. A Dark Horse Joins the Race
10. "Everybody knew it was going to happen within months"-Bell Labs Feels Safely in the Lead
11. A Crash Program at "Pipsqueak Inc."
12. The Siren Call of the Laser
13. The Critical Question of Efficiency
14. An Idea Simpler in Theory Than in Practice
15. Triumph in the Palace of Science
16. An Unexpected Struggle for Acceptance
17. "We were astounded"-A Stunned Reaction
18. Runners-Up Cross the Finish Line
19. Epilogue

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2013

    Main camp

    Main camp

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

    To lightfur

    Hi. Im brightpelt. I am a orane cat with silver eyes. Im always up for a hunt and i love adventure.

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