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Beam : The Race to make the Laser - Jeff Hecht


The Race to make the Laser

Paperback Published: 26th May 2010
ISBN: 9780199738717
Number Of Pages: 288

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Beam is the story of the race to make the laser, the three intense years from the birth of the laser idea to its breakthrough demonstration in a California laboratory. The quest was a struggle against physics, established wisdom, and the establishment itself.
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 borth ation 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.

Listed in New Books, Physics Today Listed in Science Book News "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 "Valuable resource. ... readers can enjoy it as a readable account of how science is actually done."--Science

Preface Prologue

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

Dramatis Personae Sources Bibliography Index

ISBN: 9780199738717
ISBN-10: 0199738718
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 26th May 2010
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.6  x 1.9
Weight (kg): 0.42