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Understanding Lasers: An Entry-Level Guide (3th edition)


Author: Jeff Hecht

Publisher: Wiley-IEEE Press; 3 edition


Publish Date: June 10, 2008

ISBN-10: 470088907

Pages: 496

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

I HE LASER is LESS THAN three years younger than the space age. Just days after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I on October 4, 1957, Charles Townes and Gordon Gould had two crucial discussions at Columbia University about the idea that would become the laser. As the United States and Soviets launched the space race, Townes and Gould went their separate ways and started their own race to make the laser. On May 16, 1960, Theodore Maiman crossed the laser finish line, demonstrating the world’s first laser at Hughes Research Laboratories in California.

Bright, coherent, and tightly focused, laser beams were a new kind of light that excited the imagination. Science fiction writers turned their fictional ray guns into lasers with a stroke of the pen. Science writers inhaled deeply of the technological optimism of the early 1960s and wrote breathless predictions about the future of “the incredible laser.” An article in the November 11,1962 issue of the Sunday newspaper supplement This Week revealed U.S. Army schemes for equipping soldiers with a “death-ray gun . . . small enough to be carried or worn as a side-arm.” It quoted Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis E. LeMay predicting that ground-based lasers could zap incoming missiles at the speed of light.

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