A 60-Year Retrospective of the Laser – Part 1

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This year the laser will celebrate 60 remarkable years of helping shape a world of manufacturing, business, and everyday life. Famed scientist and mathematician Albert Einstein had his own theories of the laser in 1917. He is credited for discovering that the stimulated emission of radiation given off by lasers could occur. Einstein also predicted the process of Stimulated Emission. Albert Einstein’s provided the groundwork for the next iteration of the laser — the maser.

Dr. Charles Hard Townes was the inventor of the maser, which is the precursor to the laser. He served in World War II as a radar technician. Dr. Townes later hired as a professor at Columbia University from 1950 to 1952 in the Columbia radiation laboratory. From 1959 to 1964, he served in the Institute of defense analysis in Washington, D.C., where he studied radar and later created the maser. Maser stands for Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Dr. Townes would later win the Nobel Prize and carry over 27 honorary degrees in his lifetime. His work led the laser’s invention as we know it today.

The laser was created by Dr. Theodore Maiman in the 1960s. At that time, Dr. Maiman was a physicist working in California at Hughes Electric Corporation against his peers’ wishes. His work began with a ruby because of its high chromium levels. Dr. Maiman would activate a ruby by shining white light into its cylindrical portion. Through his experiments, he was able to amplify certain wavelengths into increased power pulses resulting in a laser beam. Every other physicist was floored by his discoveries and achievements. Dr. Maiman even published the results in a 1960 issue of British Weekly Nature. After this, he was rejected by his peers. Despite all this, by 1961, Dr. Theodore Maiman had shown the world the laser beam’s first successful test, never backing down from his ideals that it could work and proved that the laser could be an easy tool to use. Some of the first lasers used include phosphorus headlamps in cars and its first surgical use in 1963 to destroy the heart’s plaque during surgery.

Lenox Laser hosted a speech by Dr. Townes at one of our light seminars — a lecture entitled How Things Happen, the Invention of the Laser. It was a true once in a lifetime moment to have him come to share his immense knowledge and hear of his experiences. Him, Dr. Maiman, and the people who contributed to the laser’s legacy have had a tremendous effect on our modern-day world. We hope many share and honor the people who made it possible. Come back again next week as we continue to explore more history of a life-changing invention.

BLOG PONDERINGS: More Real “WOWs,” Please

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Ever wonder what people’s “wow factor” is? I mean what does it take to get one to marvel or to gasp in thoughtful appreciation of a singularly riveting moment? For me, it is when so riveted, my breath halts, time seems to slow down and my eyes widen, and a “Wow” moment has just arrested me. I know “wow” sounds trite, but I’ve had a few of my own such “WOW” moments lately. There was that high altitude rainbow in Maine in late August when a double (nearly triple) rainbow hung in there for nearly a half hour or more. That was a definite “Wow!” Then there was a Raven’s game lately I attended where they pulled some of their eye-popping, big-boys assertiveness over the visiting team and I uttered in low tones “wow” almost reflexively. Nice, but really, a once-in-a-life-time “Wow” is bigger, and I had one recently.

Joe D'Entrement of Lenox Laser, Dick Anderson of Anderson Laser, Dr. John Wood of NASA, Dr. Charles Townes of laser & maser fame
Joe D’Entrement of Lenox Laser, Dick Anderson of Anderson Laser,
Dr. John Wood of NASA, Dr. Charles Townes of laser & maser fame

Two laser pioneers, Joe D'Entrement and Dr. Charles Townes
Two laser pioneers, Joe D’Entrement
and Dr. Charles Townes

October 4th, I was invited a few hours before it started to sit in on a very unique science conference. I had no idea what it was to be like as was evidenced by how I showed up bearded and scruffy-looking. Quickly, my attention and respect was won. I found the conference to be unique and nearly breath-taking to say the least. I caught myself thinking at first the perfunctory thought, “How unusual to have been invited,” but I quickly left off self-consciousness, for being caught up in the substance. It was the First Annual Light Seminar, sponsored by Lenox Laser labs of Glen Arm, MD, by Joe D’Entrement, its founder and owner. Sure, I had hurried there pensive about my invitation, how the countryside being so beautiful was an unlikely context and location for the lab. Plus, the lab’s technogy itself did have its own uniqueness, reason enough to evoke a small “wow,” because coupled with the Lenox Laser cutting-edge science in small hole technology, was the fact that their lab layout is definite “Wow-level” eye candy for a “techy” guy like me. So, awed a little before the conference even started, the reflection came: “Who ever heard of a Light Seminar – Light shows maybe, but not light as a subject, and what’s more, there is an intention to establish a museum about it. Really? Hum-m-m! Fascinating!”

The momentousness then really mounted as I sat highly tuned in to the lecturer’s words. He had my attention. It was the venerable Dr. Charles Townes, now quite elderly, developer of the science behind the maser and laser. The spark of what little I knew of his story was quickly blown into a full flame as he recounted enjoying years of successful research despite many of his peers. He described working through the maser and laser problems into a real science in all its possibility. Then he digressed with humor over how the pathway was so full of scorn, derision, and disassociation by some of the world’s top scientists, like Washington’s best, university research fellows, top Bell Labs men, and even when in Europe, the father son duo of Aage and Neils Bohr, who he respects to this day, yet who also echoed the mantra “it can’t be done.” Gary Boas a contributor to Photronics Magazine sat with me during the conference and saw in the Townes story a picture of scientific persistence (Gary Boas’ Blog), and as Townes put it, a picture of the open-mindedness necessary to allow inspiration to mingle into our hard work and catch us by surprise, allowing for some divine graciousness in areas where we just do not have necessary knowledge (his words!). Pinch me! Did I just hear a famous scientist who was deservedly proud, humbly admit to needing God. “Oh yeah,” I said, and I caught myself uttering a heart-felt big “WOW” to that.

Joe and Peggy D'Entreement with Dr. John Woods of NASA
Joe and Peggy D’Entreement
with Dr. John Woods of NASA

Gulyam SH. Zakirov, VP of Engineering Federation of Republic of Uzbekistanand his wife with Joe D'Entrement
Gulyam SH. Zakirov, VP of Engineering
Federation of Republic of Uzbekistanand his wife
with Joe D’Entrement

 

The moment was continued with the second guest speaker Dr. John Wood of NASA who had been part of the small team most responsible for several of the NASA triumphs in waning golden age of NASA. And we heard the host, Joe D’Entrement, Lenox Laser’s founder himself who was a “wow” type guy with his infectious creativity and positive-mindedness. He had me fooled for decades while he hid the fact that the first measurements of the moon’s distance from the earth by bounced laser light in the late 1980s were actually HIS SHOT! Well, whether it was me, or the Russians I sat with, or the entourage of the Uzbekistani Vice President of the Academy of Science behind me. Between us, a few “wows” arose, and I am already booked for being at the 2nd annual Light Seminar next year at about the same time. More real “Wow’s,” please.

1st Annual Light Seminar

Events

Lenox Laser’s 1st Annual Light Seminar

Guest Speakers

DR. CHARLES HARD TOWNES
Nobel Prize Winner and Inventor of the MASER, Forerunner to the LASER

“How New Things Happen”

[embedyt]https://youtu.be/-37JB111n6Y?list=PL9A63E78C30C6170C[/embedyt]


DR. JOHN WOOD
NASA’S Spokesperson for “The Hubble”

NASA’S Spokesperson for “The Hubble”

Laser Technology and Its Applications in Today’s Market

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Some of the most innovative companies in the DelMarVa area came together at Lenox Laser for a recent conference discussing the theme “Micro-to-Nano” technologies. The conference included talks on a range of topics, including Nanotechnology, Pharmaceutical research, Rapid Prototyping, and Laser Drilling.

John Bishop of Norsam Technologies addressed conference attendees on the topic of Ion Beam drilling. Visitors from Northrop Grumman and other local corporations reviewed digital presentations on Nanostructures, MEMS manufacturing, Advances in Laser Drilling, and Microlensing.

The wide overview of current techniques and new ideas provided an excellent forum for group discussions as innovators met manufacturers in this unique scientific environment. Lenox Laser plans to host future collaborative conferences focusing on subjects such as Rapid Prototyping and Micro-fluidics.