I’m a bit bogged down in Mathematica code at the moment and have already choked the memory to death on a relatively high-performance machine doing what I thought would be a straightforward electric field calculation. Rechecking everything is taking some time, which distracts from writing here.
In the meantime I’d like to point out a few good links to read about my favorite subfield of physics – laser physics. This year represents the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser, and it would indeed be pretty hard to come up with a more important piece of physics for the modern world. The transistor, maybe, but that’s about it.
LaserFest is celebrating with lots of snazzy writing and interviews, Cocktail Party Physics is giving a great brief history of the subject, and Uncertain Principles wants to know what the most amazing use of a laser is.
That’s pretty much an impossible question, but I’d like to go off the beaten path and nominate holography. It’s literally a photograph of an object in Fourier transform space, and generates a 3d image out of nothing more than crazily veering tiny interference fringes on an ordinary photographic plate. In fact if you cut a hologram in half you don’t get a hologram of half an object, you get a hologram of the whole object with half its frequency components missing – you lose resolution and get a blurrier but still otherwise complete image. Holy carp.
More on lasers and holograms later. I’m off to write some more code simulating, well, the dynamics of a laser pulse. If I can get the thing working, I’ll post the results here.