New NRC Report: AMO, Amas, Amat...

Via Inside Higher Ed, the National Research Council (a part of the National Academy of Sciences) has released a new report calling for a renewed federal committment to AMO science. AMO here meaning "Atomic, Molecular, and Optical," namely the sort of physics I do.

The federal government should reinforce its commitment to research in atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) science -- the study of atoms, molecules, and light, and related technologies such as lasers and fiber-optic communications -- says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. The report, which highlights six main "challenges" in physics that could directly impact the technology and economy of the future, also stresses the importance of research and education in the physical sciences.

"During the past century, U.S. research in AMO science has benefited our country enormously through the development of global positioning systems, advanced medical equipment, and atomic clocks, to name just a few applications," said Robert Eisenstein, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report and retired assistant director of the National Science Foundation. "Although the United States has led much of this research and development so far, the new questions in the field are more daunting than ever. We will not be able to maintain world leadership without a strong commitment to basic research in this area."

AMO science has made possible many advances in electronics, energy, medicine, and national security. And over the past decade, Nobel prizes have been awarded to 10 researchers in the field. Some of the most successful AMO technologies are laser surgery, screening technologies that detect hidden weapons and toxins, and high-speed telecommunications.

(The full report is available as a PDF, or for pre-order as a book, if you collect those sorts of things.)

It's nice to get some press for the field. The conclusion isn't terribly surprising-- if you read through the list of members of the committee it's like a Who's Who of AMO Physics, so of course they're psyched about the potential of the field, and think it needs more money-- but it gives a nice feel for some of the amazing stuff we can do these days.

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