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published by the American Institute of Physics
This digital exhibit takes the learner on a journey into the discovery of laser technology. It weaves primary source audio clips with archival photos to provide a context for understanding the impact of lasers. The technological innovation is only part of the picture. Who would win the "race" to patent the first laser? How did physicists and engineers work together to bring the technology to market? How have lasers changed the landscape of medicine, manufacturing, and retailing?

Links are provided to information and tutorials that introduce the physics of lasers to audiences with little or no background in the subject.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
General Physics
- History
- Modern Optics
= Lasers
- High School
- Informal Education
- Lower Undergraduate
- Reference Material
- Audio/Visual
= Image/Image Set
= Voice Recording
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended Users:
General Public
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2010 American Institute of Physics
Arthur Schawlow, Charles Townes, Gordon Gould, maser, photon, stimulated emission
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 30, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
January 1, 2013 by Ed Lee
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1A. The Scientific Worldview
  • 9-12: 1A/H2. From time to time, major shifts occur in the scientific view of how things work. More often, however, the changes that take place in the body of scientific knowledge are small modifications of prior knowledge. Continuity and change are persistent features of science.
1B. Scientific Inquiry
  • 9-12: 1B/H7. New ideas in science are limited by the context in which they are conceived; are often rejected by the scientific establishment; sometimes spring from unexpected findings; and usually grow slowly, through contributions from many investigators.
1C. The Scientific Enterprise
  • 6-8: 1C/M7. Accurate record-keeping, openness, and replication are essential for maintaining an investigator's credibility with other scientists and society.

3. The Nature of Technology

3A. Technology and Science
  • 9-12: 3A/H1. Technological problems and advances often create a demand for new scientific knowledge, and new technologies make it possible for scientists to extend their research in new ways or to undertake entirely new lines of research. The very availability of new technology itself often sparks scientific advances.
  • 9-12: 3A/H2. Mathematics, creativity, logic, and originality are all needed to improve technology.
  • 9-12: 3A/H3a. Technology usually affects society more directly than science does because technology solves practical problems and serves human needs (and also creates new problems and needs).

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 9-12: 4E/H2. In any system of atoms or molecules, the statistical odds are that the atoms or molecules will end up with less order than they originally had and that the thermal energy will be spread out more evenly. The amount of order in a system may stay the same or increase, but only if the surrounding environment becomes even less ordered. The total amount of order in the universe always tends to decrease.
  • 9-12: 4E/H5. When energy of an isolated atom or molecule changes, it does so in a definite jump from one value to another, with no possible values in between. The change in energy occurs when light is absorbed or emitted, so the light also has distinct energy values. The light emitted or absorbed by separate atoms or molecules (as in a gas) can be used to identify what the substance is.
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Record Link
AIP Format
(American Institute of Physics, College Park, 2010), WWW Document, (http://www.aip.org/history/exhibits/laser/sections/raydevices.html).
Center for History of Physics: Bright Idea - The First Lasers, (American Institute of Physics, College Park, 2010), <http://www.aip.org/history/exhibits/laser/sections/raydevices.html>.
APA Format
Center for History of Physics: Bright Idea - The First Lasers. (2010). Retrieved April 30, 2016, from American Institute of Physics: http://www.aip.org/history/exhibits/laser/sections/raydevices.html
Chicago Format
American Institute of Physics. Center for History of Physics: Bright Idea - The First Lasers. College Park: American Institute of Physics, 2010. http://www.aip.org/history/exhibits/laser/sections/raydevices.html (accessed 30 April 2016).
MLA Format
Center for History of Physics: Bright Idea - The First Lasers. College Park: American Institute of Physics, 2010. 30 Apr. 2016 <http://www.aip.org/history/exhibits/laser/sections/raydevices.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Center for History of Physics: Bright Idea - The First Lasers}, Publisher = {American Institute of Physics}, Volume = {2016}, Number = {30 April 2016}, Year = {2010} }
Refer Export Format

%T Center for History of Physics: Bright Idea - The First Lasers
%D 2010
%I American Institute of Physics
%C College Park
%U http://www.aip.org/history/exhibits/laser/sections/raydevices.html
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D 2010
%T Center for History of Physics: Bright Idea - The First Lasers
%I American Institute of Physics
%V 2016
%N 30 April 2016
%9 text/html
%U http://www.aip.org/history/exhibits/laser/sections/raydevices.html

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