It’s hard to believe, but 2010 is the 50th anniversary of the laser. In 1960, Theodore Maiman, at the Hughes Research Labs in California, first applied a 40 year-old theoretical insight from Einstein to produce an intense beam of red light from a chunk of solid ruby. Einstein’s idea was used in the 1950s to make powerful microwaves with a device called a maser, for “microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” When Maiman similarly made visible light, his device became the laser, with “light” replacing “microwave.”
Weathercasters have long held a special place on our local news teams. Culturally, they are perhaps best known for inaccurate forecasts and questionable fashion statements. To the untrained eye, it may seem that their only job requirements are neon smiles and a working knowledge of how to place cartoon graphics of altostratus clouds.
The Science and Entertainment Exchange, along with Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences, sponsored a special advance screening of the film Obselidia in Washington, D.C., this past Tuesday (April 6th). The film was directed by Diane Bell and played at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival where it won of the Alfred P. Sloan Prize - an award given to a feature film that has science or technology as a major theme or a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a main character in the storyline.
Obselidia explores our attitudes toward technology and how we think about a future that’s bound to be severely altered by environmental change. In the film, George, an encyclopedia salesman, shuns new technology. After the Internet wipes out his livelihood, he endeavors to write The Obselidia, a compendium of everything that is obsolete - including love.