FYS-176 Lasers: Light and Easy!

Instructor: Ronald J. Smith Professor of Applied Physics Timothy N. Good
Department: Physics

Course Description:
In this course, students will learn about light and what makes laser light so special. They will read a book (Beam) about the race to invent the laser and will discuss the battle between professor and graduate student for patent rights, a launching point for a broader discussion of intellectual property and the reward system in science. Each student will write and present a research paper on a contemporary application of lasers. A review about the optics and function of the eye and LASIK eye surgery will provide a launching point for discussions about identity, the natural self and modern ways of altering image and bodily functions including cosmetic psychopharmacology and tattoo removal with lasers. A review of state-of-the-art laser weapons, both anti-missile and anti-personnel, will open broader discussions about the strategic defense initiative, mutually assured destruction, and nuclear defense strategies in the new age, as well as the ethics of battlefield conventions that allow soldiers to bomb, burn, and blast the enemy but not blind them. Students will perform a couple of hands-on exercises, most likely ending with the making of a holographic image. There will be a field trip to see lasers in action in medicine, industry and in the research laboratory.