The height of light: From a curiosity to a global phenomenon

International Year of Light Blog

Lasers have long energized our imaginations, bringing us light sabers and holodecks. And, more recently, even laser cats.

In reality, light-based technologies enable our modern lifestyles, from high-speed communications to observatories that glimpse at the universe’s origins. Underlying these innovations are fundamental properties, materials and designs.

Lasers, in particular, were famously described as a “solution looking for a problem” in 1960. That’s a phrase that could refer to many areas of discovery-driven research.

Importantly, in retrospect that phrase drives home an antithetical point: that we don’t know where solutions will come from.

Knowledge and inventions created by modern explorers of the unknown (i.e., scientists and engineers) often start out as curiosities and end up bringing our world closer together.

To celebrate lasers and other light sources, the U.S. National Science Foundation, which invests in the best and the brightest of those science and technology pioneers…

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