By Molecular, and Optical Science Committee for an Updated Assessment of Atomic, National Research Council
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Extra resources for Atoms, Molecules, and Light
These exotic qualities of laser weapons seem to belong more to the world of science fiction than to the world of national defense. But the same properties that have made lasers indispensable tools in industry and medicine also make them especially useful tools for the military. Advances in laser science over the past decade have led to increased security (see box “Homeland Security”), better defense, and improved military preparedness in many areas. Many of the advances needed for national security have come out of civilian research programs; conversely, many of the advances from national security-related research programs have had a significant impact on civilian technologies.
Finding the limits of a theory, and pushing it outward just a little bit to discover something new and different, is part of the excitement and joy physicists feel when doing research. 35 Practically Perfect A mathematical theorem is either perfectly true or it is false; a circle, by definition, is perfectly round. Physical theories, in contrast, are never exactly true. One finds new physics by probing the limits of presently known physical laws. These ideas thread through an area of atomic and optical physics that is loosely described as fundamental tests and highprecision measurements.
If a pair of green photons—the two bright green spots on the picture—is emitted by that optical parametric amplifier, it is fundamentally impossible to know with certainly the polarization of either one. However, if we determine that one of the photons has “up” polarization, we can be sure that the other has “down’’ polarization. Pairs of quantum particles with this type of correlated properties are said to be entangled. They are so intermixed that there is no way to describe either separately.
Atoms, Molecules, and Light by Molecular, and Optical Science Committee for an Updated Assessment of Atomic, National Research Council