Nicolaas Bloembergen speaks on Laser Technology in Peace and War

Chiangmai Mail - Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Dialogues towards a Culture of Peace series continued last week at Chiang Mai University Faculty of Science with high caliber keynote speaker, Nobel Prize winner Prof. Nicolaas Bloembergen delivering his address on Laser Technology in Peace and War.

Over one hundred people were present for the illuminating speech.

Prof. Bloembergen said, "Lasers emit light with a very high degree of monochromaticity, directionality, and can produce much higher intensities than incoherent light sources, such as incandescent lamps, fluorescent tubes and arcs.

The first operating laser was realized in 1960 by T.H. Maiman, and much early research was funded by military agencies, but at the present time the commercial laser market is four times as large as the military market.

Most laser applications are for peaceful purposes. Among the most important of these are fiber-optic communications and laser surgery. Other applications include laser printing, laser machining, construction alignment, and data storage on CD disks.

Some military uses for lasers are also reviewed." He also gave the derivation of the word 'Laser', which is an acronym standing for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation."

Despite its English origin the word laser was rapidly adopted in many other languages, including Russian. The language of science is universal, independent of nationality, race or religion, he explained.

He went from laser's scientific applications to its medical use, to the impact that optical fiber communication systems have that now connect virtually all countries and major cities around the globe, and are even more important than the impact of lasers in medicine and surgery.

In his presentation he injected a little lightness into the weighty subject, giving his student audience a tip on how to get a Nobel Prize themselves. "You are science students and all of you have a chance to win a Nobel Prize, but remember, the older you get, the better your chances are," he said.

Prof Bloembergen ended this very exciting and enlightening keynote speech with the words, "The main conclusion of this presentation is that these International Peace Foundation gatherings would hardly take place without travel by commercial jet aircraft ... one should keep in mind that science and technology are morally neutral. They can be used both for peace and for war. It is fortunate that most uses of lasers have turned out to be beneficial for mankind."

Marion Vogt