Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oh, and the moon is made of green cheese

OK that does it. It seems like every so often I get another jolt to my settled brain cells. OK that does it. It seems like every so often I get another jolt to my settled brain cells. You know what I mean – the earth is really flat and there is life on Mars. As man (and woman) gets smarter with the aid of magnificent new diagnostic instruments and more powerful computers, we learn more frequently it seems that long-cherished beliefs are not true, or at least not so obviously true.

Most of these, like the aforementioned, I just read with humor since they are just fillers in my morning paper. You remember papers don’t you? These are the product of countless reporters and journalists who are out there digging for news that I can chose to leisurely read, or not, when I have my second cup of coffee. And because it is a paper, not someone’s home page, I occasionally find choice little tidbits that I never thought I had interest in.

The disruptive thinking that really set me off appeared via Goggle, however. And it was enough to ruin my weekend. The sacred “straight as a laser beam” has been challenged by researchers at the University of Central Florida, who report (Phys. Lett, 99, 2133901) they have come up with a family of non-diffracting waveforms that appear to curve.

Curve? What happened to the fictional hero who has a piercing look like a laser beam, or the arrow shot straight as a laser at the cowboy? It bends, they say. Now I know why that laser alignment tool for leveling a set of three pictures my wife wanted hung gave me the false reading that has them marching downhill. No wonder I had so much trouble aligning an eleven-mirror CO2 laser beam sharing delivery system for laser cutting, laser welding, or laser surface treatment...It wasn’t me; it was that curved beam.

Some of you will already know about this since it was first reported in November 2007. I’m a little slow on the uptake optical science-wise, and it was Goggle that turned it up among a bunch of references I was searching. So it just got my eye. Wouldn't have happened if it appeared in my local paper because I have a calibrated eyeball that focuses, like a laser beam, every time the word laser appears, setting off a pulse through my synapses to my memory bank.

So forgive me Demetri (Christodoulides) and Aristide (Dogariu) and colleagues at Central Florida for not picking up on this sooner. Did you get any interesting ideas from more wide awake Web searchers on what you can do with these curved laser beams? Shoot James Bond around a corner? I can hardly wait. I guess I’ll have to change my Goggle search parameters to include “stuff I can live without but like to read anyway.”

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