Field of Science

Romancing the Stone

Summer reading should be fun, and not science, but the mystery/romance novel I picked up to read at the swimming pool had a great physical chemistry twist in it. The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick is set in the 19th century and features an evil scientist who believes himself to be the next Newton, working to build a weapon that could destroy London. The penultimate scene finds the heroine in the fiend's underground laboratory, where he shows her the device he has built from 3 red stones (it's implied that they are rubies) and an electrical source. The device produces a thin red beam that chars everything in its path -- what could this be? A laser, perhaps? The word never appears, but those in the know, what else could it be? Physical chemistry is everywhere!

Last year my physical chem students and I tried to build a laser (a dye laser, not a ruby laser) from scratch, and I now have a much greater appreciation for what it takes to get a working system. Interested in building your own laser in your basement? Directions can be found at Sam's Lasers

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