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David Payne, Charles Townes, Eugene Arthurs help tell the laser story in BBC Radio 4 broadcast

04 June 2010

SPIE Member David PayneDavid Payne (Univ. of Southampton), SPIE Fellow, 2010 Gold Medal of the Society winner, and Nobel Laureate Charles Townes (Univ. of California, Berkeley), and SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs are among those telling the story of the laser in a BBC Radio 4 program online now through Wednesday 9 June. "The Death-Ray in Your Pocket: 50 Years of Lasers" illustrates how the laser has become "one of the most ubiquitous pieces of modern technology."

In addition to tracking the dynamic race to invent the first laser, the 30-minute program showcases many of the applications that resulted from this invention, including military uses, medical applications such as laser eye surgery to improve vision and photo-dynamic therapy techniques that enable precise targeting of cancer cells, astronomy, art, entertainment, and others.Charles Hard Townes

Among the interviewees are Len Cooke (BAE Systems), Colin Webb (Univ. of Oxford), laser expert and author Jeff Hecht, and Kathleen Maiman, wife of Theodore Maiman, who invented the first laser on 16 May 1960. Archival interviews with Gordon Gould, Nobel Laureate Arthur Schawlow, and Maiman are excerpted.

Read the script of the BBC Radio 4 interview presented by Hermione Cockburn and produced by Mike Hally of Square Dog Radio.

View interviews with Townes, Hecht, Theodore Maiman, and others in the SPIE Advancing the Laser: 50 Years and Into the Future video interview series. An interview with Payne will be added to the series in the next few weeks.

Photo captions, from top: David Payne; Charles Hard Townes.