In the era before digital (a.k.a. glass) cockpits, a face-full of instruments are the norm. As I constantly have to remind my students in lab classes, a machine is something that produces things (including movement) while instruments measure things.
The laboratories of physical scientists across the planet have pulsed laser systems like this one, and many look quite similar: a collection of squat boxes covering optics, electronics, and beampaths. Above or below the surface of the table are additional boxes of electronics driving the lasers and detectors. This particular system is special to me for two reasons: (1) most modern laser tables don’t have rad wood grain paneling, and (2) this was the instrument I used during my sabbatical at Berkeley Lab last spring. Lots of good data emerged from its photomultiplier tube.
This is another photograph from a lab in the Charles Harris Group at UC Berkeley. I previously photographed this effusion cell apparatus from an orthogonal orientation, but I also found this shot at its long axis intriguing. The sense of complexity and purpose, but also the sense of aesthetic minimalism, always attracts me to physics apparatuses.
I am a spectroscopist, and this is my laser. It’s enormous, it’s fiendishly complicated, and it takes an enormous amount of time to keep it cooperative. Nonetheless, I can learn about the basic motions of molecules with it.
The farther along I get, the more I realize that the system basically amounts to Legos for big kids.
This is the tail-end of the multi-cell system used in my research group to apply monolayers (one molecule thick) to single crystals of silver. It’s a bit amazing how such a wild sentence can become mundane with years of exposure. In any case, I really love the intricacy and attention that has been applied to every bolt and wire; scientific equipment is the ultimate in utilitarian design.