This Is the Laser

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 the Laser

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Self-Portraits of a Sabbaticaler

I’m interested in how scientists are depicted in media. They seem to always be in one of two modes. Either smiling at the desk with a screen and board filled with data/equations:

Self-Portrait at Berkeley Lab

Or in the lab, with fancy apparatus and appropriate PPE. This may be real evidence of a sort of dichotomy in the lives of many working scientific professionals: some of the time is spent at a desk, doing the sort of email-answering/paperwork-submitting tasks that are common to many fields, but the rest of the time is spent in a more technical setting. I’d really like to see a broader view of how scientists spend their time. Could the whole breadth of the approach be captured in a single image, like some elaborate Baroque painting?

Sabbaticaler