F. J. Duarte, Laser Physicist (Optics Journal, Rochester, New York, 2012) ©

ISBN: 978-0-9760383-1-3 (printed version)

ISBN: 978-0-9760383-2-0 (electronic version)

Date of publication: May, 2012.

Politics in academia.. lasers in the Cold War... the decline of an industrial icon (Eastman Kodak) towards oblivion... ethics in research... perspectives on quantum mechanics and reality... perspectives on morality, mortality, and the big question

Laser Physicist provides a first hand account of academic politics at Australia's Macquarie University during the "revolt of the sciences" that led to the reform of its degree structure. The description then extends to academic laser research and the author's transition to the United States via a major Southern university. The author, a real life laser physicist, then offers a rare insider's view of high-power laser research at the height of the Cold War, during Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Laser Physicist then gives the reader an overview of industrial research in America. This is done from the vantage point of a major industrial icon, at its pinnacle, Eastman Kodak, and describes the transition of this icon towards decline and virtual oblivion. Abundant use of anecdotes, and interaction with major physics figures of the quantum era, illustrate the finer points. Academic, industrial, and wider experiences lead the author to reflect on issues of life and ethics. His thoughts on a series subjects ranging from the beauty of physics, quantum mechanics, the emergence of nanogods, morality, mortality, to what he calls the "big question" are expressed in a series of readable short essays and sketches.

Laser Physicist (paperback edition) available at Amazon

Laser Physicist (Kindle edition) available at Amazon


Brief corrigenda available in PDF form.

Reviews at Amazon

I bought this book in order to read a particular chapter and read it first then went back to the rest of the book. It was all good. It is funny and serious and also a historic record of turning points of change in a country, a university, the cold war and industrial life. It is an easy read with funny anecdotes and longer personal recollections of specific periods of change in academia and industry. The family stories, as the Professor was growing up are a modest record of difficult circumstances during seriously dangerous political times... The pride the author holds for his country of birth , the adopted land of his youth, and finally the country he settled in clearly stands out. It is as if an engineer got to write an autobiography, an interesting one, told with humour, one you can believe... I thank him.

Pacific North West Fan, London, UK

I have recently completed reading Laser Physicist and found it entirely enjoyable. This is not to say that the book is an easy read. Frank is the real deal - he has spent his life as a working scientist and is widely published. The book is technical in parts and is stylistically somewhat like a paper intended for publication in a technical journal. In the book we learn of Frank's upbringing and education, his move to the US and employment at Kodak, and about the variously famous and influential people he has worked with. We also get a glimpse into his musings on subjects outside of physics - always interesting as his is an extraordinarily analytic mind. Any of us who worked at Kodak in the 80's will recognize some of the folks mentioned in those chapters... The reader will learn about the author and about the nature of scientific discovery as experienced by the author. All in all a worthwhile read.

Roger the Consultant, USA

Some excerpts from Laser Physicist ©

Chapter 2: Sydney

Soon after I began my presentation, the male Aussies started to smile nervously and then began to laugh… and laugh. The teacher and the female students, clearly embarrassed, did not laugh but had a strange expression on their red faces. Undaunted and undeterred, I continued as I noticed that tears were rolling down the faces of some in the audience. I did not stop until I completed my presentation. The apparent reason for this bizarre display of laughter was the use of the word “fact” … which I repeatedly mispronounced to mean something else. (Page 12)

Chapter 3: Macquarie

In his memoirs, John Ward makes reference to my political contacts (Ward, 2004). I never explained to him, or any one else, how these contacts came about. It is fair to say that at any one time during this period I was the only one who knew all the protagonists involved and how all the connections fit together...

Sydney beaches were already topless territory and as we began leaving, a most impressive young member of the female species was lying over the golden sand, her beautiful face and perfect front anatomy uncovered, facing the glorious sun. Geoffrey, the archconservative, immediately reacted forcefully and said in a loud and grave voice: “In the name of God and country… let me cover her… with my own bare hands!” (Page 36)

Chapter 4: John Clive Ward

4.2 Reminiscences

John openly discouraged his physics students from pursuing a theoretical career… As such, he never took a Ph.D. student despite open efforts by some brilliant mathematicians to study under him. More explicitly, John was highly critical of “Ph.D. factories” in theoretical physics. On various occasions he used the word “rackets” to refer to some of these establishments. (Page 61)

His directness and frankness often got him at odds with managers and administrators. This was the case at Macquarie where he openly and publicly criticized the status quo and the large education establishment (Mansfield and Hutchinson, 1992; Ward, 2004). (Page 63)

4.4 Quantum Mechanics

“The inner mysteries of quantum mechanics require a willingness to extend one’s mental processes into a strange world of phantom possibilities, endlessly branching into more and more abstruse chains of coupled logical networks, endlessly extending themselves forward and even backwards in time.” (Page 65)

Chapter 6: Lasers and the Cold War

6.2 The laser conferences

Edward Teller arrived late morning on Wednesday (December 9, 1987) for the panel discussion held that afternoon. His entrance to the main conference auditorium, surrounded by a praetorian guard, was quite a sight and something that I have never seen in a physics setting again. (Page 94)

6.3 Moscow

I had already a mental picture of the way from central Moscow to the Uzkoye. Soon I realized the driver was not taking me via the usual avenues and remembering Ray’s warning I began to prepare for the worse. Sitting behind the driver, in silence, I took the wide strap from my black thick denim fabric camera bag, and quickly made a plan to neutralize the threat. Looking through the rear window I could see behind, the lights of Moscow. I had no intention of being beaten or victimized. Thinking in clear and resolute terms, without hesitation or emotion, I calmly went over my simple plan… and waited. Then, the taxi took a sharp turn and immediately I saw the entrance of the Uzkoye. Pointing at his wrist watch, and smiling, the driver proudly gestured that he had taken a short cut. “Thanks God,” I thought, and paid him double. (Page 104)

The conference place in Zelenograd was no Uzkoye. This was a dark cold place. It had long obscure corridors and a heavy, nasty, atmosphere. The rooms were bare concrete. That night I slept with my clothes on, including my boots. Next day, breakfast: a hard piece of dark meat… only God knew what from, yellow grease milk, some bread and tea. (Page 106)

About six in the morning, Sergei came to the Spudnick and we drove to the airport. There, Julia was waiting. There was an enormous queue of people trying to get out. They were Russian Jews leaving for Israel. I began to doubt my chances. But again my protector and facilitator went to work and after a polite good bye kiss I was pass Russian customs and security. There were loud and angry shouts from the crowd, but it did not matter. I was in the plane, again in Western hands. When I got to Frankfurt a member of the United crew asked me: “Where have you been?” And she kept on bringing me orange juice which I would quickly drink. During my Moscow visit I did not drink water, I was dehydrated, and had loss about 10 pounds. Otherwise, I was in good shape. (Page 108)

Chapter 7: Eastman's (the former Eastman Kodak)

7.2 Arrival

Up on arrival, I was set up with a spacious laboratory with flat black walls and two large optical tables. The laboratory was promptly equipped to my specifications and taste. At the time, managers were all well-known senior scientists in their respective fields. The managerial structure tended to be horizontal so that they were relatively few and wise. (Page 115)

7.10 Strategic moves

Film versus digital: many colleagues, and commentators in the press, believe that the delay to embrace digital was what caused the company’s decline. To blame digital technology for the failure is a misguided excuse. Many companies made a successful transition from the analog era to the digital age initiated by the invention of the CCD detector. These companies include Canon, Nikon, Leica, and yes, Fuji Film. Although failure to dominate digital technology added to the decline… (Page 135)

... it appears that Fuji Film will end up as the sole beneficiary of this American technology. (Page 136)

7.11 Transformation

In 2005 the hypothesis of a "flat world" was used to support the vision behind the... "digital transformation." The notion of a flat world is completely erroneus even in a metaphorical sense. (Page 137)

By the summer of 2007... nearly 80 buildings had already been demolished. This gave an ironic twist to the notion of a "flat world." (Page 138)

How many broken homes? How many foreclosures? How many suicides? Probably, we'll never know. (Page 138)

7.12 Back to research

Incidentally, during this period it was recommended that I should give a talk to some production and business managers on the new laser materials Bob and I had just discovered and patented (Duarte and James, 2003, 2004). They needed new products, I was told. As I began my talk, I was questioned by a particular manager about organizational issues, rather aggressively. Since the questions were not technical, and framed in an antagonistic tone, I declined to answer them and proceeded to leave the meeting. The talk did not even last one minute, the shortest talk of my career! … Later, after returning from a trip, I learned that the poor manager that questioned me… had died of a heart attack. (Page 141)

Following the banishing of books I concluded there was no future for research, at the new transformed entity, which by now, with its limited vision, considered inkjet printing as the new frontier. To me this meant little hope of a turnaround. (Page 142)

Chapter 8: Reflections I

8.3 On the status of physics

Dirac said that in his time it was easy for “second grade physicists to do first grade physics” and today “is very difficult for first grade physicists to do second grade physics” (Dirac, 1975). I agree. No physics development, since the quantum revolution, rivals the brilliance or importance of quantum mechanics. (Page 153)

Personally, I find the concept of a "final theory," or a "theory of everything" rather limiting. The fun of discovery will most likely last as long as the human race continues. (Page 154)

8.5 On science and ethics

In one of my last conversations with Ward, he expressed skepticism on the value being attached to some research associated with large number of citations. In this regard, it should be indicated that some famous papers, with very large number of citations, in fact, have turned out to be erroneous. Ward was concerned at non-independent citations generated by groups of friends and students. (Page 159)

8.7 On patents

All of my patents refer to unique and distinct ideas. This is not a strategy adopted by all inventors, some of whom tend to maximize the effect of an original idea by patenting numerous variations and permutations of the same idea... Also, not all granted patents are valid. (Page 164)

8.12 On modern medicine

The western public looks at modern medicine, and its practitioners, in excessive reverence. Little do they know that many of the technical marvels in this area are due to advances in physics and engineering. That is, physics and engineering applied to medicine. In this exercise, the physicists and engineers that have made possible these advances get little or no credit. To illustrate this point the reader should think for a moment of a medical profession devoid of optics, lasers, MRI facilities, or advanced electronics. (Page 175)

Add to this... poor diagnoses, unnecesary surgery, erroneous surgery, over use of antibiotics, rampant hospital infections, and a horrendous reality emerges. (Page 177)

Addidional problems include the nasty side effects associated with many of the chemistry-based pharmaceuticals, the so called "medicines." Also, treatments such as cancer chemotherapy are borderline barbaric. (Page 178)

Chapter 9: Reflections II

9.3 On the interpretation of quantum mechanics

Dirac was not impressed by discussions on the interpretation of quantum mechanics and in one of his last papers he wrote: “The interpretation of quantum mechanics has been dealt with by many authors, and I do not want to discus it here. I want to deal with more fundamental things” (Dirac, 1987). (Page 201)

More recently Willis Lamb assigned the interpretational problems of quantum mechanics to “historical misunderstandings” (Lamb, 2001). (Page 202)

9.5 On the big question I

Paul Dirac: in 1927, young Dirac said as part of a much longer statement: “I don’t know why we are talking about religion… The very idea of God is a product of human imagination” (Heisenberg, 1971). (Page 209)

9.6 On the big question II

As a physicist, besieged by doubt and at the same time motivated by doubt, I think that Planck’s and Feynman’s duality is perfectly acceptable. However, at the same time, I find Schrödinger’s observation “A mathematical truth is timeless, it does not come into being when we discover it…” (Schrödinger, 1992) rather humbling and profoundly inspiring. (Page 214)

Name Index

H. Ackland, W. G. Ahearn, R. A. Aitchison, H. R. Aldag, L. W. Alvarez, P. W. Anderson, R. J. Andrews, V. V. Apollonov, L. Arnold, V. Y. Baranov, J. H. Bartlett, N. G. Basov, R. Bass, M. Batley, A. G. Bell, J. S. Bell, R. D. Bell, H. Bethe, E. Bleuler, N. Bloembergen, W. E. Boeing, D. Bohm, N. Bohr, M. Born, E. P. Brandeau, M. Brandt, C. A. Brau, R. G. Briggs, E. V. Browell, E. Brown, P. G. Browne, A. Budgor, B. Bulliman, C. Burak, H. S. Carslaw, J. M. Carrera, J. L. Carrick, C. Chandler, N. Cheburkin, R. Chiao, N. Chrushev, B. M. N. Clarke, J. Cleese, R. W. Conrad, C. D. H. Cooper, J. V. Corbett, K. Corcoran, V. J. Corcoran, A. Costela, P. W. Coulter, C. E. Curnow, R. H. Dalitz, V. Danilychev, W. E. Davenport, J. Davidson, M. de Andrade, M. de Cervantes, P. de Valdivia, D. Deutsch, J. C. Diels, P. A. M. Dirac, J. Donaldson, T. J. Dougherty, R. W. P. Drever, J. Drouin, F. J. Duarte, L. E. Duarte, F. J. Dyson, G. W. Eastman, M J. Edgeloe, T. A. Edison, J. J. Ehrlich, A. Einstein, K. Eisenhauer, P. N. Everett, H. Everett, A. J. Farrow, G. B. Ferrow, R. P. Feynman, G. M. Fisher, G. C. Fletcher, C. P. Foley, R. L. Fork, R. H. Fowler, G. Fraser, M. Fraser, T. E. Freeman, P. French, K. Fujii, G. Galileo, M. Golding, L. Goldman, M. Gorbachev, R. Gorbachyova, B. Gray, N. Griff, G. Gursslin, I. L. Guy, J. L. Hall, W. R. Hamilton, J. D. Hammond, D. C. Hanna, T. W. Hänsch, R. C. Hapeman, S. Haroche, S. E. Harris, J. Hawke, S. Hawking, W. Heisenberg, B. Hill, I. Hill, J. Hill, L. W. Hillman, L. W. Hollberg, J. Howard, F. Hoyle, H. Hutchinson, C. Huygens, K. S. Imrie, J. A. Ionson, I. C. Jaeger, R. O. James, T. H. Johnson, C. Jones, D. Kaiser, A. R. Kantrowitz, W. Keen, H. J. Kimble, J. A. Kinard, F. K. Kneubuhl, H. S. Kragh, E. Laisk, W. E. Lamb, L. S. Liao, J. Liggins, G. MacKellar, S. Magee, M. Mansfield, L. C. Marquet, P. Mason, J. C. Maxwell, A. G. R. McIntosh, W. McMahon, R. W. McMillan, C. E. K. Mees, R. T. Menzies, J. A. Merrigan, A. Miller, A. M. Miller, J. Miller, J. W. Meyer, J. Moore, E. Moses, A. Moyal, J. E. Moyal, M. Musashi, L. M. Narducci, B. Newnam, M. Nentarz, G. Nutt, R. H. Nuttal, E. D. O’Keefe, B. J. Orr, D. Pace, D. J. Paine, J. A. Paisner, J. Pardo, S. L. Parulski, C. K. N. Patel, D. Patterson, W. Pauli, T. G. Pavlopoulos, D. A. Payne, S. S. Penner, O. G. Peterson, B. G. Pillans, J. A. Piper, P. Philiponet, M. Planck, S. Popov, A. Prat, S. Pringle, A. M. Prokhorov, G. Provest, M. H. L. Pryce, A. W. Pryor, N. F. Ramsey, C. Ray, R. Reagan, B. Reed, C. K. Rhodes, R. Roberts, J. A. Robertson, R. Robi, A. J. Rose, G. H. Rossmanith, A. Sakharov, A. Salam, R. Sastre, E. Schrödinger, J. S. Schwinger, M. O. Scully, W. Seka, R. C. Sepucha, T. M. Shay, G. Sheridan, W. T. Silfvast, H. S. Snyder, R. Sproull, R. H. Street, C. R. Stroud, J. W. Sulentic, R. C. Sze, C. R. Tallman, T. Tansley, T. S. Taylor, E. Teller, J. P. Terwilliger, R. H. Tipping, S-I. Tomonaga, N. Touchard, H. Tsuda, S. Tzu, J. Unsworth, K. M. Vaeth, A. J. van der Poorten, N. G. van Kampen, A. E. Vaughan, R. H. Vernon, C. R. Vidal, P. B. Visscher, W. F. Walls, H. Walther, C. P. Wang, J. C. Ward, C. E. Webb, E. C. Webb, J. Webb, J. P. Webb, C. E. Wieman, L. E. Wilson, D. J. Wineland, J. Whiteford, P. W. Wojciechowski, T. Wright, C. S. Wu, B. Yeltsin, J. Young, L. Young Lee, G. Yonas, M. Zawacki

Name Index (surname first)

Ackland, H., Ahearn, W. G., Aitchison, R. A., Aldag, H. R., Alvarez, L. W., Anderson, P. W., Andrews, R. J., Apollonov, V. V., Arnold, L., Baranov, V. Y., Bartlett, J. H., Basov, N. G., Bass, R., Batley, M., Bell, A. G., Bell, J. S., Bell, R. D., Bethe, H., Bleuler, E., Bloembergen, N., Boeing, W. E., Bohm, D., Bohr, N., Born, M., Brandeau, E. P., Brandt, M., Brau, C. A., Briggs, R. G., Browell, E. V., Brown, E., Browne, P. G., Budgor, A., Bulliman, B., Burak, C., Carslaw, H. S., Carrera, J. M., Carrick, J. L., Chandler, C., Cheburkin, N., Chiao, R., Chrushev, N., Clarke, B. M. N., Cleese, J., Conrad, R. W., Cooper, C. D. H., Corbett, J. V., Corcoran, K., Corcoran, V. J., Costela, A., Coulter, P. W., Curnow, C. E., Dalitz, R. H., Danilychev, V., Davenport, W. E., Davidson, J., de Andrade, M., de Cervantes, M., de Valdivia, P., Deutsch, D., Diels, J. C., Dirac, P. A. M., Donaldson, J., Dougherty, T. J., Drever, R. W. P., Drouin, J., Duarte, F. J., Duarte, L. E., Dyson, F. J., Eastman, G. W., Edgeloe, M. J., Edison, T. A., Ehrlich, J. J., Einstein, A., Eisenhauer, K., Everett, P. N., Everett, H., Farrow, A. J., Ferrow, G. B., Feynman, R. P., Fisher, G. M., Fletcher, G. C., Foley, C. P., Fork, R. L., Fowler, R. H., Fraser, G., Fraser, M., Freeman, T. E., French, P., Fujii, K., Galileo, G., Golding, M., Goldman, L., Gorbachev, M., Gorbachyova, R., Gray, B. F., Griff, N., Gursslin, G., Guy, I. L., Hall, J. L., Hamilton, W. R., Hammond, J. D., Hanna, D. C., Hänsch, T. W., Hapeman, R. C., Haroche, S., Harris, S. E., Hawke, J., Hawking, S., Heisenberg, W., Hill, B., Hill, I., Hill, J., Hillman, L. W., Hollberg, L. W., Howard, J., Hoyle, F., Hutchinson, H., Huygens, C., Imrie, K. S., Ionson, J. A., Jaeger, I. C., James, R. O., Johnson, T. H., Jones, C., Kaiser, D., Kantrowitz, A. R., Keen, W., Kimble, H. J., Kinard, J. A., Kneubuhl, F. K., Kragh, H. S., Laisk, E., Lamb, W. E., Liao, L. S., Liggins, J., MacKellar, G., Magee, S., Mansfield, M., Marquet, L. C., Mason, P., Maxwell, J, C., McIntosh, A. G. R., McMahon, W., McMillan, R. W., Mees, C. E. K., Menzies, R. T., Merrigan, J. A., Miller, A., Miller, A. M., Miller, J., Meyer, J. W., Moore, J., Moses, E., Moyal, A., Moyal, J. E., Musashi, M., Narducci, L. M., Newnam, B., Nentarz, M., Nutt, G., Nuttal, R. H., O’Keefe, E. D., Orr, B. J., Pace, D., Paine, D. J., Paisner, J. A., Pardo, J., Parulski, S. L., Patel, C. K. N., Patterson, D., Pauli, W., Pavlopoulos, T. G., Payne, D. A., Penner, S. S., Peterson, O. G., Pillans, B. G., Piper, J. A., Philiponet, P., Planck, M., Popov, S., Prat, A., Pringle, S., Prokhorov, A. M., Provest, G., Pryce, M. H. L., Pryor, A. W., Ramsey, N. F., Ray, C., Reagan, R., Reed, B., Rhodes, C. K., Roberts, R., Robertson, J. A., Robi, R., Rose, A. J., Rossmanith, G. H., Sakharov, A., Salam, A., 54, Sastre, R., Schrödinger, E., Schwinger, J. S., Scully, M. O., Seka, W., Sepucha, R. C., Shay, T. M., Sheridan, G., Silfvast, W. T., Snyder, H. S., Sproull, R., Street, R. H., Stroud, C. R., Sulentic, J. W., Sze, R. C., Tallman, C. R., Tansley, T., Taylor, T. S., Teller, E., Terwilliger, J. P., Tipping, R. H., Tomonaga, S-I., Touchard, N., Tsuda, H., Tzu, S., Unsworth, J., Vaeth, K. M., van der Poorten, A. J., van Kampen, N. G., Vaughan, A. E., Vernon, R. H., Vidal, C. R., Visscher, P. B., Walls, W. F., Walther, H., Wang, C. P., Ward, J. C., Webb, C. E., Webb, E. C., Webb, J., Webb, J. P., Wieman, C. E., Wilson, L. E., Wineland, D. J., Whiteford, J., Wojciechowski, P. W., Wright, T., Wu, C. S., Yeltsin, B., Young, J., Young Lee, L., Yonas, G., Zawacki, M.

Partial Subject Index

Aldersmaston, Astronomy, AUS, Australian Atomic Energy Commission, Australian Institute of Physics, Australian Ministry of Defense, Bell’s inequalities, B.Sc., CCD, Chester Hill High School, China, Christianity, Climate change, CMOS, Coherent OLED emission, Cold War, Corruption, Cowan, Cultural revolution, Dalitz Plots, Dalitz Pairs, Digital, Dirac’s notation, Divine mathematician, Divinity, Duhamel’s Theorem, Dye laser, Dye Laser Principles, Eastman Chemical Company, Eastman’s Fine Chemicals, Eastman’s, Economics, Einstein’s special relativity, EPR paradox, Entropy, Ethics, Extraterrestrial life, Femtosecond laser, Feynman Lectures on Physics, Film, Fourier theory, Fuji Film, Future, Gulag, H-bomb, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Hewlett-Packard, Higgs boson, High power dye lasers, High Power Dye Lasers, Iaido, Imaging, Imaging and Spectral Measurements, Indistinguishable photons, Inkjet printer, Interferometer, Interferometric equation, Interferometric Optics, Interferometry, Ising Model, Kodak bankruptcy, Laser conferences, Laser dye, Laser guide star, Laser isotope separation, Laser microscopy, Laser printers, Laser pulse compression, Laser oscillator, Laser research Lewisham, Lorentz’s transformations, Macquarie B. Sc., Macquarie University, Maxwell’s equations, Measurement business, Medicine, Medpolymer Institute, Metal-halide lasers, MICOM, Moscow, Multiple-prism beam expander, Multiple-prism dispersion theory, Multiple-prism grating laser oscillator, Multiple-prism near-grazing-incidence grating oscillator, N-slit interferometer, N-slit interferometric equation, Nano, Nanogods, Nanoparticle gain medium, Negative entropy, Optical Society of America, Optics, Opticks, Pam-Am, Patents, Pentagon, Photodynamic therapy, Photographic Research Laboratories, Photography, Photon, Planck’s energy, Polarization rotator, Prism pulse compression, Quantum electrodynamics, Quantum mechanics, Quantum interpretation, Quantum notation, Quantum optics, Quantum probability amplitude, Raytheon, Reality, Religion, Renormalization theory, Reorganization, Ruggedized narrow-linewidth dye laser oscillator, Russia, Samurai, Santiago, School of Mathematics and Physics, Scientifically challenged, SDI, Single photon interference, Solid-state organic laser, Soviet, Special relativity, Standard Model, Strathfield, Students for a Science Degree (SSD), Sydney, Transformation, Tunable Laser Applications, Tunable Laser Handbook, Tunable Laser Optics, Tunable lasers, Tunable laser oscillator, Uncertainty principle, Uranium, USSR, Ward Identities


Page published on the 13th of May, 2012. Updated on the 24th of March, 2014.