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Next Seminar

Nonlinear Optics and Light Bullets


Since antiquity humans have been fascinated by the nature and behavior of light. Maxwell's unification of electricity and magnetism and idea that light is an electromagnetic wave is one of the of the crowning achievements of classical physics. This theory is essentially linear which allows complicated electromagnetic waves to be built up from a linear superposition of plane waves. The wave theory was so successful that many believed that there were few discoveries in physics left to be found. This complacency was soon shattered by the wave theories inability to explain phenomenon such as the photoelectric effect, x-rays and radioactivity. To resolve these issues the corpuscular theory of light was revived in a way that was compatible with the wave theory. Out of this effort grew quantum mechanics and optics slid into the background as a “solved” problem.


The discovery of the laser in 1960 changed everything. Now a highly coherent beam of light could be focusing down into incredible intensities (1020 W/cm2!). With these intensities scientists had the ability to probe matter at ever finer scales and the nonlinear interactions between light and matter became relevant. In this talk I will describe my efforts to create spatially and temporally localized pulses of very intense light that resist the effects of diffraction and dispersion over scales much larger than the Rayleigh range and dispersion distance. The experimental realization of such “light bullets” is one of the holy grails of optics. Along the way I will discuss the historical development of nonlinear optics, exotic waves such as Bessel beams, fish-waves and O-waves, critical collapse of beams of light and solitions.


Dr. John Gemmer

Brown University

Thursday, November 14, 2013

4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Roddy Hall, Room 149

Refreshments will be available at 3:30 p.m.

All are invited to attend!