News of the Universe . . .

Professor A. E. Siegman, McMurtry Professor of Engineering Emeritus, Stanford University Past President, Optical Society of America.

Sir William Bragg opened his 1931 Christmas Lectures for the Royal Institute in London with the striking phrase, "Light brings us news of the universe". Bragg was referring in particular to how astronomy brings us knowledge about the stars and planets, and the endless universe of space. In this talk I will try to show how, in addition, spectroscopy brings us equally striking knowledge about the miniature worlds inside atoms and molecules, and the mysterious laws of quantum mechanics that govern these worlds, and how photonics tools enable us to probe inside biological cells and many other physical systems. Carrying Bragg's phrase even further, light beams from lasers, combined with the wonders of fiber optics, today bring us not only ever deeper knowledge about our physical universe through remarkable new scientific applications, but also news of our entire human intellectual universe through the Internet and the World Wide Web.