If You Can Make Your Car Tires Screech, You Can Build a Laser

Monday, March 11, 2013
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While this is not exactly the typical required experience you find in high-tech job descriptions, the point is that to learn how to make tires screech, you’ve already had to master a delicate balance between energy storage and energy dissipation. And that’s the key principle on which a special kind* of pulsed laser is based. Fig. 1: You don’t need a Ferrari to burn some rubber. A FIAT will do just fine. Lasers of any kind are already pretty nifty: they make bright, supersharp beams, generally of a single color. Pulsed lasers are one notch nif ..

Bet You Didn't Know You Could

Monday, February 11, 2013
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I think I should start by explaining what a streak camera is. Then I’ll explain why you should care. At least I’ll explain why I care! A streak camera is a superbly sophisticated instrument used in ultrafast physics and spectroscopy experiments that allows you to record incredibly short events (on the order of picoseconds or even less) with good temporal and spatial resolution. It works by collecting the light from the subject at hand (say, e.g., a very short flash), converting the light into a beam of electrons, and sweeping that beam across a phosphor screen very rapidly ..

Why Your Heart is a Lot Like Alaska

Monday, January 14, 2013
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I can already hear the howls—accusing the writer of callous insensitivity. Let me hasten to say that what follows has absolutely nothing to do with the heart as the metaphorical seat of emotions; and also nothing to do with Alaska as a very, very cold place (whether literally or figuratively; I’ve been to Alaska and I can vouch that the people are terrific—but yes, it does get cold there). No, this piece is about drawing an analogy that I came up with to explain (to myself) an apparent paradox. As the incidence of death from rusty, pointed spears and from wild beasts ..

Why It's Hard to Drive at Night After It Rains

Tuesday, January 01, 2013
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Welcome to Giacomo’s Blog @ Kinetic River! In this blog space I plan to cover a wide range of topics, spanning optics, biomedicine, technology, and other topics I think you might find of interest. The aim is to seek to entertain, enlighten, and stimulate thoughts. Your feedback is welcome, as are suggestions for future topics. In this introductory piece I want to discuss why it is hard to drive at night after it rains. The answer holds some perhaps surprising insights into the behavior of light. Well, let’s start by comparing some things. For example, driving in the r ..

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