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About sponsorship Attosecond science

Summary: About sponsorship
Attosecond science
The fast show
Aug 31st 2006
From The Economist print edition
Extremely short laser pulses can illuminate electrons in motion
ON THE atomic scale, things move mind-bogglingly quickly. Electrons jump between orbits or escape the
nucleus altogether in attoseconds--that is, million, million, millionths of a second. Indeed, one attosecond
is to one second what one second is to the age of the universe. Seeing such acrobatics takes wit and
ingenuity, but it is possible. Moreover, if such processes could be manipulated--and the early signs are
that they can be--then it would have applications in fields as far apart as computing and medicine.
A report just drafted by America's National Research Council, "Controlling the Quantum World", outlines
how scientists might manipulate the inner workings of a molecule. A long-term workshop at the Kavli
Institute for Theoretical Physics, part of the University of California, Santa Barbara, is also investigating
how this might be achieved. And, at a conference held recently at the institute, Ferenc Krausz of the Max
Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, and Marc Vrakking of the FOM Institute for
Atomic and Molecular Physics in Amsterdam described one way that it could be done.
Lasers work by creating a chain reaction in which photons of light prompt the generation of further
photons. These photons are emitted in bursts. Shortening each burst sufficiently is what makes
attosecond science possible. The two researchers employed what they call "high harmonic pulse


Source: Ahlers, Guenter - Department of Physics, University of California at Santa Barbara


Collections: Physics