Monday, June 25, 2007

Femtosecond Laser Spectroscopy - Peter Hannaford

After finding myself granted a massive collection of physics texts - on the order of 500 - I decided it was time to start unlocking the mysteries of the universe. Since Garz might be on of the wisest people that I know, I figured that he would be a perfect sage-type figure to set me on my path. Unfortunately, of a myriad of interesting and engaging topics that I might actually have of chance of understanding, Garz picked one that not only was impossible to understand without gaining a hefty bit of background information first, but also a topic that would probably be boring as shit regardless. Yes, if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm talking about "Spectroscopy."

Just what is spectroscopy? I'll try to explain it in layman's term, but I may actually have no idea what it is, so if you're really interested I suggest checking wikipedia. Anyway, when you bombard a molecule with energy - in this case in the form of femtosecond lasers - you cause it to emit light (a la the photoelectric effect) of certain wavelengths. The wavelength of the emitted light can then be used to determine what atoms are present in the molecule. Interested? Obviously not. I couldn't imagine a more boring topic. Like I need to use anything special to realize that an aluminum can is made out of aluminum or that cigarettes cause cancer. I mean come on, what fucking mysteries can you expect to unlock with spectroscopy? Granted it has its uses in astrophysics. Also, apparently femtosecond laser spectroscopy has other uses as well, if I could only understand what the fuck I was reading.

If you're still reading this, then you may be as big of a nerd as I am. I commend you. However, that also might mean that you know what a femtosecond is, so you will find this paragraph useless. Most people have heard of a second, some even a millisecond, and a select few might might know something about the prefixes: mirco, nano, and pico. Actually, most people that have gone to a mexican restaurant are familiar with pico and I personally find it quite tasty. A femto is the next unit of smallness below pico. Compare the size of your tomatoes in the average pico compared to the well blended tomatos in a salsa or hot sauce. I'm guessing you get the idea.

If you don't know what a laser is, then you haven't watched Austin Powers. Go watch it; it's an okay movie that will set you quite far along the path of unlocking the mysteries of the universe. I'm not going to waste my time repeating the lessons learned from that movie.

To sum it up, instead of reading Femtosecond Laser Spectroscopy, I would suggest the following plan for enlightenment. Go to Target and get the following: (1) a copy of Austin Powers, (2) a jar of non-chunky salsa, (3) a jar of pico de gallo, (4) a carton of cigarettes, (5) and twelve pack of diet coke with lime. Watch the movie while chain smoking the carton of cigarettes (you may even want to try multiple cigarettes at once if you already smoke). Take a break from smoking only to either drink the diet coke with lime, the salsa, or pico de gallo (DO NOT use tortilla chips - it will prevent you from gaining a full understanding). By the time that you get to the sharks with laserbeams part, you should have smoked enough cigarettes to have puked all over the place and started to hallucinate. At this point you will transcend the 14th plane, and be one step close to unlocking the mysteries of the universe. Me? I'm off to look for a new sage...