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Quaffable lasers?

I enjoyed your article in OPN on edible lasers (May 2009). Allow me to add to your history of Art Schawlow’s and Ted Haensch’s edible laser.

At the Eastman Kodak Research Laboratories in the late-1960s, my colleague Sam Tuccio discovered that one brand of tonic water would lase under fast flashlamp excitation. I don’t remember whether it was Canada Dry or Schweppes, but it was one of the two. The pump source was a very fast flashlamp, modeled after the flashlamp pump described by Peter Sorokin. (It had the same coaxial capacitor.) Peter was a friend of mine and he had convinced us at Kodak, with our expertise in dyes, to look at dye lasers.

I don’t know how Sam handled the CO2 bubbles in the tonic water; I assume he used the tonic water out of the bottle, although it may have gone flat sitting around. Tonic water/quinine was a poor laser. That is why we never reported it; it was only a curiosity.

So, the first drinkable laser should probably be credited to Sam Tuccio and Otis Peterson. I was involved only as the lab head. The laser was even mentioned in some Kodak advertisements at the time.

I was in frequent contact with Art Schawlow in those days. I don’t recall whether the drinkable laser inspired his edible laser or not, but that is my impression. I remember I got a phone call from Art that began with a comment about how we now had both drinkable and edible lasers. Both lasers are reported in Charles Townes’ book How the Laser Happened.

I was warned by my chemist colleagues at Kodak, who were experts on photographic sensitizing dyes, that most dyes with high fluorescent quantum efficiency may be carcinogenic. We were told to be careful about making physical contact with fluorescein and the rhodamines. Our chemist friends claimed that we physicists were not being nearly careful enough with handling dyes. We thought we were, but they proved their point with an ultraviolet light in our dark lab. The finely powdered dyes were everywhere on the walls and work surfaces. We announced lasing in dye-doped polymers (PMMA) in 1968 in Appl. Phys. Letters 12, 238.

Benjamin Snavely
Fairport, N.Y., U.S.A.



Optics in Turkey

Thank you for your interesting article on “Optics in Turkey,” by Ali Serpeng├╝zel (July/August 2009). For those visiting Turkey or studying optics in Turkey, I would like to offer a suggestion. The oldest known mirrors (circa 6,000 B.C.E.) are to be found there! These Anatolian mirrors were located by a fine British-led archaeological team working in the ancient Turkish city of Catal Hoyuk, which is located in the south-central plain of Turkey near the city of Konya.

You can see examples of these mirrors in the museum at Konya or in the award-winning Museum of Ancient Anatolian Civilizations located in the capital city of Ankara. And a remarkable example of (modern) imagery that uses these mirrors can be found on a postcard at the latter museum’s store!

Jay M. Enoch
Berkeley, Calif., U.S.A.



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