Thursday, July 7, 2011

Laser light show vs fireworks---Tradition wins. For now!

When I heard about that the laser light show was going to replace the fireworks, I was pretty disappointed. The fireworks has been part of the July 4th “I love America” celebration at Brazos Valley, where Texas A&M University is located, since the early ’50s.

Fireworks were invented in China in the 7th century to scare away evil spirits. I have been to one international fireworks festival at Hangzhou, China. Many hours of beautiful fireworks went on and on. It is beyond description.

The July 4th show here at TAMU is short, only 15 minutes. Yet it was enough to amaze my 3 year old last year. She mentioned it many times after that. Until I got the notice of cancellation I keep telling her that there will be no fireworks but a laser light show.

A laser light show is meaningless to her. She has no response to it and continues to ask me for fireworks show. We went to the celebration. I showed her the spots on the wall. She was not amused. We left early.

I am not the only one who was disappointed. Our school paper, Battalion, had a huge headline: "Laser Light Letdown" on Wednesday.

Lasers are fascinating but I guess as far as competing with fireworks is concerned, it lost.

At least for now! Let's remember that. So many of our OSA Student Chapters are reaching out in schools and sharing the wonder of optics and photonics, including the chapter at Texas A&M. So while my dear child prefers fireworks now, some day a laser may win the day.

I remember my own interest in optics and photonics. Its roots go all the way back to when I was a child. My brother, who is 10 years older than me and then a physics undergraduate, let sunlight shine on a mirror, which is half immersed in a basin of water. Suddenly, when the angle was right, there were many beautiful colors dancing on the wall. We did it again and again. I was so impressed. Since then I have been fascinated by light. I later chose optics as my major in one of the best Institute of Optics in China. Now after many years of working in optics I can fully appreciate the beauty of laser and may other things in optics and photonics.

I hope the beautiful color of fireworks can inspire my daughter. In the future, when she is prepared with science knowledge and she will be able to look the world differently (deeply) and can appreciate the things even the eyes can’t see.

See everyone in at the conference!