Friday, January 9, 2009

It's Green!

It arrived. I got home from lab about 2:30 AM on Wednesday night and it was there, waiting for me on the kitchen table. My roommate saw that the mail man brought it and he left it on the downstairs table for me to open. A late christmas present ... my brand new GREEN laser pointer!

You see, in the basic science research world, presentations/lectures/seminars are given all the time - and you always hope to get a chance to present your very own data. There's an art to presenting your own data and some scientists need lots of help learning how to communicate their ideas in this open forum fashion. To compound the issue in graduate school, there exists a hierarchy of importance - indicated by the type of laser pointer used.

Presenting data on big screens can be trouble, and no one likes to be the joker having to jump up and down, using their very own finger to point at data on the slides. To go a step up from this, it's common to find hand held red laser pointers in use. These are common among grad students and some faculty. But the color is harsh, not aesthetically pleasing, and let's be honest - it's the easiest color to generate on the electromagnetic spectrum so it's cheap.

If you're really lucky, you can invest in the GREEN laser pointer - I've seen some very famous researchers, including nobel laureates, use a green laser pointer. They're so much more pleasing to the eye to follow on a screen. But they cost more money since it's a harder color to produce. Also, because of the higher energy it's a more dangerous laser and care must be taken not to point it at anyone's eye, or even combustible material!

Only the most elite can move up from here and purchase a BLUE laser pointer! These cost around $500 and are very dangerous. I've only ever seen one used, by a nobel laureate at an important international meeting. Definitely making a statement about status when you show up presenting data with a blue laser pointer.

For now, I'm just happy to have graduated to the next level. I can point it across the street to the treetops and make out the very bright dot when it's nighttime. I can even point it up at the stars and point out a specific star because the beam of green light is visible all the way up to the heavens!

Maybe one day I can go for the gold, I mean blue. :-)

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