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Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future
teaching. If inexpensive projection TVs that provide large full-color images become available, these too would be a valuable teaching tool.
At an early age, children question the magic of the blue sky and red sunset and the colors of the rainbow. If properly encouraged, this curiosity about nature and the world around us can be extended naturally into a lifelong interest in science. Children who take for granted devices such as the laser printer or TV remote control can be stimulated to question how they function and discover their operating principles. Many of the underlying optical principles can be simply explained and demonstrated with experiments that are inexpensive and safe, work reliably, and are suitable for the grade-school student. Volunteers from the Optical Society of America have developed an Optics Discovery Kit, now sold to teachers and schoolchildren, to provide an opportunity for young students to undertake simple experiments and, through guided discovery, obtain insights into optical science and windows into other fields of science and engineering.
AMO science is well represented in the high school classroom. The study of atomic structure, spectra, and reactions is basic to the understanding of modern science. The availability of inexpensive lasers now makes possible a diverse array of physics demonstrations whose visual impact can capture the attention and interest of students and greatly facilitate learning. These demonstrations can be as simple as ray tracing in geometrical optics or as complex as creating holograms or fiber-optics communication systems. Lasers clearly fascinate students, as evidenced by their frequent use in science fair projects.
AMO science contributes to increasing the scientific and technical literacy of people of all ages because its many applications in areas ranging from high-technology weaponry to concerns about the ozone hole are often discussed in the media. This coverage exposes people to many scientific issues and questions and can stimulate further reading on these topics.
Advances in science and its applications are being made so rapidly that it is difficult for teachers to keep up with new developments. As a result, it is hard for them to communicate the excitement in science from the new concepts that arise. An important investment opportunity therefore lies in upgrading the curriculum of prospective and continuing teachers to acquaint them with exciting and rapidly moving research areas as well as to provide solid training in the fundamentals.
Undergraduate and Graduate Education
AMO science plays an important role in the education of science and engineering students at the college and university level. It forms an essential component of the course work undertaken by science and engineering students. In the