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Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century
weapons targeting to the detection of chemical and biological warfare agents. This omnipresence will depend critically on the availability of low-cost optical systems, many of them developed for commercial use; unique military needs for performance and reliability, unmet by the commercial marketplace, will continue to require targeted investments in optics research.
The role of optics in research, which already cuts across nearly all fields of science and technology, will be limited only by our imagination. High-power laser systems will make possible the construction of particle accelerators that extend the energy frontier for experiments in particle physics. Lasers will manipulate individual atoms in light traps. Laser interferometer experiments may unravel the mysteries of gravity. Femtosecond visible and x-ray sources will provide new tools for understanding the dynamics of materials.
As the importance of optics grows, colleges and universities will be challenged to meet the educational needs of a growing work force. In time, we expect the field of optics to become a discipline, as computer science has over the past few decades, and to become recognized as such in educational institutions around the world.