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Northwestern University

Interior View: The Laser Labyrinth

laser lenses

“All of science is reductionist,” says Professor Richard Van Duyne. “You try to create the simplest possible system to understand something in great depth.” If that is so, then Van Duyne’s work with lasers may be the most reductionist of all.

The lasers and equipment in Van Duyne’s lab illuminate how the most infinitesimal bits of matter behave at the tiniest increments of speed. “When you’re looking at a molecule with dozens of atoms all moving every which way, it looks very complicated,” Van Duyne says. “But when you reduce it to the motion of a single atom, it becomes beautiful in its simplicity.”

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