Sunday, December 22, 2019

Condensed matter and Christmas decorations - 'tis the season

Modern outdoor decorations owe quite a bit to modern science - polymers; metallurgy; electric power for the lighting, fans, sensors, and motors which make possible the motion-actuated inflatable Halloween decorations that scare my dog....  Condensed matter physics has, as in many areas of society, had a big impact on Christmas decorations that is so ubiquitous and pervasive that no one even thinks about it.  In particular, I'm thinking about the light emitting diode and its relative, the diode laser.  I'm pretty sure that Nick Holonyak and Shuji Nakamura never imagined that LEDs would pave the way for animated multicolor icicle decorations.  Likewise, I suspect that the inventors discussed here (including Holonyak) never envisioned laser projected holiday lighting.  So, the next time someone asks if any of this quantum stuff or basic research is useful, remember that these inherently quantum devices have changed the world in all kinds of ways that everyone sees but few observe. 

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