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Ever since the invention of the laser more than 50 years ago, scientists have been striving to create an X-ray version. But until recently, very high power levels were needed to make an X-ray laser. Making a practical, tabletop-scale X-ray laser source required taking a new approach, described by physicist Margaret Murnane in the Hans Bethe Lecture on Oct. 18, 2017.

“The story behind how [X-ray lasers] happened is surprising and beautiful, highlighting how powerful our ability is to manipulate nature at a quantum level,” says Murnane. These new capabilities are already impacting nano and materials science, as well as showing promise for next-generation electronics, and data and energy storage devices.

The Hans Bethe Lectures, established by the Department of Physics and the College of Arts and Sciences, honor Bethe, Cornell professor of physics from 1936 until his death in 2005. Bethe won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1967 for his description of the nuclear processes that power the sun.

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