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Beginning Tuesday, about 1,100 atomic physicists will gather in Houston for the annual meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics. It's the largest gathering ever of atomic physicists. As part of the meeting, and to mark the 50th anniversary of the laser, there will be a free public lecture at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the downtown Hyatt given by professor GĂ©rard Mourou from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris.

To understand why this field of physics is growing so rapidly, science writer Eric Berger visited with Randy Hulet, a Rice University physicist who helped organize the conference.

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