I have worked with light my entire career. As an experimental physicist who works with ultrahigh-power lasers and studies how intense light interacts with matter, I have spent my
professional life manipulating laser light, aligning it through a complex maze of optics, amplifying it in laser crystals, directing it through tubes, compressing its pulses down to unimaginably short times, focusing it down to tiny spots, and propagating it into high-temperature gases and plasmas. These research activities take place on a stage that is the laboratory, a stage filled with fascinating characters: high-technology electronics, large vacuum tanks, high-voltage cables, and the bright, talented scientists who design and use this high-tech menagerie. These are the players in the daily drama of modern experimental physics research.