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24 June 2013

Six amazing things to do with lasers

First cleaning test on a gilded brass panel of the Florence's
Baptistery North Door by Lorenzo Ghiberti. This masterpiece
is under restoration at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence.
Lasers are in the news as usual, this time inspiring a list of what Lewis Carroll’s White Queen might have characterized as "six impossible things” to be believed before breakfast. But thanks to optics and photonics, these things are all possible with the help of lasers:

(1) Removing layers of pollution from centuries-old decorative plasters as well as marble and bronze statues.
Laser techniques development supported by the TEMART and CHARISMA projects at the Istituto di Fisica Applicata ‘Nello Carrara’ – Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (IFAC-CNR) have enabled restoration of such masterpieces as Donatello's Profet Abacuc, the Etruscan masterpiece Arringatore from the Trasimene Lake, wall paintings such as the painting of the Santa Maria della Scala museum complex in Siena and the catacombs of Rome, and the Florence Baptistery's North Door, a gilded-brass masterpiece by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

(2) Getting clear,detailed pictures of distant objects in space.
NPR has reported on how astronomers are using adaptive optics systems on computers to analyze the light coming in from a star, to decode the “noise” to render crisp images from the telescope images blurred by travelling through the atmosphere. (Video [6:41]: "New vistas in adaptive optics"). 

(3) Healing the living eye.
The NPR report also notes that researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are following the same principles to develop a way to see into the living eye and even heal damaged retinas using light.

(4) Recreating the fusion conditions inside our sun to provide a sustainable new energy source to meet the growing demands of Earthlings.
Nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun, has the potential to provide an effectively inexhaustible source of energy. The challenge is to create here on Earth the conditions that exist in the sun's core. Several methods of harnessing fusion power have been put forth, with the primary ones confining a plasma magnetically or inertially. Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Lab are among those contributing ideas, as the U.S. National Ignition Facility moves toward proof of principle, and the European HiPER Project and the LIFE project in the U.S. work toward developing power supply networks based on the technology.

(5) Building airplane parts (and human body parts!) “grown from the ground up” through additive manufacturing (Video [5:34]).
Lighter-weight and better-performing airline parts are being built layer-by-layer by GE Aviation in a 3D printing process, and researchers at the University of Iowa are reporting on a biomanufacturing lab to “create functional human organs.”

(6) Storing the equivalent of 50,000 HD movies on a single DVD.
Researchers from Swinburne University of Technology and CSIRO in Australia have described using lasers at the nano level – one ten-thousandth the diameter of a human hair – to increase the number of points on a storage device and thus the amount of data it can hold. That's big data!

03 June 2013

Feeling the pinch of sequester? Take the survey, have your say



Scientists, researchers, and engineers attend conferences
(such as SPIE Advanced Lithography, above) to learn
about the latest research and industry developments,
network with others in the field, and locate
high-quality, right-cost vendors.
You know that scientific conferences are not junkets and that cutting national investments in technology R&D will cut national competitiveness in the global market. We hear it from every segment of photonics, and heard it particularly loud and clear at SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing in Baltimore recently.

Now you have a new chance to join with others in getting the message out.

A survey has been opened to gather input from the scientific community about the impacts of the sequester.  We are passing along the invitation from Benjamin Corb, Director of Public Affairs at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, for you to take part and provide the photonics perspective in this cross-disciplinary effort.

Ben says:

"As science advocates continue to advocate for increases in federal investments in research – and against the sequester – we constantly hear from our meetings the need for stories and data on impacts of sequester.  In an effort to collect the data, the attached survey was developed to poll how individual scientists in the field are feeling the pinch not only of sequester, but also the impact shrinking budgets have had on the enterprise over the past few years.


"Once data is collected, we will convert the results into a usable report with statistics and hopefully anecdotal stories told by respondents."

We hope you’ll take part in the survey, and are looking forward to see the results. Comments are welcome here, as well.

And if you didn’t catch our “no junket” post on 12 April featuring testimony to Congress on the topic from Scientist and U.S. Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey, here’s the link: Scientific conferences promote advances that grow the economy, save money, and improve lives.