Skip to main content

The miracle of photonics is taken for granted



You know that signature file you may have – “Sent from my [fabulous device name here]”? Our CEO here at SPIE, Eugene Arthurs, has one that gives credit where credit is due, to photonics: “Multiple laser processes were used to make this iPad. Many photons worked to bring you this message.”

This blog makes the case that photonics can make the world a better place, and who can argue with the convenience and ease that is enabled by these great smartphones and tablets? Yes indeed, there are photons aplenty at work. But the latest column from Mark Morford, creatively infuriating (to some) writer for SFGate, points out that those who get worked up over what’s the latest and greatest, and the absolute best, are just wasting their energy, because tomorrow it will be something else.

It’s reminiscent of the legend of the conquering Roman generals, who were accompanied in their victory parades by a slave to whisper a reminder in their ear: “All glory is fleeting.” Because, as Morford says, “The wow factor of what our consumer tech can do is now so routinely high, so commonplace, we look right past the fact we’re no longer heading toward a truly miraculous tech age; we’re already there.”

He talks about the megapixel wars: “Digital photography has been completely adequate for most consumers since about megapixel number three” as well as endless geeky debates about operating systems, apps and whatnot. He makes a great point…we take it for granted. “We all have access to everyday tech so advanced, it is indistinguishable from magic.”

So it’s a good time to take a breath and acknowledge what makes a lot of that everyday tech GO…optics and photonics. And in the interests of raising awareness, keeping the industry strong, and generating more interest in science among students, we have the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), unveiled just last week. SPIE is a cosponsor. Think about how you can contribute. How can you share what you do with people who don’t appreciate its value? Convince a politician to continue/increase science funding? Help in the schools to raise the profile of science in the curriculum? There are lots of ways. Stay tuned to the latest news from the NPI.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

#FacesofPhotonics: Rising Researcher Alina Zare

SPIE's #FacesofPhotonics is sharing the story of Alina Zare, Associate Professor at the The Machine Learning and Sensing Lab at the University of Florida. Dr. Zare was recognized as a 2018 Rising Researcher for her work in Electronic Imaging & Signal Processing, at the SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing conference.

This program recognizes early career professionals who conduct outstanding research in the defense, commercial, and scientific sensing, imaging, optics, or related fields. If you want to learn more about the program, the details are here.

Enjoy the interview with Alina!

1. Tell us about when you first became interested in optics and photonics. In my senior year of  undergraduate studies in computer science, I was taking an Image Processing elective.  I really enjoyed the course, and the professor for the class, Dr. Gerhard Ritter, encouraged me to do some undergraduate research.  
So I joined Dr. Paul Gader's research lab as a undergraduate researcher where I he…

#FacesofPhotonics: Photovoltaics PhD Student Arfa Karani

Meet this week's SPIE Faces of Photonics feature, Arfa Karani. Arfa is a physics PhD student at the University of Cambridge, studying the physics of solar cells. She is originally from India, but has lived outside her home country for many years while pursuing her education. 

Arfa was also President of the SPIE Student Chapter at the University of Cambridge in 2017-18, and continues to remain involved with the chapter when she's not hard at work in the university's Cavendish Lab.


Enjoy her interview!




1. How did you become interested in the optics and photonics field? Was there a person who inspired you?

My physics teacher at school inspired me. I got interested in studying optics because my curiosity was satisfied by this teacher, who was extremely enthusiastic about what they did. When you ask too many questions as a child, people try to divert your attention once they are tired of answering. Not this teacher.

I know it’s a bit cliché, but I was amazed by how one could cre…

#FacesofPhotonics and Women In Optics feature: IBM Researcher Anuja De Silva

Meet the SPIE Faces of Photonics star of the week, SPIE Member Anuja De Silva. Anuja grew up in Sri Lanka and now resides in Albany, New York, where she works as a materials and process researcher in the Semiconductor Technology Research division of IBM. Speaking of her work, she says, "I develop new types of materials and processes that help us to scale the size of computer chips... It's hardware development for next-generation semiconductor devices."

Anuja graduated with her Bachelor's in Chemistry from Mount Holyoke College and went on to get her Master's and PhD in Materials Chemistry from Cornell University. Upon conducting a research project for her undergraduate degree, she found her passion for optics and materials research.


"I have always been interested in math and science," Anuja shares. "The options in Sri Lanka, where I grew up, for a career as a research scientist were limited. My mother encouraged me to apply to college in the Unite…