New Rule: Pushing Allowed
Karen A. Newman
If you know the tricorder only
as an app for your Android phone, here’s a brief description, based on my
own observations: The Star Trek tricorder was a multipurpose handheld device used
for scanning alien landscapes for signs of life and analyzing scanned data, among
other things. Medical tricorders were used by sick bay personnel to noninvasively
scan patients to determine what ailed them.
The tricorder was (will be?) a pretty amazing tool for the 23rd
century but, even in this century, there’s no shortage of astounding discoveries
to keep scientists, engineers and physicians from pushing the limits of what’s
possible and what’s real.
“Although it’s become almost a cliché to mention
the Star Trek tricorder as an example of science fiction edging closer to science
fact, the reality is that what once seemed fantastical is now firmly in the realm
of possibility,” said Rob Morris, director of marketing at Ocean Optics Inc.
in a Q&A in this issue about advances in spectroscopy.
Shoving’s OK, too
Morris referenced the tricorder when asked by BioPhotonics managing
editor Laura Marshall what he sees as the next big thing in spectroscopy for the
life sciences. In Q&A: Trends in Life Sciences Spectroscopy, beginning on p.
36, he suggests that more recent advances may be elbowing their way to the front
of the line and could change the face of spectroscopy.
In the same article, Dr. Richard A. Larsen, spectroscopy product
manager at Jasco Inc. in Easton, Md., said he sees the technology being used to
attack limits elsewhere. “R&D and research labs are continually using
established spectroscopy instrumentation to push the boundaries of current capabilities
for molecular research.”
Expect some falling
With all the pushing and shoving, it’s no wonder boundaries
are falling everywhere we look. This issue of BioPhotonics is devoted to advances
not just in spectroscopy but in lasers and optics used in the life sciences, too.
Three more articles look at limits and at progress from different perspectives.
“The success and growth of nonlinear imaging techniques
have been enabled by turnkey lasers that offer users maximum flexibility,”
according to David Armstrong of Coherent Inc., in the article “Ultrafast Lasers for Microscopy: Flexibility Plus State-of-the-Art Performance,” beginning
on p. 28. “But, as researchers refine these techniques, continued progress
will require lasers that push the limits of performance, without sacrificing reliability
or ease of use,” Armstrong added. In this case, more advanced techniques are
pushing the demand for more responsive technology.
And, sometimes, technologies get ahead of manufacturing capabilities.
In “Polymer Optics for Thermally Stable Imaging,” by Valentina Doushkina
of Qioptiq Polymer Inc., beginning on p. 32, the answer may just require a push
from another direction. “Recent advances in the fields of optometry, medicine,
biomedicine, neurology and so on for surgical and diagnostic applications have put
optics manufacturers into situations where they have reached their manufacturing
limits or have gone beyond the range of their current capabilities,” Doushkina
Microscopy expert Barbara Foster of The Microscopy & Imaging
Place offers a look at the latest pushes in the imaging of the extrasmall in “Superresolution: Reality or a ‘STORM’ in a Teacup?” The article, which begins on
p. 22, brings us the most exciting news from the recent Society for Neuroscience
Delivering advances in photonics applications for the life sciences
may be a contact sport, but would we really want it any other way? One day we’ll
be able to use a tricorder to check for broken bones. It’s in the stars.
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