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Application agita

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Over the past year, I’ve read about several photonic applications that make me twitchy: discussions of fake moons, the possibility of beaming billboards in low-Earth orbit, and the laser insect-zapping photonic fence. Gah! Clearly, some see these as exciting innovations. But — for a whole range of reasons — they cause me agita; they make me uncomfortable.

So here we are with a cannabis leaf on the cover and a lead story that discusses the role of spectroscopy in marijuana analysis, and I know this application will burr the boundaries of some readers.

While still federally illegal in the U.S., as of 2018, 11 states have voted to legalize cannabis, including Massachusetts, where our offices are located. It’s something of a charged topic here; in December, recreational marijuana hit retail.

But here’s the thing: While it may push boundaries, boundaries are where the conversations begin. It’s where I try to move from knee-jerk reactions to informed decisions. It’s where I become motivated to learn, to bring science into the discussion, and to find what is (or is not) acceptable for me.

History is full of innovations with unanticipated applications — some wonderful, some horrific: Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann, Lise Meitner, and nuclear fission. Wernher von Braun and rocket motors. Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and nitrogen fixation. Katharine Burr Blodgett and nonreflective glass. Marie and Pierre Curie and radioactivity.

Granted, some of these examples had extreme implications and human consequences. But they make me want to know more about where and how a scientist defines his or her public or private application boundaries, especially if one has devoted a lifetime to refining a method or instrument.

So, before your jury comes back on cannabis and spectrometers, read Farooq Ahmed’s article to learn about the critical role they’re playing in analysis. Find another application piece, this one by Anne Corning of Radiant Vision Systems, which discusses safety protocols when deploying NIR sensing for facial recognition.

A team of writers from LightPath discusses methods of manufacturing chalcogenide lenses, two early-career scientists from CERN and CEIT look at all-diamond metamaterial optics, and Hank Hogan, contributing editor, considers challenges faced by manufacturers using micro-LEDs for small displays.

Finally, Erik Novak of 4D Technology discusses considerations when designing large-aperture interferometers.

And if anyone wants to try and sway me on fake moons, you know where to reach me.

Warmly,


Photonics Spectra
Mar 2019
Editorial

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