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Photonics Spectra
Since 1967, Photonics Spectra magazine has defined the science and industry of photonics, providing both technical and practical information for every aspect of the global industry and promoting an international dialogue among the engineers, scientists and end users who develop, commercialize and buy photonics products. Stay current with a FREE subscription to the digital or print edition.

Latest Issue
Sep 2019

Right here, right now

In 1950, the physicist Enrico Fermi casually asked the now-famous question, “But where is everybody?” while in a conversation about our vastly silent universe. The question of silence and the absence of detectable “alien” or nonhuman life despite the substantial number of stars, planets, and galaxies became known as the Fermi paradox. The big-picture science magazine Nautilus recently published a story called “The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang, the award-winning science fiction writer. It looks at the Fermi paradox a little differently.

Chiang’s story opens with an observation by a highly intelligent (and endangered) grey parrot:

“The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe. But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices? We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?”

To me, Chiang’s story is a soft-spoken ask to return the big scientific imagination to Earth. While more and more future-facing initiatives grab headlines and attention, and pressure us to think skyward, What about Earth? What about valuing and connecting more meaningfully with what we already have, right here, right now?

In that vein, this month’s special optics section focuses on what we are lucky enough to have right here, right now. Across 13 pages, extraordinary individuals are featured — technicians, designers, engineers, and educators — who are capable, committed, accomplished, and imaginative, and who enrich the optics profession. Ulrike Fuchs. Zak Niazi. Jennifer Kruschwitz. Susan Houde-Walter. Katie Schwertz. Anand Asundi. Donn Silberman. Bruce Walker. I hope you will take a few minutes to read about and regard their accomplishments.

Chiang’s grey parrot ends the story like this:

“My species probably won’t be here for much longer; it’s likely that we’ll die before our time and join the Great Silence. But before we go, we are sending a message to humanity. We just hope the telescope at Arecibo will enable them to hear it. The message is this: You be good. I love you.”

Perhaps it’s time for a new paradigm. Right here. Right now.
Mike Wheeler
An accomplished journalist and editor, Michael Wheeler oversees Photonic Media's editorial operations, spanning print, online, and video. He also serves as editor of Vision Spectra, chronicling advancements in the rapidly expanding machine vision/inspection sector.
Susan Petrie
Susan Petrie is Senior Editor of Photonics Spectra and has two decades of experience with print and digital publications. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Bennington College.
Doug Farmer
Senior Editor Douglas Farmer has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, winning awards for health and education reporting. He has a master's degree in journalism from Ball State University. He is editor of EuroPhotonics and BioPhotonics magazines.
Robin Riley
Multimedia/Web Editor Robin Riley has 30+ years of experience in communications and marketing for a range of technical industries. She is a regular contributor to web content and social media, and organizes and produces custom and editorial webinars.
Valerie Coffey
Science writer Valerie C. Coffey holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s in astronomy. She has covered optics, photonics, physics, and astronomy for a variety of industry and academic publications since 2000.
Hank Hogan
Contributing Editor Hank Hogan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He worked in the semiconductor industry and now writes about science and technology.
Marie Freebody
Contributing Editor Marie Freebody is a freelance science and technology journalist with a master’s degree in physics and a concentration in nuclear astrophysics from the University of Surrey in England.
Farooq Ahmed
Farooq Ahmed has covered the physical and biological sciences for over a decade. He has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Brown University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Columbia University.
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