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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
Apr 2019


After Photonics West, I stayed in the San Francisco area a few extra days. Poking around a store in Point Reyes, I noticed a book titled A New Map of Wonders: A Journey in Search of Modern Marvels. I didn’t need to leaf through before buying; it just felt right. A few days later when I started reading, I found my instincts hadn’t failed me, but they did surprise me: The first chapter was titled “Light.”

Susan PetrieThe essence of the book, written by British journalist Caspar Henderson, is laid out in a substantial introduction. Henderson notes that civilizations list and proclaim their wonders — things that possess a mythical force, that hold us in awe. But, like everything else, he says, wonder changes, and each age finds its own marvels. To Henderson’s point, of the Seven Wonders of the World, only the Pyramid of Giza remains. He goes on to elucidate his own list of seven wonders.

So what exactly is wonder?

In 1649, René Descartes listed wonder — l’admiration — as the first of the six passions. This passion is translated in Henderson’s intro as “a sudden surprise of the soul which causes it to apply itself to consider with attention the objects which seem to it rare and extraordinary.”

The fact that Henderson makes the case for photons as a new wonder is perceptive and, well, wonderful.

He continues with the idea that science and technology have typically been associated with progress. And, not without trepidation, he toys with the thought that an increasing fascination with tech novelties may be supplanting (even subjugating) features of the physical world previously considered list-worthy.

Is “novelties or nature” an either/or proposition? I don’t think so.

Consider the intersection of light-based technologies with natural and built environments in Valerie C. Coffey’s piece on smart structures. Experimental cities, such as those imagined by Walt Disney and Athelstan Spilhaus, may finally come to fruition. According to Coffey’s article, photonics technology will play a significant role in cities’ “greener” designs. Have a look at the accompanying photos to see how architecture, people, and photonics may integrate into a physical terrain.

Beyond smart structures, topics in this issue include hollow-core fiber optics, CMOS cameras, 3D imaging for industrial applications (read and read), and a look at how the arrival of smart positioning will enable simultaneous optimization of multiple photonic elements.

Henderson’s list includes other wonders — life, heart, brain, self, world, and future unknowns. They show, I hope, that our connection to the terrestrial won’t be supplanted by technology, but rather sustained by the deeper awe it enables.

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 advances 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.
Justine Murphy
Senior Editor Justine Murphy is an award-winning journalist with 20 years of experience in newspaper and magazine publishing, marketing, and public relations. She is editor of EuroPhotonics and BioPhotonics and produces industry-focused podcasts.
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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