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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.

EDITORIAL COMMENT
Latest Issue
Jul 2019

Weights, measures, constants

SUSAN PETRIE, SENIOR EDITOR, susan.petrie @photonics.com

SUSAN PETRIE, SENIOR EDITORIn 1945, The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andric, was published. In the novel, Andric (who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1961) tells a centuries-long tale of the Balkans and its tumultuous history — its fate linked to geography, at a crossroads between unsettled empires. For over 400 years, his bridge in Višegrad is a silent constant where children play, lovers meet, and old men smoke and sip wine. When the province of Bosnia and Herzegovina is offered as a kind of spoil of war to Austria-Hungary, Andric winks subversively at the Austrians who come to occupy and who bring their passion for weights and measures:

It was in 1900, the close of that happy century and the beginning of the new, which in the feelings and opinions of many was to be even happier, that engineers came to examine the bridge. The people were already accustomed to such things; even the children knew what it meant when these men in leather overcoats, with breast-pockets stuffed with varicoloured pencils, began to prowl about. … No one was able to imagine what they could be doing with the bridge which to every living soul in the town meant a thing as eternal and unalterable as the earth on which they trod or the skies above them. (p. 204)

By now, most readers of Photonics Spectra know May 20 was World Metrology Day, a day that celebrates this quiet passion for weights and measures. This year, it was also announced that the kilogram (Le Grande K) would be replaced by an unchanging law of physics. As the meter is linked to the speed of light, so the kilogram would be linked to Planck’s constant. Now, the lingua franca of metrology — the seven units that make up the International System of Units (the meter, kilogram, second, ampere, kelvin, mole, and candela) — would all be based not on physical artifacts but on natural constants.

Thanks to those who work behind the scenes to set standards with care and precision, our ability to understand the elements and systems that surround us — both elegant and practical — has expanded: We can calculate the size of subatomic particles or the mass of Saturn’s rings. We can discuss quantum entanglement or examine the surface topography of optics. And we can also rest assured that when we buy a gallon of gasoline, we get a gallon of gasoline.

This issue acknowledges metrology with two articles. The first is written by Ophir’s new business development manager, Kevin Kirkham, and discusses methods for measuring high-power fiber lasers. The second discusses discoveries made by a research team from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research regarding IRmetrology and visible light.

Constants may be a manifestation of emotional or technical needs. That the international scientific community now has a coherent language of constants is a praiseworthy accomplishment.

Warmly,

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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