Handcrafted photonics

It may be a stretch to compare an engineer or researcher working in photonics to the owner of your local brewpub -- or maybe not.

Conardmug 2011c

In an age of mass production and consumption, many of us still value handmade, locally produced products and services, whether it's beer, food, clothing, furniture, or homes. It may be a stretch to compare an engineer or researcher working in photonics to the owner of your local brewpub—or maybe not.

Our features in this issue show clearly how photonics products and applications rely on individual engineers and researchers to personally design, build, and use them. We start with articles describing advances in complex yet core photonics products like optical tables (see article), polygon beam scanners (see article), UV laser sources (see article), and diffractive optical elements (see article). Components such as these are then crafted into unique systems that can perform truly marvelous applications such as spectroscopy for detecting brain cancer in situ during surgery (see article), or terahertz imaging to determine the quality of agricultural and industrial products (see article).

And you certainly do not think that the dragonfly with a photonics-laden backpack on the cover of this issue is somehow mass-produced. It was handcrafted by nature, as well as photonics engineers and scientists at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (see article).

I sometimes wonder if the lifelong attraction that photonics holds for many of us relates not just to fascination with the science and technology, but fundamentally to the very personal and satisfying nature of working with the very carefully thought-out and precise systems that we create.

Conardmug 2011cConard Holton
Associate Publisher/
Editor in Chief

cholton@pennwell.com

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