Diversity, not division

July 11, 2016
The Brexit vote to leave the European Union, compounded by increasingly divisive and isolationist politics in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere, have potentially alarming implications.
Conard Holton2 5f3bfa896ab1d

The Brexit vote to leave the European Union, compounded by increasingly divisive and isolationist politics in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere, have potentially alarming implications. Angry voters and opportunistic politicians can take us in directions that are the opposite of the trends so visible in the world of science and technology. The contrast is especially evident when we compare the impacts of insular thinking to all the benefits that accompany international research efforts, especially in the broad field of photonics.

It's not that a group of technologies and products known as photonics can help, per se. But the associated engagement of individuals, companies, universities, and agencies that operate across borders can help make the basis for a more peaceful and prosperous world. One need look no further than the recent CLEO conference and exhibition in San Jose, CA—or any photonics conference, for that matter—to see the cooperation and mutual respect that exist among an astounding diversity of people. The same multi-national cooperation is shown in our cover story this issue about the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, built and operated in the high desert of Chile by an international team, using lasers supplied by MPB Communications (Canada) and Toptica (Germany; see page 21).

The rich diversity of the photonics community is also clear in our interview with Hui Cao, who moved from the undergraduate study of quantum optics in Beijing to opening up the field of random lasers as a professor at Yale University (see page 18). Or the scientists at the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics who share their work on new optical coatings they have developed for the next generation of high-power, ultrafast, and spaceborne laser systems (see page 39).

It's easy to point out the social and economic benefits and personally enriching experiences that result from openness to the world. Would that more of our fellow global citizens could understand or directly experience these benefits, leaving less fodder for divisive voices.

About the Author

Conard Holton | Editor at Large

Conard Holton has 25 years of science and technology editing and writing experience. He was formerly a staff member and consultant for government agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and engineering companies such as Bechtel. He joined Laser Focus World in 1997 as senior editor, becoming editor in chief of WDM Solutions, which he founded in 1999. In 2003 he joined Vision Systems Design as editor in chief, while continuing as contributing editor at Laser Focus World. Conard became editor in chief of Laser Focus World in August 2011, a role in which he served through August 2018. He then served as Editor at Large for Laser Focus World and Co-Chair of the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar from August 2018 through January 2022. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, with additional studies at the Colorado School of Mines and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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