Musings on optics, physics, astronomy, technology and life

Posts tagged ‘CLEO’

Women in Science 2016: Deborah S. Jin

In just a few hours, the world will know the names of the winners of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics. Sadly, we know one name that will almost certainly not be among them: Deborah S. Jin of JILA and NIST.

Dr. Jin died of cancer last month at the too-young age of 47. I don’t recall ever interviewing her, but I know she spoke at the CLEO 2005 conference, right around the time I started working at OSA.

She and her team made the first fermionic condensate, a new state of supercold matter, and as a result, she was on a lot of short lists for the Nobel Prize. For a long time I’ve been wishing, hoping, that some woman would be found worthy enough to join Marie Curie and Maria Goeppert-Mayer on the list of Nobel physics laureates. It’s been more than half a century now since the latter won. Yes, I know that Dr. Jin won a slew of other awards, one even named for Goeppert-Mayer but for some reason, our civilization is stuck on the notion that the Nobel outshines them all.

And, yes, I fully realize that some worthy scientists somehow never got the Nobel. Human mortality has to do with that. The Nobel awarders have strict rules against posthumous prizes; there was a minor kerfuffle a few years back when one of the non-physics Nobel laureates had died just two or three days before the announcement, and the committee sincerely did not know about the fellow’s passing. News of Dr. Jin’s death has probably made its way to Stockholm by now, though, so we won’t see a repeat of that situation again.

One of the past presidents of the D.C. Science Writers Association has made a strong case for amending the Nobel Prizes to reflect today’s scientific reality, both in terms of the new fields that have emerged in the last century and the interdisciplinary nature of much modern research. (Never mind the collaborative nature of research — most teams have more than three members nowadays.) I’m a bit surprised at how traditionalist the online comments are trending. I would have expected a few more along the lines of “Yes, please, finally!” But even scientists (and science fiction fans, but that’s another story) can be among those most resistant to change.

Anyhow, let’s see whether the LIGO team gets honored already. Back in February, I was quietly pleased to learn that the first gravitational wave hit the detectors on September 14, 2015 — and September 14 is my birthday. The second gravitational wave arrived on December 26 — the birthday of one of my college roommates. Looking forward to many more detections, regardless of what Stockholm thinks.


My article on Charles Townes

As I mentioned earlier this year, I was working on an OPN article about Charles H. Townes, one of the most important scientists of the 20th century, when he passed away. My article came out in the May issue of OPN, which is traditionally about lasers because of the annual CLEO conference. It made the cover of the magazine, so the editorial staff made it “open access” for everybody!

CLEO, by the way, is next week in San Jose, California. I wish I could attend, but it’s not in this year’s cards. The conference program sounds awesome — you can’t beat plenary lectures by two Nobel Prize winners. There’s no memorial symposium for Dr. Townes, as far as I can tell, but such things take time to organize; I’ll bet one will be held sometime in the next 12 months.

The laser’s 51st birthday

Since this date was made so much of in 2010, I feel compelled to point out that today is the 51st anniversary of Ted Maiman‘s first working laser. In honor of the date, I’m wearing my “Lasers Rock!” T-shirt from last year’s CLEO concert. After all, think of the billions of rock songs that laser-powered devices have played over the past quarter-century. Lasers really DO rock!

CLEO is starting!

Just a reminder: For the next few days I’ll be blogging about CLEO, the big laser conference in Baltimore (Maryland, U.S.A.), for the Optics & Photonics News (OPN) blog. Also, I’ll try to tweet as often as I can from the OPN Twitter account, @OPNmagazine.

If all my efforts don’t fill your need for CLEO news, then check out the CLEO social media hub for all the latest blogging, tweeting, and Facebook/LinkedIn goodness.

One week to CLEO:2011

One week from today, the CLEO:2011 conference in Baltimore (Maryland, U.S.A.) will have its first full day of programming (though there are a few happenings on Sunday). CLEO is OSA’s largest laser-related conference and has been held since at least 1981; it may have been called CLEA before then, although I’m a little foggy on the historical details.

Last year’s CLEO in Silicon Valley began with a big celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first working laser. This year’s meeting will have more “normal” programming (no bluegrass/rock concert, sad to say), but it should be no less interesting in terms of the new research being presented.

This gathering used to be called “CLEO/QELS and PhAST,” with the latter two acronyms standing for “Quantum Electronics and Laser Science” and “Photonic Applications, Systems and Technologies,” respectively. A couple of years ago, OSA got rid of the PhAST moniker for its applications- and business-related conference tracks, and now the QELS part seems to be de-emphasized. The themes are the same, though.

(Incidentally, when I say “OSA” here, I should specify that the three co-sponsors of this conference are OSA, the IEEE Photonics Society and the American Physical Society’s Division of Laser Science. However, the OSA event staff does the hands-on management, and the team works plenty hard to pull off CLEO ever year. Go Team!)

I’ll be covering CLEO:2011 for the OPN blog, so watch for my posts next week!

More on the light bulb controversy

The CLEO conference blog has reprinted an entry by James Van Howe, of “Jim’s CLEO Blog,” summarizing the controversy over the new lighting regulations and — helpfully — pointing out some sessions at CLEO 2011 that address the technical challenges of making LED lighting better for all of us to use.

Incidentally, CLEO 2011 will take place during the first week of May in Baltimore, about an hour’s drive from Our Nation’s Capital. I wonder whether any lawmakers are going to show up?