Musings on optics, physics, astronomy, technology and life

Posts tagged ‘vision’

Catching up with my thoughts

Here are some things I’ve been thinking about and reading about lately.

Giant lasers in trouble

Nature Photonics recently published an editorial highlighting the proposed elimination of two powerful U.S. lasers from the Energy Department’s budget. These are at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. In particular, the cutbacks at the LLE would hurt the research community.

Light-adapting contact lens

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently cleared the first contact lens that gets darker in bright light, the way some eyeglass lenses do. I don’t want to delve into the details here (I’m certainly not trying to provide corporations with free advertising), but I’m just wondering what these lenses will make the wearer’s eyes look like. I know that the darkening eyeglass lenses look darker on someone else than they appear to me when the glasses are on my face, if that makes any sense. (I have one pair of eyeglasses that darkens and one pair that does not.) It will be weird if these contact lenses make people look as if they have large dark holes where their irises are supposed to be.

A global crisis

My next feature article for Optics & Photonics News will be on optics in oceanography. It hasn’t been published yet, but I can tell you that it mentions the growing problem of plastic garbage in our oceans. The New Republic says that the problem is so big that it will take an agreement as large as the Paris climate accord to handle it.

Looking for extrasolar worlds

This week NASA and SpaceX are scheduled to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, better known as TESS. Back in January I wrote a newsbrief about TESS for OPN. Today was supposed to be launch day — and, as I write this, the countdown timer on the TESS website is still ticking away — but SpaceX tweeted earlier this afternoon that the launch has been postponed until Wednesday to review some guidance, navigation and control issues.

What I’m doing

Besides writing for OPN, I’m helping a colleague, OSA Fellow Jeff Hecht, with some photo research for his next nonfiction book. I’m mentioning this in case anyone who gets an email from me follows the link in my signature back to this website.


Spotlighting Those New Bulb Choices

In today’s New York Times, writer Bob Tedeschi has an entertainingly written piece on the new federal light-bulb rules that will go into effect next January. It’s certainly worth a read, if only because next January marks the start of another election year, and you just know that some presidential or senatorial hopeful is going to scream, “The government wants to outlaw your light bulbs!”

As Tedeschi points out early on, the new law doesn’t ban incandescent bulbs entirely; it only places new standards for energy efficiency on them. I pointed this out when I blogged about the then-new law in December 2007. Assuming that the rest of the news media reported correctly on this legislation when it was passed, anyone who claims the government is banning light bulbs is misinformed (or willfully misinforming the audience).

Tedeschi also introduces newspaper readers to a few phrases and concepts that optics folks are already familiar with, such as “lumens,” “correlated color temperature” and “color rendering index.” He seems to find it odd that a bluer light has a higher color temperature than a yellower light. Personally, I learned this from a book on the fundamentals of photography back in the… OK, I won’t cop to how long ago it was, but let’s just say that it was back in the days of film-based photography, and you had to know whether your color film was balanced for “daylight” or “tungsten.” And I hadn’t yet encountered E = hν in a college physics class.

In a related blog post, Tedeschi seeks to allay some of the concerns frequently expressed about compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), namely the environmental costs and the mercury content.

Tedeschi ends the main article (the online version, at least) with two series of “bullet points”: a list of suggested lighting choices by room (bathroom, kitchen, etc.) and “tips for buying bulbs in the complex world to be ushered in by the new lighting law” (take it slow, study up, brands count, read the label, experiment, consult others). He also throws out this interesting tidbit: some women “perceive a much better spectrum of colors” than men because they have more types of color receptors in their retinas. Maybe that’s why some men can’t tell the difference between taupe, tan, bone and ivory….