Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2015

Pigeon vision: ‘flocksourcing’ cancer detection

Pigeons have been taught how to detect breast cancer -- with an accuracy rate that surpasses humans -- and in the process have inspired ideas about how to better teach humans how to visually detect cancer.
Researchers from the University of California Davis, the University of Iowa, and Emory University published a paper last month detailing how they trained pigeons -- Columba livia, commonly called rock doves, to be precise -- to detect cancerous cells. The birds attained an accuracy rate of 85%, higher than the accuracy of humans doing the task (84%), the Chicago Tribune reported. (Also see the Wall Street Journal for more coverage.)
And when four pigeons were tested on the image and their results combined (“flocksourcing”?), the birds were 99% accurate in identifying cancerous cells.
The researchers also found that while the pigeons had high-accuracy results when looking at slides from tissue samples, they were not able to learn how to accurately identify signs of cancer when loo…

Improve and carry on, use the fear: advice from women in STEM

Interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) can lead to a wide variety of careers. A few examples:
exploring photonic nanostructures that can improve the efficiency of solar energy generationobserving micro-organisms in the Arctic ice to learn more about lifeforms of all sortsdeveloping optical systems for noninvasive diagnosis of tumors inside the bodyassessing the radiation hazard to be incurred by humans travelling to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The paths to all careers include some challenges. For anyone looking at a career in STEM, the latest edition of a free annual publication offering insights on those paths has just been released.
The 12th edition of the Women in Optics Planner published by SPIE contains more insights from more than 30 women discussing their interests and occupations and offering advice. Among their stories:
Perla Marlene Viera-Gonzalez, a PhD student at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, specializes in optical design applied to so…

Six dramatic advances in solar energy

Harvesting, collecting, and deriving usable energy from the Sun and other sustainable sources for people around our planet has made important leaps forward of late. Whether it is summer or winter in your part of the world, that’s excellent news for our future energy needs.
An open-access article in the Journal of Photonics for Energy co-authored by nine international experts* details some of those advances. Here’s a short list from their review of the state of the art, titled "The role of photonics in energy."
1. Making cheaper and more efficient solar cells
Today’s solar cells are based on inorganic semiconductors -– particularly silicon, the second most abundant material in the Earth’s crust. However, silicon solar cells, although relatively expensive to manufacture, are not the most efficient at converting solar energy into electrical energy.
Solar cells based on other semiconductors are more efficient at conversion but also cost more to make.
A new generation of solar c…

Speaking out about climate change is urgent in our ‘crucial century’

The approach of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in early December has global leaders from every sector thinking about technology opportunities to help meet greenhouse-gas-emissions reduction goals in an effort to mitigate climate change.
Photonics technologies play an important part in enabling and driving applications that support sustainable development and the green economy. Researchers, engineers, and developers in the optics and photonic community are continually finding new ways to enhance our lives with these technologies.
But there is another sort of opportunity for the photonics community to take up: speaking out about the urgency to take action, particularly in the face of climate-change skepticism or denial.
UK Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees is among scientists who are doing so. Framing the issue in a recent commentary in the Financial Times, he characterized this century as the first in the Earth’s 45-million-year history when “one species -- ours …

People's Choice Award: Light for education

A photo of a 5-year-old boy studying in a dark hut, with only natural morning light streaming through a small window, has been selected for the People's Choice Award in the SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest.
The contest was sponsored by SPIE Professional, the quarterly magazine of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, as part of the International Year of Light observance. SPIE is a Founding Partner.
Captured by Javanese travel and landscape photographer Handi Laksono, the winning photo was taken after Laksono hiked three hours to the remote village of Wae Rebo on Flores Island in Indonesia.
Wae Rebo's only lighting source is solar, either direct sunlight or a few small solar panels, Laksono said. He noted that the solar panel in the house he visited powers a single light bulb that is used only for a few hours in the evening.
"For the children who wish to study in their houses in the morning, the light from the small windows is the opti…

Cars on Mars: following Curiosity and getting excited about science

If it wanted to, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover could stretch its 7-foot arm up from its 10-foot-high body and slam-dunk a basketball.
Admittedly, it isn’t likely that any of NASA’s Rovers -– cars on Mars, as some call them –- will find any basketball hoops on the Red Planet.
But the space agency’s newest robotic Mars explorer, the Curiosity, has found evidence of ancient lakes, captured images that reveal the composition of rocks on the planet’s surface, and done something many of us have done: taken selfies to post on FaceBook.
Curiosity’s discoveries are far from over. The robot is just now reaching the foothills of the lofty (5.5 km, or 18,000 feet) Mount Sharp, with its mission to scale the peak and report back about what it finds along the way.
That in itself is amazing. On top of that, the telling of that story by scientists such as Melissa Rice, a member of the Curiosity team and a professor at Western Washington University, turns out to be a powerful way to get kids interested …

16 visions for photonics: the next 60 years

Sixty years ago, in 1955, the world had not yet seen the first laser -- it had not yet been invented. Fiber optics were brand new, there were no artificial satellites circling the Earth, no humans had been in space, and the first solar cell was in early stages of development as was the first video recording machine. Smartphone? How can a phone be "smart"?
In that environment, a group of engineers working in optics and optoelectronics to build the first scientific cameras gathered in a restaurant in Hollywood, California, to discuss a shared challenge. They needed to use high-speed photography to solve design issues and create capabilities in industries from aerospace to communications and to advance research. But although individual labs were devising solutions that held potential for multiple other applications, there was no forum in which to share information.
Their solution: the formation of SPIE, the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers.
Sixty years on, opt…

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Light illuminating spirits, minds, and hearts in every culture

People often like to separate culture, art, photonics, and optics as completely separate fields. However, when we combine the four fields we can capture beauty that seems so surreal. Light plays a vital role accentuating hidden beauties, illuminating spirits, minds, and hearts in every culture.

The advancements made in modern light technology has made it possible to highlight architecture, people, and objects. In the photo above John Danrev Bolus, has captured a “Night of Reflections” at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Bolus is one of 32 contestants for the People’s Choice Award competition in the SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest. Judges have already chosen three winners, but now it's your turn to choose one more. SPIE is providing a prize of US $500 to the People's Choice winner. Online voting continues through 15 August.

Bolus is very passionate about his work and is proud to be representing his home country, the Philippines, as a finalist for the People'…

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Light in communication

Nearly all communication depends on optics and optical technology. Thanks to optical fibers, which are thin flexible fiber made of silica or plastic, we can transmit texts, media, and the internet through light signals over long distances. The internet allows people around the world to feel connected in a way that has never before been possible. Whether originating from mobile phones or modems, almost 100 percent of all telecommunications land on an optical fiber network.

In the photo above, Ebrahim Elmoly illustrates how humans rely on telecommunications to capture historic moments like the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. During the Arab Spring riots and demonstrations in Cairo and Alexandria lead to the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and dissolution of the parliament. The word  “لحرية” on flag means "freedoms" in Arabic.

Elmoly is is one of 32 contestants for thePeople’s Choice Award competition in the SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest. Judges ha…

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Light therapy

Light is critical to our circadian rhythms, the physiological cycles based on patterns of light and dark that repeat every 24 hours. Darkness during the evening helps signal to our bodies to produce melatonin and fall asleep. Morning light stimulates our neural signals for the brain to wake up.
Disturbing this internal clock can affect our performance and health. Light systems, timing light exposure with the circadian clock, can increase sleep efficiency, alertness, and well-being. Scientific findings have shown light can also reduce symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease.
In the above photo, SPIE Member Jean-Luc Dorier demonstrates how light therapy glass can help reduce the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Dorier is a research engineer at SICPA and formerly a research and development scientist at Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Dorier is one of 32 contestants for the People’s Choice Award competition in the SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest.…

Concluding Biophotonics ’15: just the right amount

Guest blog from Ven: Jacqueline Andreozzi, a PhD candidate at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, blogged on her experience at the Biophotonics Graduate Summer School on the island of Ven, off the southern coast of Sweden, 6-13 June. SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and COST, the European Cooperation in Science and Technology, are among sponsors of the school. Also supporting the school are DTU Fotonik, Technical University of Denmark; Lund Laser Centre; NKT Photonics A/S; Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, through its Nobel Institute for Physics; and Thorlabs.
Reflecting back on the Biophotonics ’15 Graduate Summer School, one word, new to my vocabulary, comes to mind: “lagom.” The Swedish expression, as I was informed by fellow student Johan Borglin on the first day while touring Lund University, translates roughly to the concept of “just the right amount.”
Indeed, the school provided lagom in every aspect of the week, from the scholarship, to…

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Astronomy and the night sky

Humans have been improving photography since Aristotle’s first observation of a pinhole camera in 350 BC, with milestones such as the introduction of the Lumière brothers' panchromatic plate in 1894 and Willard Boyle and George Smith’s invention of the charge-coupled device (CCD) in 1969.
Today, improvements to digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, which combine optics with digital imaging sensors, have introduced astrophotography to the wider public. Since its establishment in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has used astrophotography to render inspiring images of planets, stars, and solar systems.
In the photo above, Alexander Stepanenko has used astrophotography techniques to capture the aurora borealis -- the northern lights. The fascinating phenomenon is caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric-charged particles in high-altitude atmosphere.
Using a DSLR camera (Nikon D-800), Stepanenko captured the photons and thermal noise of the northern lights. Wilder…

Goal-line technology gets a workout at FIFA Women's World Cup